Starting a Vehicle Maintenance Log

Beth Tracton-Bishop, Ph.D.

One great idea to keep your car running in tip-top shape so that it keeps you as safe as possible is to create a vehicle maintenance log. Whether it’s a low-tech notebook or an electronic spreadsheet, keeping an up-to-date vehicle maintenance log is also a smart way to trim the cost of keeping a car on the road.

For example, the Environmental Protection Agency notes that cars that achieve 30 miles per gallon as a result of good maintenance can save you more than $3,400 over the course of five years. And something as simple as replacing the air filter according to the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule can save you up to 22 cents per gallon.

How a vehicle maintenance log can help you cut costs:

  • It allows your mechanic to diagnose a problem more quickly, saving on labor costs.
  • Your log can serve as a leveraging tool when you’re selling or trading in. You’ll get the best trade value or be able to support your asking price if you can prove to the dealer that the car has been well maintained. If you’re leasing, your vehicle maintenance log proves that you’ve honored your car maintenance contract.
  • Bought a lemon? A detailed vehicle maintenance log strengthens your case if you’re in arbitration with a manufacturer or seller.
  • Using your maintenance log to track your mileage will help you notice if your car begins running less efficiently. This may signal an emerging maintenance issue that would cost more to correct were you to fail to catch it early.

Start Your Paper Trail

Not all repair shops maintain databases for their customers, so it’s important to keep your own records up-to-date.

  • Use your smartphone. Several apps let smartphone users organize repair histories for multiple vehicles and keep track of their fuel economy, among other useful functions.
  • Surf the net. Many websites will store your records online and e-mail you reminders when services are due. You’ll need to keep a hard copy vehicle maintenance log in your car.
  • Go retro. Use a spiral-bound notebook or a preprinted vehicle record book, one that’s small enough to stow in the glove compartment with an attached pen. On the front page, record the car’s make, model, and VIN (vehicle identification number), along with your car insurance information. Then create a grid to keep track of the date of your last oil change, tire rotation, brake adjustment, and other types of car maintenance.
  • File it. Tuck away all service receipts, so you’ll know where the work was done and by whom, and the cost of parts and labor.

Keeping current records will also improve the safety and reliability of your vehicle, speed up car problem diagnosis, and help you avoid unnecessary repairs. So show your love for your car and start a vehicle maintenance log today. You’ll be glad you did!


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Beth Tracton-Bishop, PhD, Director of Research and Gerontologist at The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence, is responsible for developing and executing qualitative and quantitative research studies related to older driver safety, home design and family transitions, with a focus on translating research findings to consumer based information and public education campaigns.

She also leads the center’s social media strategy, and is the micro-blogger for


Keep Reading: Why Complex Cars Cost More to Repair

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