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Bottom Line Up Front

  • Keeping car maintenance records can help you budget for services, simplify warranty claims and improve your car’s resale value.
  • Start by creating a physical or digital folder to house all car-related documents. 
  • Expand your auto records by adding photos, videos and notes about unusual driving situations. 

Time to Read

5 minutes

April 22, 2024

Keeping track of car maintenance records is important for any car owner who wants to keep their vehicle in great condition. Maintenance records serve as your car’s history book, detailing the last time you had important services performed. It may seem tedious and time-consuming, but car maintenance recordkeeping can prevent hassles and costly expenses in the long run. 

Why Should You Keep Car Maintenance Records?

A lot of car owners keep track of when maintenance needs to be performed, but don’t always keep receipts or logs after that maintenance is done. This practice only tells half the story. To paint a full picture of vehicle ownership, keep detailed logs of your car’s services and repairs. Doing this can help you in both the short term (as you drive it) and the long term (when it’s time to sell).

Consider these major benefits of good auto recordkeeping:

  • Stay on top of maintenance. Recordkeeping helps you keep track of when essential car maintenance tasks were last performed. This way, you’re able to stay up to date on upcoming maintenance, which can improve your car’s lifespan and performance.
  • Make warranty claims faster. Some warranties and insurance policies require proof of regular maintenance. Having accurate records could make the claim process faster and reduce expenses.
  • Budget better. By recording service expenses, you can budget better for future maintenance costs. This allows you to plan for larger repairs or replacements and avoid financial surprises.
  • Improve the resale value. When it’s time to sell your car, potential buyers are more likely to trust a vehicle with a well-documented history of regular maintenance. This could help you sell faster and get a higher price. This is particularly helpful in the collector car market.

How Long Should You Keep Car Maintenance Records?

It’s wise to keep car maintenance records for as long as you own your car. Every documented service tells the story of your vehicle—and your responsible ownership of that vehicle. 

For instance, if your car is under warranty, the manufacturer might require proof of routine maintenance before covering warrantied repairs. Documentation can also be useful if you move and switch mechanics. Service records are helpful when it comes to diagnosing problems. By referencing past work, a mechanic can avoid unnecessary checks and save you money.

And, of course, car maintenance records are a useful resource for secondhand owners. When the time comes to sell, you can pass on the records to the next owner for their peace of mind. 

Tips to Keep Better Auto Maintenance Records

Your car maintenance records should be detailed and organized, so they’re easy to reference. Use these 8 tips to keep better records of your car’s maintenance history.

  1. Save all receipts and invoices

    Keep all receipts and invoices from repairs and maintenance services done on your car. Ensure the documents list all parts, labor charges and the date of service. This documentation will come in handy when you need to file a warranty claim or take your car in for more servicing.
  2. Create a dedicated (or digital) folder for your car documents

    One of the first things to do is to create a dedicated folder where you can keep copies of all your car documents in one place. While your car’s original insurance papers and registration documents should remain in the car, this folder should include copies of those and other essential papers. As you have maintenance done, add the service documents to the folder. You can keep a physical folder or digitize the documents in apps like Evernote, Google Drive or Dropbox.
  3. Keep and stick to a regular car maintenance schedule

    Regular maintenance like oil changes, tire rotations and brake inspections could prevent breakdowns, prolong the life of your car and save you money in the long run. Refer to your car’s owner’s manual and create a maintenance schedule that includes all necessary services. Stick to this schedule and document each maintenance appointment in detail.
  4. Document car mileage or odometer readings

    Every time you perform maintenance, record the mileage on your car. Your mileage represents how far you may be able to drive using one gallon of fuel. To calculate your mileage:

    Step 1: Check the odometer reading (how many miles your car has driven).
    Step 2: Fill your car with fuel and note how many gallons you put in.
    Step 3: Drive until you need to fill up again (when the fuel gauge shows “E”).
    Step 4: Check the odometer and subtract the first reading from this new reading. This will show how many miles you drove on that one tank of gas.
    Step 5: Divide the number of miles you drove by the number of fuel gallons to get your mileage.

    Keeping track of your mileage can give you insights into gas consumption over time. It can also indicate when there’s an issue that needs attention. If you notice your mileage decreasing and you haven’t changed your driving habits, it’s a good idea to book a service appointment.
  5. Use mobile apps

    Mobile apps are effective recordkeepers and can help you stay on top of maintenance after you enter your car’s details. Some popular apps include CARFAX Car Care, which documents your car’s history and alerts you when it’s due for maintenance. Other apps like Fuelio help you track your fuel consumption and learn how to improve fuel efficiency. Your vehicle’s manufacturer may also provide an app that can document the maintenance history as well as vehicle status.
  6. Collect visual documentation

    Consider taking pictures or short videos of your car during maintenance or after a repair. For example, if you’ve just had a new part installed, take a photo of the old part next to the new one for comparison. Visual documentation can serve as a reminder of past maintenance and can provide evidence if issues occur later. Be sure to include the date and a brief description of the work performed alongside your photos.
  7. Analyze weather and driving conditions

    Sometimes, specific maintenance needs might arise due to weather or driving conditions. Take note of extreme weather events or unusual driving situations your car has experienced. These details can help you anticipate maintenance needs related to wear and tear. For example, if you frequently drive on poorly maintained roads, you may need to have your suspension checked more frequently than someone who primarily drives on smooth highways.
  8. Take time to compare and shop around

    If you’re in need of maintenance or repairs, get quotes from multiple mechanics or service centers. Keep a section in your folder for price comparisons. Include details like the services offered and their associated costs. By doing a little legwork, you can ensure you’re getting a fair price for your car’s maintenance.

Keep Your Car Maintenance Logs Up to Date

With a little bit of effort, you’ll become a pro at auto maintenance recordkeeping. This simple skill will help you stay on top of routine maintenance and make it easier to sell your car down the road.

When you’re ready to upgrade your ride, turn to Navy Federal to explore new and used car options. Get preapproved for an auto loan and shop online through our Car Buying Center. Our tools make the car-buying process simpler from start to finish.

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This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.