These 7 Car Myths Are Costing You Money

These 7 Car Myths Are Costing You Money

There was a point in my life when I wanted to own a red car.

All my friends told me I shouldn’t. After all, red cars get more speeding tickets and cost more to insure.

These two truths stopped me from buying myself a red car for years. Until one day, I did a little research.

That’s when I found out these “truths” were bullshit. Nowhere could I find any evidence to suggest that red cars received more speeding tickets than blue, black, or any color for that matter.

And, after a quick call to my insurance, I realized that insurers don’t give a damn about what color car you drive.

So, it got me thinking about what’s fact and what’s fiction when it comes to cars?

Here’s my list of 7 car myths that are costing you money if you believe them.

Myth #1:
You Can Wax Your Car by Going Through a Car Wash

The car shine business is like the anti-aging skin care section at your local drug store.

There’s a lot of hype and marketing with very little substance to back it up. So do I think it’s worth paying the additional $3 to $5 for “protectant” when you’re at the automatic car wash?

I say, no.

Don’t get me wrong, automatic car washes are great. But I wouldn’t get your hopes up about a product that is sprayed onto your car for 30 seconds and then rinsed off.

It’s better to save that $5 at the car wash and buy and apply a cheap paint sealant yourself, like NuPolish or Mothers California Gold Synthetic Wax. These can last up to a year and should take you less than 30 minutes to apply.

Myth #2:
You Should Change Your Oil Every 3,000 Miles

Do you remember the old Jiffy Lube jingle? “Every 3,000 miles, just bring it into Jiffy Lube.”

That jingle alone has been costing people money for what seems like a lifetime. Even now that Jiffy Lube has dropped the jingle it still sticks in our minds.

Here’s the deal about oil changes: you change your oil and filter when the owner’s manual recommends it. For many new cars, the recommendation is to change the oil only once every 5,000 miles — or even less frequently.

But don’t take my word. Go by the book.

Myth #3:
Servicing Your Car at Independent Shops Will Void Your Warranty

If you have your services done regularly with quality parts — and keep your paperwork — you should have no problem not voiding your warranty. Dealers are typically the more expensive choice when it comes to repairs, so avoid them if you can.

However, one advantage of going to your dealer is to check if there’s a “Technical Service Bulletin” out on your car. Different from a recall, the manufacturer sometimes warns of a non-safety-related item — like, premature corrosion in a certain area. Trying to find these advisories yourself isn’t easy, but the dealer always gets them directly and will sometimes fix whatever is wrong for free.

Myth #4:
Premium Gas Is Better for Your Car

“Premium,” “Ultra,” and “Supreme” are all just marketing.

The only reason to buy premium is if your vehicle can benefit from the higher octane levels it has. Octane is a measure of gasoline’s resistance to pre-ignition. Some car manufacturers recommend premium so they can tune their engines for higher performance, but you can use regular safely. Only a small percentage of cars are premium-required.

Myth #5:
You Can Check Your Tire Tread with a Penny

Stick a penny in a groove head-down, and part of Abe’s head should always be covered.

This isn’t 100% wrong.

The problem is, if you can see the top of Abe’s head, that means the tire has less than 2/32″ of tread, the legal minimum in most states.

I recommend you use a quarter. If George’s head has some coverage, that means you have at least 4/32″, a safer margin. If you’re getting close, this buys you some time to hunt for a good deal on tires.

Myth #6:
If Your Tire Pressure Light Is Off, You Have Enough Air

All cars sold since 2007 have what’s called Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS).

These monitor that your tires have air in them and warn you if they don’t.

However, the light only comes on when a tire is 25% lower than the recommended pressure. If you wait for that, you’re potentially endangering yourself and wasting money.

Underinflated tires reduce gas mileage by roughly 0.5% per pound that they’re low.

It might not seem like much but imagine this: if your recommended inflation pressure is 40 psi, and you’re 25% low on air, that’s a 2% hit to your gas mileage. Plus, underinflated tires wear more quickly and unevenly, reducing your tire life.

Myth #7:
Warm Up Your Engine Before You Drive

Whenever you start your engine, at least on cold days, you have to let it warm up to its normal temperature before driving, otherwise you’ll ruin the engine parts.

This myth has gone on for too long. Unless you’re flooring it out of the driveway every day, you can get going as soon as you turn the key.

It used to be that some engine parts and oil did need some time to warm up before you could operate your vehicle at full capacity. But an idling engine takes much longer to warm up, so it ends up experiencing far more cold-start wear and tear than if you just hopped in and drove it.

Think about that: when your engine is idling, it’s still producing power, so what difference does it make if that power is being used to move the car or sit in one place?

Additionally, there are other parts of your car that also need warming up, like your transmission and wheel bearings, and those don’t start to warm up until you get your car moving.

I hope that debunking some of these car myths saves you money as well as time.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

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Nilus Mattive

Nilus is the editor for the daily e-letter The Rich Life Roadmap and a Paradigm Press analyst.

Nilus began his professional career at Jono Steinberg’s Individual Investor Group, where he published his original research through a regular investment column. Later, he worked for a private equity business and spent five years editing Standard and Poor’s...

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