Car Maintenance for the Low-Mileage Driver

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.

How to Maintain Your Vehicle When You Don’t Drive Often | Metromile

Are you a low-mileage driver?

First, let’s start off with something important — what being a low-mileage driver actually means. If you don’t drive that often, you’re likely considered a low-mileage driver, but how is that defined? While there are no hard and fast rules, 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.

What low-mileage drivers can do in the short term

If you don’t drive that often, here are six tips for what you can do in the short term within the next six months. 

1. Change the oil as needed 

If you don’t drive that often, you might have a conundrum on your hands and wonder about oil change time vs mileage. Should you get an oil change every six months or every 7,500 miles? 

If you don’t drive that much, you might want to focus more on the time equation and do periodic check-ins with your oil. Your best bet is to look at your car manual and if you have a newer car, only change your oil when you get an alert. 

2. 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!).

3. Make sure your tires stay in good shape. 

If you don’t drive that often, you want to keep your tires in good shape. Tires can lose air from lack of movement and create low tire pressure. You want to maintain appropriate tire pressure as noted in your vehicle’s owner manual. Also, check for any damages, cracks, or punctures if your car is being stored and not driven for a period of time. 

4. Drive the car at least once a month. 

Your car is literally a well-oiled machine and a modern marvel of technology. It’s not meant to be stored away without moving at all for long periods of time. Think of the phrase “use it or lose it” when it comes to your car. If you don’t drive that often, make sure you start your car and drive on the highway for at least 15 miles once a month. Doing so will make sure the juices are flowing correctly and keep your car running smoothly for years to come.

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

Have you ever noticed how animals love to hide in small, tight quarters? Well, your car can become home to a furry stowaway. Car engines make nice little homes for furry creatures like mice, squirrels, and rats, especially during the colder months as they look for warm places to stay. Be sure to check your exhaust pipe and other crevices. 

Check the condition of the fuel lines and other rubber components under the car to make sure little critters haven’t chewed through anything or created any damage. 

6. Install a carbon eliminator. 

Another thing you can do in the short term is to add a carbon eliminator to your gas tank yearly to avoid any 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.

What low-mileage drivers can do in the long-term 

If you don’t drive that often, there are also some actions you can take in the long term. These are things you should do every six months to a year. 

1. Check your air filter 

Your air filter is an important protective measure to keep any extraneous debris or matter from hitting the engine. Making sure the air filter is working properly helps lower emissions while also boosting fuel efficiency. You can also review your owner’s manual to see how often you should replace your air filter. But if it looks filthy or broken, it’s time to make a change. 

Checking the air filter and ventilation system can also help you find any unwanted stowaways that may be hiding as well. 

2. Review your fluid levels 

While you might want to check your oil in the short term, in the long term you also want to review your other fluid levels. For example, check the antifreeze levels as well as brake fluid. These things can deteriorate with age and not be at optimal levels. Checking every six months or so should help keep your car in good condition. 

3. Consider checking your spark plugs 

When it comes to powering your vehicle, your spark plugs play an important role. These plugs activate the gas and air to get your car going and if they’re not working well your car could end up losing power. Check your owner’s manual to see if and when this is needed. If you feel your engine power is wearing off, consult a professional for help. 

4. Look at your car battery 

If you don’t drive that often, your car battery may not be used that often either. A car battery is an integral part of a car and is responsible for getting things started and moving. In certain weather conditions or lack of use, your car battery may have a weak signal so it’s always good to test the car battery and make sure it’s good to go. 

5. Scan your serpentine belt 

Your serpentine belt is a long, snake-like belt (hence the name) that keeps many parts of your car functioning. These parts include AC, power conditioning pump, the vehicle’s alternator, and more. Scan the belt to make sure there is no damage like any cracks or breaks. If there is damage, you want to get it replaced ASAP. 

Some things you may not need to do as a low-mileage driver 

There are some actions you might not need to take as a low-mileage driver that might surprise you. 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 might not need to flush your transmission fluid 

You may 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.” You can do a check-up and review your owner’s manual to check, but this may not be needed. 

You might not need to change your oil as much as you think 

If you’re reviewing oil change time vs mileage as part of your car maintenance it’ll depend on how much you drive. You may want to change your oil twice a year, but depending on how much you drive and the type of car you have, and oil you use, you may be able to get away with less. 

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!

Switching out windshield wipers 

Unless your windshield wipers are actually broken, there’s no need to replace them just because you don’t drive that much. Make sure they’re functioning properly, but beyond that, they don’t need to be replaced unless there’s an issue. 

Replacing tires 

If you don’t drive that often, you may lose tire pressure and need a refill of air but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to replace the tires completely. Check your owner’s manual. If there’s a hole or a flat, of course, replace the tires. But it’s not something you may need to do all the time just because you don’t drive that often. 

Why is maintenance important for a car’s health?

Car maintenance is important. It’s like going to the doctor for preventative care. 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 don’t drive that often, you may be considered a low-mileage driver and may be able to save money with pay-per-mile car insurance. 

As 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. 

At Metromile, you end up paying a small base rate every month, regardless of how much you drive, to help keep your vehicle covered, plus a few cents per mile. But typically, most of your premium is based on the actual number of miles you drive. So the less you drive, the more you could save. Why pay for more miles than you actually drive? 

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

The bottom line

If you don’t drive very often, you want to maintain your vehicle and keep it in good shape. You also want to save money where you can. 

To find out just how much you could save, 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.

* Average annual car insurance savings by new customers surveyed who saved with Metromile in 2018.