How To Prevent Auto Expenses From Dinging Your Budget

When I first started driving, my father stressed the importance of keeping consistent and accurate vehicle records. He bought a vehicle log book for me to use as I began my adventure into car ownership.

Even though I no longer track every mile, I still stay cognizant of my vehicle’s performance. For example, I always calculate my miles per gallon when I fill up at the gas station.

I reset my odometer at every fill-up. Then, I divide the mileage driven by the number of gallons. Since the number on the fuel economy gauge may not be accurate, I can identify any changes in my mileage per gallon, which may indicate a problem such as dirty air filters, bad spark plugs, or incorrect tire pressure. Tracking such a simple metric is a very useful and easy tool to do.

In addition to tracking my mileage per gallon, I also became accustomed to inputting every car repair and maintenance record into my vehicle log book. By doing this, I could easily track my preventative maintenance schedule (oil changes, tire rotations, and air filter replacements), as well as any major repairs performed on my vehicle. These types of records are invaluable and will show you, and future owners, how well you have maintained your vehicle.

Here’s my simple approach to tracking car repairs with Google spreadsheets.

How to Track Your Repairs With Google Spreadsheets

Around the same time I started scanning all my receipts with Google Drive, I started a Google Spreadsheet to replace the vehicle log book that I had used for over a decade. This is what it looks like:car1

The columns I used were: Date, Mileage, Type of Repair, Cost, Auto Repair Location, and Additional notes. This spreadsheet lays out my entire auto care regimen which I can compare with my manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule to ensure my vehicle is properly serviced.

Download a FREE copy of our Car Maintenance Budget Template

Car Maintenance Spreadsheet

  • Click on File and Make a Copy, to start using your own today
  • Be sure to enter your vehicle’s date of purchase, mileage, and keep the cost at $0.

Vehicle Log and Your Budget

When you create your vehicle log in a spreadsheet format, it opens many possibilities for metrics. You can easily calculate the total amount spent during ownership and the number of months you’ve owned the vehicle. Over time, after inputting oil changes, tires, and scheduled preventative maintenance, your spreadsheet will start to reveal a good estimate of your Cost per Month by dividing the total amount spent by the number of months owned.car2

Budgeting and saving for car repair and maintenance can be hard to calculate because they can be infrequent and can vary in cost.car3

If you are on a survivalist or debt-free budget, the maintenance and repair cost per month is important to know how much you have to set aside for your next trip to your mechanic. Most people do this by simply putting this amount into a separate savings account every month. Alternatively, you can do this conceptually on your Mint.com budget:

  1. Create or edit details of your Auto & Transport: Service & Parts budget category
  2. Select the frequency of Every Month
  3. Click on Start each month with the previous month’s leftover amount
  4. Enter your Cost per month from your spreadsheet into Amountcar4

By setting up your budget on Mint.com this way, these funds will accrue in the form of a negative amount. This way, you can see how much you have conceptually saved for your next repair or scheduled maintenance visit.

Whichever way you decide to set aside your money, having a Car Repair & Maintenance Log will help your budget. Knowing your vehicle’s expenses and maintenance status will ensure that your car gets the care it needs and help estimate how much that care will cost.

Download a FREE copy of my template HERE

<Make a copy in DoughRoller’s Google Drive and share https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1YpxfFqJGt1Yv76foO_7u0uatVlfWvtU467Jz9p9wzak/edit?usp=sharing >

  • Click on File and Make a Copy, to start using your own today
  • Be sure to enter your vehicle’s date of purchase, mileage, and keep the cost at $0.

Topics: Money Management

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