Your car during COVID-19: how to take care and save on costs

Your car during COVID-19: how to take care and save on costs

Published on 3rd September, 2021 at 12:50 pm

Does your car still need a service? How do you keep the battery from going flat when not in use? We spend a lot less time in our cars these days thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, so we found out from experts how this impacts your wheels and how to keep them in prime condition – while saving costs.

Using your car less doesn’t always mean lower premiums

Driving less in and of itself doesn’t help motivate for lower car insurance premiums, but some insurers have designed solutions that consider the impact the pandemic has had on how frequently we need to use our cars. SmartPark from Santam is an example. Marius Steyn, personal lines underwriting manager at Santam, describes the benefit: “SmartPark is a distance-based vehicle insurance benefit. With SmartPark, a client’s insurance premium will be recalculated and discounted based on the revised number of kilometres they are likely to travel in the foreseeable future – all without having to restructure their policy or compromising their cover.” Depending on the bracket your mileage falls under, as a policyholder with the benefit you could save up to 20% on your premiums.

“The offering brings significant savings on clients’ vehicle insurance premiums, and is available to all existing and new vehicle insurance policyholders,” says Steyn. “In order to qualify, clients must supply their odometer reading along with their predicted kilometre band.” This is only available for cars and light delivery vehicles (LDVs).

As a Sanlam Reality Core, Plus or Health member, you can manage your risk and earn tier points by taking your vehicle for an annual inspection at Tiger Wheel & Tyre or Tyres & More. Earning tier points can help you upgrade your tier status, unlocking more savings as a Sanlam Reality member.

If you are a Santam client and a Sanlam Reality member, you can earn 1 000 tier points just for downloading the Santam App, registering and linking your policy.

Less driving = increased risk in some areas

“Vehicles are designed to be driven,” says Steyn. When you’re not driving yours, environmental factors can take their toll on your set of wheels. Keep these four focus areas front of mind to ensure your car stays in working condition:

1. Tyres
If your baby is parked for an extended period of time, it’s at risk of developing what’s known as ‘flat spots’. “This is when the weight of the vehicle sitting on one spot flattens out a section of the tyre,” explains Steyn. Your car is particularly at risk of this during the colder months, and when the tyres have a low pressure.
Keep it safe
Regularly check your car’s tyre pressure and inflate all tyres to the suggested factory specification. You can find this specification on areas like a sticker on the driver’s door frame, or in the owner’s manual.

Want to know what your wheels worth? Our vehicle value calculator will help you work out the retail value of your car.

When you step on your car’s brake paddle, its brake pads are compressed against the brake rotor, creating friction. This friction is what causes your car to slow down or stop. But, when you don’t drive your car for some time, your car’s brake rotors can begin to develop rust on their surface, says Steyn. “If parked for long periods with the brake engaged, it can cause the brake pads to bind to the rotors,” he adds.
Keep it safe
If your car will be parked for more than a month without being used, to reduce the risk of either of these conditions developing, Steyn recommends leaving the car parked on a flat surface (very important!) in a safe environment with the parking/hand brake disengaged.

When your car’s engine hasn’t been started in a while, the battery begins to discharge.
Keep it charged
Take the car for a spin for at least 20 minutes once every two weeks. If the car really won’t be used, even for short trips to run errands, consider disconnecting the battery to extend its life expectancy.

Paint isn’t just there for aesthetic appeal; it also protects your car from the elements so that the frame doesn’t rust.
Protect it
To ensure the longevity of your car’s paintwork, keep it parked undercover either in a garage or under a car port. For added protection, consider throwing a cloth cover over it.

When car payment holidays are a good idea

Many have hit hard times and been unable to honour agreements, whether for their car or home financing, or for retirement fund contributions. For an agreement like vehicle financing, it’s important to understand whether your inability to pay an instalment is a once-off situation, or will be an ongoing financial challenge. “Car payment holidays are better than losing your car. However, if you are battling, it may be a good time to relook at your budget, as you may be living above your means if you are battling and your income has not decreased,” says Nicki Blignaut, senior financial planner and principal at 2one2 BlueStar, underwritten by Sanlam. “If your income has decreased then it is an even better time to relook at your budget,” she adds. Compare the cost and convenience implications of keeping your car versus selling or trading it in for a more affordable model, or going completely carless and using ride-ordering services such as Uber.

If you’re a Sanlam Reality Core, Plus or Health member, or a member with Wealth Bonus Lifestyle benefits, you can save on Uber trips. Find out more here.

“If a payment holiday will just help you catch up, then go for it, but remember it may be a once-off opportunity, so you need to ensure that you don’t fall behind again,” says Blignaut.

Considering skipping services? Better not

As discussed, a car that isn’t in use for long periods of time can still be at risk for tyre, battery and other problems. Naturally, these can affect your car’s reliability and safety, says Steyn. Besides this, if your car is still under warranty, you could be under obligation to get it serviced regularly. “A warranty contract may become void if the car isn’t serviced at regular time intervals, as the service intervals are not only determined by kilometres driven, but also time intervals – whichever comes first,” adds Steyn.

Car services can also have an indirect influence on the validity of an insurance claim. “Agreements that contain an exclusion or condition relating to loss or damage resulting from the fact that the vehicle is not roadworthy has an indirect influence,” says Steyn.

Your car depreciates in value every year, which means you could be over-insured. This calculator will help you work out the retail value of your car so you can ensure you have enough cover in terms of short-term insurance.

Want to learn more?

We send out regular emails packed with useful advice, ideas and tips on everything from saving and investing to budgeting and tax. If you're a Sanlam Reality member and not receiving these emails, update your contact details now.

Update Now