Foreign Cars For Frugal Drivers: Tips For Keeping Your Vehicle In Shape For Less

6 July 2015
 Categories: , Articles

The modern world is multicultural in just about every conceivable way, and the American car market is no exception. Foreign cars are incredibly popular with American buyers, landing spots in the top ten bestselling vehicles year after year. However, repairs and maintenance for a foreign car are handled differently than for an American-made one. If you want to save money on keeping up your vehicle, you need to know how to do it the smart way -- or you could just make your problems worse.

Free Service Plans Are Worth The Investment

If your vehicle is new and you bought it from the original dealership, you were likely given a maintenance warranty for the first few thousand miles. You can use this warranty to save a ton of money on oil changes, brake pad changes, and other maintenance recommended by the manufacturer. Typically, some maintenance services are seen as elective and not necessary to keeping the car in shape, so they may not be covered. Be sure you know what services your warranty will pay for before you authorize any work on your car.

Here are a few services commonly included in maintenance warranties for new cars:

  • oil changes
  • belt checks and replacements
  • replacement of any part which is damaged by normal wear and tear
  • recommended safety checks
  • regular comprehensive inspections

This not only saves you money on the services in question, but can also help you prevent damage to your car due to negligence. Such damage is often much more expensive than having the vehicle regularly serviced, and in many cases negligence will even void your warranty coverage for otherwise-qualifying auto work. The last thing you want is to be stuck with the cost for an engine replacement just because you didn't change the oil often enough.

Save Money By Getting It Done Right The First Time

Working on a foreign car is often challenging due to the different measurements used and tools required to repair the vehicle. Parts may be harder to come by, and many amateur mechanics or car owners may not have enough experience with foreign cars to truly understand how to repair them. Unfortunately, attempting to repair a foreign car when one is ill-equipped to do so can cause even worse damage, and since it also may void your warranty, you could be on the hook for increased repair costs.

Unless you are a trained and experienced mechanic yourself, never try to work on your foreign car. Small fixes like changing tires or adding coolant to the radiator are the exception, of course, but more complex repairs should be left to the experts. For example, if you owned a BMW, it would be wise to let a BMW auto repair shop do any repairs on it. You should also never allow a friend or an amateur mechanic to work on your car, even if they promise to cut you a deal on the repairs. Using the wrong tools or parts to fix the problems could wind up costing you significantly more when your car breaks down later.

Communicate Clearly With Your Mechanic

Even an expert mechanic can take a long time to repair a problem if they don't have the full picture of what exactly has gone wrong with your vehicle. When you take your foreign car in to get checked out, be sure to give the repairman as much information as possible. Explain what you were doing when the problem occurred, and don't be shy to share your suspicions if you think you might know what caused the issue. 

It also helps to know the vocabulary of car symptoms. Your appointment with the mechanic will go by much faster if you are able to accurately describe your car's behavior and noises it makes. Even better, if the car is drivable, offer to take the mechanic on a ride-along to demonstrate the issue firsthand. The better your mechanic understands what's going on before opening up the car, the fewer unnecessary tests and part replacements you'll have to worry about.

Keeping your foreign car in good shape can be somewhat intimidating, but you don't have to break the bank to do it. Take advantage of knowledgeable mechanics and free service whenever you can, and you should be able to keep your baby driving like new for years to come.