We're in a transformational time for cars. Increasingly, the future of automobiles is about electric and green technology, car sharing is on the rise, and urban planners are rearranging cities to reduce car use and boost commuting on public transport. But if you live in or are moving to a city where a car is (still!) the best way to get from point A to point B, there are things you should know before getting that set of keys.
If you've never owned a car in an urban environment before, it's very different from keeping one in a suburb or elsewhere in the country. From insurance to potential issues with engines and mechanics, it's key to adjust your expectations to urban living and make good investments in things that will help your car last longer and cost less in the long run. Car ownership isn't for everybody; car rentals and ride-sharing services are still going strong in many cities, as is public transport. But nothing beats the convenience of being able to get in the car for a day trip upstate, or ferry yourself around without worrying about the train schedule. If you need a car for commuting, trips, getting the kids to school, or heck, you just want to have one, here are some expert tips to make sure it survives the city as well as possible.
Be Aware Of Potential Mechanical Issues
Urban areas pose particular risks to vehicles, and if you're driving a car on city roads, you need to be aware of that and plan accordingly. "People in the city face mechanical issues that other drivers may not," Staver explains. "Most cities have a lot of construction, so potholes and work zones are common on roads. City drivers may face more flat tires and suspension problems as a result." This means checking your tires often, making sure you regularly test your suspension, and doing regular brake checks.
Cities aren't inherently dangerous places, but with a higher concentration of people, there is slightly more risk of incident than if you were to park in your driveway every night. "It’s not just the entire car that thieves target; it's wheels and tires, as well as items inside the car," Richard Reina, project training director at CARiD.com tells Bustle. "An absolute must for a city car is a set of wheel locks, which will prevent the wheels from being removed without a special key." Make sure to take valuables out of your car when you park it for the night or tuck valuables that stay in your car out of sight, especially if you can't keep it in a garage.
Equip Your Car For Potential City Damage
"It’s a fact of life in the city: cars are very close to each other," Reina tells Bustle. "Painted fenders, doors, and bumpers will suffer the scrapes, scratches, dents, and bruises that come from all this proximity." Be aware of the presence of other cars and keep on top of the damage to your vehicle, which will likely be more frequent than you think.
Reina also suggests some protection. "Consider investing in bodyside and bumper protection," he advises. "Aftermarket bodyside moldings are easy to install: the latest versions do not require drilling, and are self-adhesive. And 'bumper buddies,' which hang off straps that go under your hood or trunk to prevent them from being stolen, provide an additional measure of bumper protection." It'll help you preserve the value of your car, which will go down if it's dented and scratched.
Farhad Ghafarzade, founder of the Green Drop Garage, tells Bustle that keeping a car in good condition in the city involves making good choices about driving it. "Using good driver techniques is especially important in the city," he says. "Congestion, stoplights and pedestrians can make it difficult, but try your best to drive smoothly. Don’t drive in fits and starts. By applying light throttle and avoiding heavy braking, you can reduce wear and tear on your vehicle and use less fuel."
Get It Maintained Appropriately
If you drive a lot less now that you're actually in a city, Reina has an important suggestion: change your maintenance schedule. "Big-city occupants should pay closer attention to the calendar and not the odometer when scheduling service appointments," he says. Why? Because for city-dwellers, mileage matters much less than time. "Most vehicle service manuals will state “perform this service at XX,XXX miles, or XX months, whichever comes first”," Reina says. For most city drivers, it'll be the months that come first, not the mileage.
Keep It Clean
Cities are dirty. Consequently your car is going to get grubby, too. Car washes might be a bit more accessible in cities, but equally they might not. And maintaining a car clean long-term is good for its overall damage and resale value should you ever need to sell it. "The best choice is a full car cover," Reina tells Bustle. "If interior cleanliness is a goal, then a set of seat covers and heavy duty floor liners will keep things in shape. At a minimum, carry a bottle of glass cleaner and some cheap microfiber cloths, and clean your windows, mirrors, and lights by hand."
Congratulations! You're ready to own that city car and cruise down the avenue with the top down. Or at least get to work on time without worrying about the busses being down.