Holiday Car Budget Check

a person lying under a car that's jacked up, and an open tool box with various tools strewn about the driveway

Heading home for the holidays and traveling to parties will put miles on your car.  It could also take a toll on your wallet.  Here are things to consider and ways to save.


During the week of Thanksgiving alone, “the number of long-distance trips (to and from a destination 50 miles or more away) increases by 54 percent,” according to the Department of Transportation, and that number increases by another 23% for Christmas and New Year’s.1  If you have to travel for the holidays, make sure your car is in tip top shape for the long haul.

  • Check the oil, antifreeze, windshield wiper blades, et cetera
  • Make sure your tires are in good condition

Checking your car and doing general maintenance before traveling can help prevent bigger (more expensive) problems on the road.  Think of it this way, would you rather spend $20 – $30 replacing the broken windshield wipers yourself, or spend thousands of dollars fixing a totaled car because you couldn’t see the upcoming turn through all that rain?


Apps like AAA’s TripTik list gas stations (based on your location) and their current prices, so you can compare costs.  Instead of finding the closest gas station when you’re tank is running low, research gas stations before you get on the road or have a passenger look up prices while you’re driving.  Take a look at your route and take note of gas stations with cheaper prices.  You could save as much as twenty cents a gallon, and when you’re traveling more than usual, that can really add up.

Tip: gas stations right off the freeway tend to be more expensive than stations a couple miles away.

Safety Precautions

Nothing takes away holiday cheer like being stranded on a highway in the middle of a blizzard because you didn’t realize your car was in such poor shape.  Before you get on the road…

  • Check the weather for where you’ll be traveling – will you need chains?
  • Double check the trunk to make sure you have everything you need, and not just the extra pair of socks.  Do you have jumper cables, a flashlight, an ice scraper, an extra tire, basic first aid supplies, et cetera?

Jumper cables alone can cost anywhere from $5 to $100.  Ideally, you would have savings specifically allocated for auto expenses like this, but if you don’t, look for ways to re-balance this month’s discretionary spending to meet the costs.  for example, say you usually spend $60 a month going out to the movies with your family; instead, for this month, borrow a movie from a friend or your local library, and put the $60 towards getting auto equipment for safe travels.


If you do find yourself in need of non-emergency roadside assistance, make sure you know what’s freely available before you take action.  Why?  Calling a local tow truck will typically cost you anywhere from $35 to over $100 to be towed a couple miles, and about $3 per additional mile.  The cost could increase even more if you have a heavy duty vehicle and/or no insurance.

The good news is some insurance companies offer free roadside assistance for their members, so check your plan to know what’s available.  Before you get on the road, write down the necessary information (like a toll free phone number and hours of operation) and keep it in your glove compartment, so the information is readily available should you need it.


Another resource available to you is your very own Money Coach.  The cost of things like antifreeze and new windshield wipers can really add up.  Whether it’s maintenance fees, the cost of a rental car, saving up for emergencies, or all three, your Money Coach will help you create and implement a spending plan, so you feel financially prepared.  Your Coach will provide handy worksheets, financial expertise, and peace of mind for the holiday season.  Call 888-724-2326 today.


1 “U.S. Holiday Travel.”  Bureau of Transportation Statistics, n.d.  Web.  16 Nov. 2015.