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Make Your Car Pay

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author photo by Autotrader July 2005

Though it might seem a little obsessive to some of us who live by the seat of our pants, keeping a simple logbook for your car makes a lot of sense. It takes just a little extra time, and it can help you save a sizeable amount of money and grief in the long run.

Your logbook should have a place to the date, cost, and location - as well as any pertinent information or notes - for each time you fill up the tank, check your oil and other fluid levels, add oil, or check your tires.

A small spiral notebook will work just fine, or if you want a more elegant solution there are specially printed logbooks available at some auto parts stores. Choose a solution with a pocket to hold receipts, or get a thick envelope or glove box organizer for the task.

Too, there are also now many different ways to keep track of the info on your computer, using financial software, spreadsheets, or specialized logbook programs. Just make sure you still keep your hard-copy receipts.

Here's how keeping a simple logbook can pay off:

Recognizing potential problems. Once you get in the habit of logging when you add gas, you'll have a better chance of noticing when something does go awry. Any change in gas or oil consumption, if you haven't largely changed your driving habits or conditions, is a telltale sign of some mechanical trouble - or you just need a tune-up.

Managing maintenance expenses. Many automotive repairs come with an extended or lifetime warranty on parts, and some also cover labor for a limited time. Keeping your receipts together, along with notes of what was done at the particular time and mileage, will better your chances of saving money through these warranties.

Communicating with mechanics. Keeping a logbook will enable you to tell your mechanic exactly when a problem began, when you started to need more oil, or when you noticed your gas mileage drop. With the receipts kept with the logbook, your mechanic will be able to take inventory on what's already been done to your car.

Increasing the value of the car. People are willing to pay more for a car that has a full set of maintenance records. It's not only a good way to look at the history of the vehicle, but it's also a strong indication that the car was well cared for and received regular attention.

Helping you at tax time. Finally, the whopper: Documenting vehicle expenses really pays off at tax time, if your vehicle is used for business (not just commuting to work), so keep track of them and use this tip next year at tax time. The IRS allows two different methods of deduction for the use of your vehicle for business, even if it's only part of the time, and you can use whichever one gives you a larger deduction. Under the standard mileage rate method, this year you just deduct 34.5 cents per mile traveled for business. But under the actual cost method, if you've been keeping track of your expenses, you need to add up the cost of depreciation (check with your tax advisor or the IRS on this), insurance, licensing expenses, sales taxes, road tolls, lease payments, loan payment interest, gas, oil, tires, and repairs. Altogether, using this method can often give you a much higher deduction (but keep in mind you have if the car is also for personal use then you have to deduct that fraction of the mileage in expenses). Generally, all repairs can be included in the actual cost calculation, but vehicle improvements (like aftermarket wheels, spoilers, or performance upgrades) cannot.

So put your logbook and pen in your glove box - use it and save money!

©2007 by The Car Connection™ All Rights Reserved - The Car Connection is a Trademark of DA Acquisition


This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
Make Your Car Pay - Autotrader