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Car Maintenance…


A few days ago, I got in my car and closed the door. The reminder sticker from the oil change place fluttered down from my windshield and landed on my lap.

Annoyed, I muttered, ‘Stupid cheap oil change reminder stickers. These things can’t even stay on the glass for longer than…’

OK, so before I finish this sentence, remember, I don’t drive very much since I started using public transit as a way to save money.

The sticker was…


7 months old.

I was so busy paying attention to the mileage, I missed that my last oil change was in early November and perhaps I should change it.

I’m annoyed that I’ve slacked on my car maintenance (other than the maintenance scheduled for later this month) but pleased at the fact that I average 4,500 miles a year! Before I started using public transit, my mileage exceeded 25,000 – 30,000 each year!

It’s not the most pleasant or convenient way to travel, but the savings is amazing.

I understand that public transit simply won’t work in some areas and a lot of people have to drive. How many miles do you put on a year?


  • Reply Tiffany |

    I am so impressed! I live in San Diego as well, and I cannot imagine using public transportation on a regular basis. I have to be at work by 630am, so it’s nearly impossible! I wish it was as convenient as public trans in larger cities

  • Reply Jen |

    I also drive about 5,000 miles a year. We live in NYC and only use the car for shopping and out of town trips. There are times when I don’t move the car for 2-3 weeks at a time! (except for the street cleaning, of course)
    I parked my car on Thursday morning and haven’t moved it since. 🙂

  • Reply Michelle H. |

    We put about 20,000 on my car and about 15,000 on my husband’s truck. We both drive to work! ugh! Wish we had public transport but we live way out in the boonies!

  • Reply Brian |

    I fix copiers for a living covering a good portion of the area surrounding the city I live in and put around 60,000 miles on my car in a year for work and another 5-10,000 miles for personal use. And this is in addition to my wifes van. Gas prices and maintenance mean a LOT to me.

  • Reply Jeff |

    I used to average 30,000 a year living in WV where public transportation (atleast in my part of the woods) was none existant. Since moving to Kentucky, my job gives me and a group of guys a van to ride to work…I now only drive 10 miles to and from vanpool during workdays and probably about 50 miles a day during the weekend. I will average 8000 a year this way.

  • Reply jennifer youngblood |

    We are fortunate to live in the Bay Area, CA which not only has public transport but is a walkable area. We probably put around 3K on the car that we share per year, and I walk to work which is only 1 mi away.

    I’ve recently had some temporary assignments that were far away which required some combination of walking, buses and the metro or just driving. The walking/public transport combo took nearly 2 hrs each way and cost over $8 a day. 🙁 The driving took around 45 minutes each way and cost about the same. I stuck with public transport for 6 weeks to be environmentally friendly, but the time suck was killing me (4 hrs a day!!), as was arriving to work sweaty and gross from climbing hills. The last 5 weeks I drove.

    My less learned is that my typically pleasant 10 minute walk to work is so important to me it would be very hard for me to take a permanent job that required a long commute!!

  • Reply dominique |

    Oil changes are overrated.Just check the level regularly and there will be no problem.If you drive so few miles it’s just not worth it.Your car won’t break down if you don’t put in new oil.Just think about the savings you make.

  • Reply John |

    Don’t get sucked into the Big Oil’s “change your oil every 3 months” BS. IF you drive under 5k a year, you can get away with a once a year change. Seriously.

    I put 11K on a year.

    Secret to my wife and my budget? No car payments. I drive a 24 year old BMW, my wife a 20 year old BMW… I’ve had mine for over 10 years, hers for about 5. Well built cars that aren’t full of computers, which you can’t fix at home.

  • Reply Vicki |

    I drive about 100 miles daily and now my company is going to move location and that will add an additional 20 miles. If there was public transportation that was accessible to me, I would take it in a heart beat.

  • Reply brooklynchick |

    My rent on a 1.5 BR (~ 800 sq ft) may seem like a lot at $1,300 per month, but in exchange, no car! I spent about $70/month on unlimited MTA access, and take cabs rarely. Cannot imagine the stress of driving to work!

  • Reply T |

    I haven’t owned a car in roughly two and a half years, because I’ve lived in Chicago, with great public transit. For the first two years of that, all I used was transit. Once my partner moved from a western state with no transit, he ditched his car as well, but he got a membership to both iGo (Chicago only) and Zipcar (national) car-sharing programs.

    Those work brilliantly for us, the few times we want or need a car. It costs us very little, just a small yearly membership fee and a per hour use of the car.

    It’s great, and fairly environmentally friendly.

  • Reply Brian |

    I’m very impressed with your public transit use. I’ve vowed to give it a trial run for a week this summer. I’ve told the people at work they might expect for me to be late at least a couple times that week, but it’ll be a good learning experience.

    So, at 4500 miles a year, is it worth the maintenance and insurance to keep your car? Or would it be reasonable/cost effective to become a single car family?

  • Reply Jen |

    I drive roughly 4000-6000 miles per year.

    While I agree that changing your oil every three months isn’t necessary, you DO need to change it, even if you don’t drive often. I would change it every 4 months. Why? Because sludge settles in the oil pan, and the oil itself settles in the lower part of the engine, so when you start it up the engine parts aren’t fully lubricated. The same goes for other fluid systems in the car – transmission, brake fluid, etc.

    Another reason to drive your car more regularly is to save your brake rotors. I learned this the hard and EXPENSIVE way. I had a horrible, squealing grinding noise from my brakes. I took the car in. Later in the day I got a call from my mechanic. He started out by asking, “You don’t drive your car much, do you?” What happened is that the rotors rusted. As you drive and brake, the rust gets worn off the rotors, and any moisture evaporates from the heat generated. However, if you don’t drive regularly (especially city driving) then the rust and moisture build up until the rotors become so messed up you either have to re-machine them or replace them. In my case, they were so far gone they had to be replaced.

    My mechanic recommended that every 2 weeks I take the car out for a longer drive, both highway and city. Highway to get all the engine fluids warmed up and fully circulated, and city to get thr ust and moisture off the rotors. He said if I did that I’d see him much less often.

  • Reply emmi |

    7500 miles on an oil change is completely fine. The key is that it can’t sit, it needs regular drives. If it sits, old oil builds up acids that etch the inside of the engine. Also, make sure it doesn’t get low. When things are tight, I go by the color: tea is fine, coffee is overdue for a change.

  • Reply Beks |

    Tiffany – I arrive at work at 6:30 as well. For a lot of people, public transit in San diego doesn’t work but if you work downtown, the trains are great.

    T – I’ve never heard of Zipcar but it sounds awesome!

    Brian – I show up to work on time more than those who commute. The trains run on time to the minute and I don’t worry about traffic. I don’t know about buses though, I hardly use them. Unfortunately I have to keep my car. The transit stop is four miles from my home and I would bike it but it’s a high traffic area and not very safe.

    Jen – Thanks for the heads up!

  • Reply T |

    Beks, I hope you’ll forgive the plug and shameless self-benefit, but it looks like Zipcar might work for you (assuming the “San Diego” in your most recent comment is roughly where you live).


    It costs, as I said, $50/year for a membership and an hourly cost for each car. The hourly cost ranges from ~$7 – $15/hour, but they also have a day rate for every car. That hourly rate covers EVERYTHING, gas and insurance too. Furthermore, if you sign up with them, then later leave, they’ll furnish you with a letter indicating you were an insured driver with them, so no expensive lapse in auto insurance.

    I suggest you look into it, because you might be able to get rid of one of the vehicles (and all the associated costs). Now for the self-benefit I mentioned above, if you decide it’s right for you, I think you can see my e-mail in your comment management. If you e-mail me, I can give you a referral number that will get each of us $25 worth of free driving time.

    If you don’t want to e-mail me, that’s totally understandable. I still urge you to sign up if you can, since it’s so much less expensive (at least for us) and more environmentally friendly than everybody having and using personal cars.

  • Reply D.esigner |

    I run my car about 25,000 miles each year. Been doing so for the last 6 years. It is A LOT of mileage but public transit just doesn’t take me where I need to go for the most part, and when it does a 30 minute drive becomes a 3 hour bus trip.

    Kudos to you on making the choice!

  • Reply Tiffany |

    ah, working in downtown SD does make a huge difference. I work in industrial poway, miles away from the freeway and even from the bus stops.

  • Reply Stephan |

    i average around 15000 a year, and i do drive to work so i assume around 70% of that is due to the commute. it sucks, but hey, in my neck of the woods we dont have any public transportation so i dont really have a choice. makes those leases with a 10k a year limit on them even more ridiculous. there is no way the majority of americans dont put more than 10k a year on their cars no?

  • Reply Brittany |

    I have driven less than 3500 miles in the last year, with about 1000 of those miles in the last 2.5 months. I commute to work/school either on my bicycle or by walking (it’s about a mile each way).

    There are a few grocery stores within 1.5 miles of where I live so I bike to those if I just need to pick up a few things. And, since a lot of my friends are cyclists as well and live nearby, we will bike to one another’s houses, to meet for dinner, or to go out for drinks. The one thing that tempers all the cycling is the summer weather. It’s in the low 100s every day now, which makes cycling less pleasant though still possible.

So, what do you think ?