Here Are the Ways You Are Totally Wasting Money on Your Car

With gas prices what they are, you really don’t want to spend more money on your ride than you have to, right? But many people — either knowingly or unknowingly — still do. There are many things you can go without regarding your car — and some you really shouldn’t.

Keep reading to find out what’s necessary and what’s not, and stop spending more cash on your car than you need to. Instead, do the right amount of maintenance to your car to keep it running and pocket the rest of the money you might be wasting.

Here are the ways you’re definitely wasting money on your car. 

1. Ignoring your check-engine light

Check Engine Light

You ignore the check engine light at your own peril. | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

When CBS news interviewed George Sadowski, education manager at the Norwood, Massachusetts, campus of Universal Technical Institute, and Michael Calkins, manager of the AAA program that recommends repair shops, they uncovered some serious money-wasting things people do regarding their automobiles. One is ignoring your check-engine light, because when it comes on it means you have a problem with the fuel or emission system.

“You could wind up with a $1,000 repair job instead of what could have been a $150 job,” said Calkins.

Next: Don’t buy these.

2. Buying expensive performance tires

New tires for sale at a tire store

Don’t buy tires your car doesn’t need.  | ViktorCap/iStock/Getty Images

If you’ve ever bought new tires, you’ve probably experienced a salesman trying to upsell you. He likely tried to convince you that you needed high-performance tires, which can cost twice as much as “regular” tires. And, said Calkins, they often don’t last as long as regular tires.

Unless you’re driving an Indy track on weekends, don’t go for the high-performance models. Circling a parking garage or driving to the supermarket simply doesn’t warrant them.

Next: Don’t pay for this

3. Paying for built-in navigation

White man and black Asian girl using navigator system app on smart phone in car

Why pay extra for nav when you can get it for free on your phone? | beer5020/Getty Images

When you buy a new car you’ll have the option of adding the factory navigation system — and it might cost you anywhere from $500 to $4,000 if it’s part of a more expensive package, according to Edmunds.

Because your smartphone has nav options, use it instead. You’ll also get free map updates on your smartphone, unlike with a built-in system. If you’re worried about your phone battery running out, just get yourself an inexpensive car charger and use the nav app of your choice without worrying.

Next: You can stop doing this.

4. Changing your oil every 3,000 miles

Boxes of Pennzoil motor oil are stacked near an employee of Jiffy Lube, a company owned by Pennzoil-Quaker State Co., changing performing an oil change March 26, 2002 in Los Angeles, CA. Anglo-Dutch oil giant Royal Dutch/Shell Group announced this week that it will acquire Pennzoil-Quaker State Co., maker of the top two motor oil brands in the United States, for $1.8 billion in cash.

When it comes to oil changes, you can go a little longer than you’d expect. | David McNew/Getty Images

It used to be that mechanics recommended you change your oil every 3,000 miles. Those days are gone, according to CBS News. Cars are made to last longer between oil changes these days.

To find out how often you need to change yours, read your owners manual and follow the car manufacturer’s recommendation. Typically, it’s between 5,000 miles and 7,500 miles. You’re wasting your money if you do it more frequently.

Next: Why pay more?

5. Buying premium fuel

pumping gas

Don’t buy premium fuel unless it’s absolutely necessary. | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Unless you owner’s manual specifically says that your car requires premium fuel — even if it says premium fuel is “recommended” — just use regular, according to CBS News. Only high-performance and some luxury cars need premium fuel, so why waste your money on it when regular gas is so expensive to begin with?

“I have a Nissan Murano that recommends premium,” said Michael Calkins of AAA. “But it runs fine on regular.” At March 2018 national averages of $2.61 a gallon for regular and $3.13 for premium, that’s a savings of about $7.80 every time you fill up a 15-gallon tank.

Next: This small thing is totally worth the money.

6. Not changing your air filter

A fresh air filter helps your car breathe. | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

Do yourself — and your car — a favor by changing the air filter on a regular schedule. Otherwise, your gas mileage will go down. “If you have not changed your air filter by about 40,000 miles, it is probably clogged and hurting your gas mileage,” said George Sadowski.

In fact, you could be losing as much as That MPG 10% to 15% in gas mileage if your air filter is clogged. So, next time your mechanic recommends a fresh filter after about 25,000 miles, say yes.

Next: Don’t buy these, either. 

7. Buying mileage-boosting additives and devices

Fuel additives are just a waste of money. |

You’ve likely seen commercials for oil additives and other devices, such as magnets on fuel lines that are designed to improve your gas mileage. If you’re buying them, you’re wasting your dough.

“I’ve never seen any good scientific study proving that any of this works,” said Calkins. “They come out of the woodwork whenever gas prices go up.”

Next: Stuff of a bygone era.

8. Getting tune-ups for your engine or air conditioning

Woman turns on air conditioning in a car

If your A/C works, then you probably don’t need to get it tuned up. |

Getting tune-ups for your engine or AC is another bygone-era relic, according to CBS News. But mechanics still recommend them to drivers so they can drum up business.

“Modern engines are constantly being tuned by onboard computers,” said Calkins. “And as for air conditioning, if it is blowing cold air, it is fine. If it isn’t, get it fixed.”

Next: Start doing this now.

9. Not checking your brake pads

Keep a close eye on your brake pads. | Chevrolet

If your mechanic isn’t telling you periodically to check your brake pads, either suggest it to him or switch mechanics. If you get your brake pads replaced as they wear out, you can avoid a much more expensive repair later to the brake rotors or drums, according to Sadowski.

Replacing the pads should cost around $150 an axle, according to the website AutoServiceCosts. Replacing the rotors can cost you between $406 and $559, according to the website RepairPal, and replacing the drums will run you anywhere from $337 to $502.

Next: Cross this task off your list.

10. Changing your coolant too often

Coolant can last a pretty long time. | PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil via Facebook

If a mechanic tells you to have your engine coolant flushed and replaced, think twice. Unless you have more than 50,000 miles on your car, chances are you don’t need to do it, according to CBS News.

Modern coolant — you’ll know it because it’s usually brown or light red — is designed to last five years or 50,000 miles, said Calkins. You can recognize modern coolant by its color, which is brown or light red — that color coolant has almost double the lifespan of the old, green kind.

Read more: Terrible Cars That Are a Total Waste of Money, According to Mechanics

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