Car Maintenance for the Low-Mileage Driver

Car maintenance is important, even if you don't drive much. Here's what you should know to keep your vehicle in good shape.

If you’re already a Metromile customer, there’s a great chance that you’re a low-mileage driver. Paying for the miles you drive is just one of the perks of being a Metromile customer and low-mileage driver. 

Another major perk of driving less? You might be able to keep the time and money spent on car maintenance down to a reasonable amount.

Have you ever brought your car to the mechanic for one thing, only for them to give you a list of problems you weren’t aware of? You might even wonder if they’re trying to take advantage of you.

But here’s the thing: Because you don’t drive as often, your car might not need maintenance as frequently as more heavy drivers. So you might be able to get away with things like fewer oil changes. You might also save time on other things like flushing the transmission fluid or replacing the coolant and antifreeze.

Let’s take a closer look at what you might be able to skip and what you might still want to do to keep your vehicle in good shape.

Are you a Low-Mileage Driver?

Wondering if you are a low-mileage driver? As a general rule of thumb, you are most likely a low-mileage driver if you are clocking fewer than 40 miles per day or fall into the following categories:

If you fall into one of these camps and realize that you don’t drive your car very often, there are some things you can do to ensure you’re getting the most bang for your buck when having your vehicle serviced.

The Top 6 Car Maintenance Tips for Low-Mileage Drivers

1. Get regular check-ups for your vehicle. 

You’ll still want to take the car to your auto repair shop at least every six months to monitor the condition of your vehicle. Surprised? Things can go wrong if your car isn’t driven regularly (yep, even if it’s garaged!).

2. Only change dirty oil. 

Despite popular belief, oil only needs to be changed when it’s dirty. Check your oil dipstick once a month to keep tabs on the status of the oil. If it is no longer a light or golden color, it may be time for an oil change.

3. Drive the car at least once a month. 

At a minimum, you should be starting up your engine and driving your car on the highway for at least 15 miles once a month. This will ensure fluids are flowing correctly and keep your car running smoothly for years to come.

4. Check for furry visitors or other stowaways in your vehicle. 

Car engines make nice little homes for furry creatures like mice, squirrels, and rats, especially during the colder months. 

Check the condition of the fuel lines and other rubber components under the car to make sure they haven’t been chewed through or exposed to too much wear.

5. Install a carbon eliminator. 

Add a carbon eliminator to your gas tank yearly to avoid carbon build-up. 

What is a carbon eliminator, you ask? It removes tough carbon deposits from rings, valves, ports, and combustion chambers to improve engine performance, reduce fuel consumption, restore power and extend engine life.

6. Do the following every six months:

  • Have your car placed on a lift for a tire inspection. This ensures your safety every time you hop in the car. While your car is up on the lift, check the undercarriage and tires for dry rot or other damage.
  • Check the air filter and ventilation system. In addition to the engine, both the air filter and the ventilation system can make great homes for all sorts of unwanted stowaways. It can pay off to double-check your system.
  • Check all the fluids. In cars, both the antifreeze and brake fluid deteriorate with age. Checking these every six months ensures that everything is in working order.

Things You Might Not Need to Do

As it turns out, there are things that a low-mileage driver like you doesn’t need to do very often (or at all). 

You should just about never need to use nitrogen in your tires, which can save you a few dollars per tire. 

You will also rarely need to flush your transmission fluid because most car manufacturers now use fluid good enough for 100,000 miles or more, what they sometimes call a “lifetime.” Additionally, modern coolant and antifreeze are also meant to last for the “lifetime” of many vehicles and could save you about $50 to $100 in changes.

An example of unnecessary car maintenance for the low-mileage driver is changing the engine oil too often. 

It used to be the norm for vehicle owners to schedule an oil change every 3,000 miles. However, with modern lubricants, most newer engines have recommended oil change intervals of 5,000 to 7,500 miles. If your engine requires full-synthetic motor oil, it might go as far as 15,000 miles between services. For low-mileage drivers, you might need an oil change once a year or less often!

Why is maintenance important for a car’s health?

That’s not to say you should ignore maintenance on your car altogether.

It’s like going to the doctor. If you’re a healthy person, you might not need to go to the doctor as often as someone who gets sick all the time. But doctors still recommend you go in for an annual exam to make sure nothing has changed.

The same is true with your car.

Regardless of how often you drive, it’s still essential to get your car checked out now and then to make sure things are running smoothly. In the long run, routine car maintenance can help you avoid car troubles down the road.

But it’s just a matter of how often you need to bring your car into the auto shop for a tune-up. For low-mileage drivers, you might be able to go longer in-between visits without risking damage to your vehicle.

How can low-mileage drivers save money with pay-per-mile car insurance?

If you’re a low-mileage driver, not only could your car need less frequent maintenance, but you could also save money with a pay-as-you-go auto insurance policy that charges you based on how many miles you drive. 

With Metromile, you’ll pay a small base rate every month, regardless of how much you drive, to help keep your vehicle covered. But most of your premium is based on the number of miles you drive. So the less you drive, the more you could save.

Take a look at the average annual car insurance savings enjoyed by new Metromile customers:

Miles Driven Per YearPer MonthPer WeekSavings*
10,000 miles833 miles192 miles$541
6,000 miles500 miles115 miles$741
2,500 miles208 miles48 miles$947
* Average annual car insurance savings by new customers surveyed who saved with Metromile in 2018.

The bottom line

Think pay-per-mile insurance might be in your future?

To find out just how much you could save, you can get a free auto insurance quote from Metromile to see how much you could save with pay-per-mile auto insurance.

You can also try Ride Along™ for free to get a more accurate rate. 

Ride Along is a free feature (not insurance coverage) on the Metromile app, which considers your actual driving, including how many miles you drive, to show you how much you could save before purchasing a policy and switching to Metromile.