Rateworks auto loan refinance
March 16, 2023

What’s the Difference Between Car Repair and Maintenance?

Car repair and maintenance are two essential aspects of owning a vehicle. While they may seem interchangeable, there are significant differences between the two. Car repair and maintenance are both important aspects of vehicle ownership. Regular maintenance can help prevent the need for repairs, but when something does go wrong, repairs are necessary to keep your car running safely and efficiently. It's essential to prioritize both to ensure the longevity and reliability of your vehicle.

Mechanic working on a car repair
Written by

Matthew Oliver

What’s the difference between car repair and maintenance? 

Car repair

Car repair is what happens when something breaks or is broken. It’s often unexpected. Your car will need to be repaired if you bang into a pole and you need a new bumper. Or if your mechanic finds an oil leak in your engine, you’ll need to have them (or yourself, if you want to DIY) repair it. Repairs can be expensive, depending on the damage. Insurance can sometimes help you with some repair costs. If you have collision insurance, any time you get into an accident you can submit a claim to get your insurance company to help pay for repairs. Or if you have comprehensive coverage, then you can submit a claim if a tree branch falls on your car, or if a deer leaps in front of you and damages your headlights. 

Some repair work you can do yourself. For instance, you can definitely change a flat tire. Most other repair work, though, will need special tools and knowledge. You can do it yourself if you can learn a new skill and have the tools. 

Car maintenance

Car maintenance is all the work you do to keep the car in top shape so that you’re not caught on the side of the road because something in the car broke. Many maintenance items are required by law. Police will pull you over if they notice your brake lights don’t work, for instance, because that could endanger other drivers. 

AAA says you should save $50 a month for maintenance costs, which is $600 a year. That is a good start, but new tires alone could cost $400 or more. Think about the costs of maintenance last year and use that as a guide for what you should save for this year. If this is your first year owning a car, go to your local mechanic and ask them to help you anticipate future costs. New cars, or certified pre-owned cars, may need less maintenance for the first year or so than used cars. But all cars will need some routine things.  

“Some maintenance you can do at home. You can change out your windshield wipers, for instance. You can check your oil, too.” 

As a part of your regular maintenance check, you can: 

  • Notice the check engine light, and take the car to a mechanic if it’s on.
  • Regularly notice your head and tail lights to make sure none of them are damaged.
  • Regularly check your tire tread and pressure to make sure they’re in good form. 
  • Check and replace essential fluids like oil, coolant, and windshield wiper fluid.

Your mechanic can:

  • Give you an oil change. This must be done every 3,000 miles or 6 months, whichever comes first. 
  • Regularly rotate your tires and do an alignment.
  • Flush your radiator and coolant system. 
  • Check your electrical system, including your battery. 
  • Check and schedule maintenance on belts and filters.
  • Assess your fuel system, exhaust system, brake transmission, and ignition system for worn-out parts, clogged filters, or leaks that can be addressed early. 

Do these affect your car’s value?

Mechanic working on car maintenance

Some car repairs and maintenance will affect your car’s value. An accident can reduce your car’s value by 10-25% annually. If it’s just a scratch or minor dent, your car’s value may only decrease by 5-15%. Larger accidents, even if the car was repaired fully, sometimes indicate that there is an underlying structural weakness in the car. Plus, new parts often don’t fit quite right into the car, especially if they’re after-market parts that weren’t made specifically for that make and model. 

Car maintenance, though, maintains your car value. If the car has a history of regular oil changes, the buyer knows that the car was well maintained, and is willing to pay more. Sometimes you can even upgrade the car to increase its value. You can repaint the car so it looks sleek and expensive. You can put in leather seats, tint the windows, or put in a really nice sound system. You can change out the suspension so the car handles better. And, of course, new, high-quality tires go a long way. 

If you’re looking to refinance, you will want your car’s value to be as high as possible. If your car’s value is too low, then the lender may decide it’s a bad asset and too risky of a loan. Regular maintenance and thoughtful upgrades will help maintain your car’s value. 

RateWorks can help you refinance your car loan so you can get a better deal on your repayment terms. If your car has less than 140,000 miles on it, is less than 10 years old, and if you’ve made more than three payments on it, you’re eligible. Check with our team to see how we can save you money.