Essential car ownership tips for city-dwellers

While many full-time city-dwellers have made the move to give up owning a car for financial or spatial reasons, there are still many individuals who chose to hold onto their vehicles in the city. Perhaps they travel outside the city frequently and cannot rely on mass transit to get them where they’re going. Maybe they “reverse commute” and work in a suburban area that is only accessible by car from the city. Whatever the reason, keeping a car in a heavily-populated urban area is different from housing your car in a driveway or garage and there are unique considerations for these drivers. Here are a few key tips for keeping city cars looking good and running in top shape.

Track maintenance based on time, not mileage

It’s safe to assume that most city drivers aren’t putting as many miles on their car as would a driver living in a rural area or even the suburbs. Average drivers rack up about 12–15,000 miles per year and will send their car in for routine maintenance when they hit a certain mileage. If a city driver is averaging less than 10,000 miles, the maintenance schedule needs to be adjusted. Most vehicle manuals will state preferred timeframes for maintenance based on mileage or number of months, whichever comes first. Most non-city drivers really only pay attention to the mileage qualifier since they drive enough to meet this mark. However, for a city driver who might be putting fewer miles on their car, it’s important to keep track of the months between maintenance to ensure your car is kept in good shape.

Consider protecting your vehicle’s body on crowded streets

City cars are very prone to scrapes and dings from tight parking spaces and fender-benders in stop-and-go traffic. While these cosmetic issues will most often not impact your ability to drive the car, they can damage resale value down the road if you plan to give up your vehicle one day. City drivers might want to consider investing in bodyside and bumper protection. Bodyside moldings are available on a number of aftermarket sites these days and they’re relatively easy to install. Another helpful accessory that’s popular among seasoned city drivers is the “bumper buddy” which attaches to the rear of the car and prevents denting from rear-end collisions in traffic, which can be all too common. While these side and bumper guards aren’t the most glamourous, you’ll be thankful for them when the time comes to sell or trade in your car.

Protect yourself against theft — both inside and out

While car theft can happen virtually anywhere, cars are especially vulnerable in the city. Not everyone has the luxury of a safe, well-lit parking garage. Street parking, particularly on poorly-lit blocks can be dangerous. Of course, modern cars have more built-in safeguards against theft such as thicker glass and stronger ignitions. However, these technologies might not stop the most determined of thieves. If you frequently park your car on the streets, adding a steering wheel lock can deter a thief who might be looking for an “easy mark.” For an additional expense, you can have a hidden switch installed under the dash which cuts out the ignition, making the car impossible to start unless the thief knows the location of the switch.

Some thieves might not target the entire car and instead choose to go after items on and inside your vehicle. This includes wheels and tires, which are stolen very frequently from city cars, particularly ones that remain parked on the street for days and weeks at a time. A set of wheel locks, which prevent the wheels from being removed without a special key, is an essential for any city-driver. Also, more obviously, drivers should always avoid leaving valuables of any kind in plain sight. If you can avoid leaving them in the car at all while its parked, that’s even better!

Keep up with basic cleanliness

It can be hard to wash your car when you live in the city. Handwashing is usually out of the question for those who live in walk-up apartments and park on the street. And finding a carwash nearby might be challenging. However, there are options for those who wish to keep their car looking its best. If keeping the exterior free of dust and dirt while your car is parked is important to you, consider purchasing a full car cover. You can find a wide variety of lightweight, water resistant coversfor all makes and models online. One downside is that the cover, not the car, will need to be cleaned on occasion.

Similarly, you can protect your interior from spills and stains with seat covers and floor mats, which are also available for essentially all makes and models nowadays. If you aren’t as serious about keeping the entire car clean, at minimum you should consider keeping a bottle of glass cleaner and some cloths on hand to spot-clean windshields, windows and mirrors as needed. If your car spends most of its time parked on the street, these surfaces are likely to collect pollen and grime, which you’ll want to clear off before a long drive.

Whether you’re a city dweller who wants to keep your car in good shape for an eventual move to the suburbs, or you’re considering selling your car someday, these tips can keep your ride safe, reliable and clean no matter what city you live in.