One thing I was glad I knew from the beginning, is that a car is NOT an investment. A car is a workhorse item most people need to get to work and back, and pleasure trips from time to time. If you count on your vehicle to get you places, you do well to take care of it. When I was married I knew so little about the thing, I never even put gas in it. After my husband left me I was driving around on bald tires, not even having a clue that was dangerous. In the snow and ice a mile above sea level in the mountain community where I live, I very nearly killed myself my first winter alone. I found myself, sans traction, falling backwards down the street, with absolutely no control over the vehicle. When the vehicle finally came to a rest, I had no choice to attempt exiting once again, uphill in the snow. Luckily the second time I got out – drove directly to Ace Hardware where the assistant manager pointed out to me my problem and sold me a set of cables. I still have those cables. So, to begin with, your car can do no better than the way you treat it. No matter if you have four wheel drive, all wheel drive or anti lock brakes, if you are going to drive around, like I did, on BALD tires, you are not safe. Buy tires at a reputable company that will guarantee the mileage. That way if your tires wear out faster than advertised (as happened to me when I bought discount tires on the internet) you have some recourse. It's not a bad idea if you're a woman to get to know the people who work on your car. Once you find a mechanic you can trust, gift him or her with the loyalty of your business. They will get to know your car and your driving habits, and get better with diagnostics as time goes on. Also, they will be less into up-selling you, if they perceive you are already sold. If you live in four seasons, like I do, consider buying winter studded tires for the cold months and changing them out in the warmer times. If you can't afford to do that, look for a solid all weather tire with a warranty. Keep a small shovel in the back (you never know when you'll have to dig out), a mag flashlight, maps if you don't have a smart phone, a tire pressure gage, chains or cables, a serviceable tire jack, a spare and a ice scraper in your car in the winter. Many women find cables easier to put on a car than cables. What ever you buy, learn how to use it, including the tire pressure gage. Keeping your tires properly inflated will save you on gas as well as make the car safer to drive. If you have room in your trunk, keeping a small bag of kitty litter or rough salt is good too if you get stuck on slick ice. In addition to keeping the tires inflated properly, the next cheapest thing you can do to prolong the life of your car is to get the oil changed on schedule. Some people say 3,000 miles some say 5,000. Let your budget guide you. Changing it more often can't hurt. If you can't afford it, pull up the dipstick and make sure the oil is clean, and that enough is in there and let it go to 5,000 miles. If you go every 3,000 miles then you can use two oil changes as a reminder that it's time to rotate your tires front to back. The tires will wear more evenly that way. For occasional oil changes going to a franchise in the interest of speed is ok, however, it is a good idea to take your car for oil changes to a real mechanic for a couple of reasons. First off, because a real mechanic can check things like your brakes at the same time – and having good brakes is important. IF you let your regular mechanic sell you small things like oil changes and windshield wipers, she'll be less pressed to gouge you on the big ticket items such as engine replacement. Also, the franchise chains train their employees to up-sell, whether you need the item or not. Speaking as a woman, these guys can be quite intimidating. I brought along a friend, who was more knowledgeable than me, who confirmed I didn't even need two of the things the franchise salesman was pushing on me. My regular mechanic doesn't do that. Jumper cables are another useful thing to keep on hand all the time in your car. It's a good idea to get a triple A membership in the event that you need a tow or run out of gas. But if you can find someone to give you a quick jump start on your car before you call you can keep your AAA usage to a minimum. For myself, I've found myself as a good Samaritan jumping other drivers' cars on more than one occasion. I was glad I had those cables with me! If you have a manual transmission, which I recommend for women, you can get the car going with a shove and then turn it on, park on a hill if your car is starting to go squirrelly. If you have cruise control, don't use it if you hear the engine straining. You'll commence to wear out the car sooner – and for no good reason if you can watch the speedometer. Save the cruise control for long flat stretches of highway or long distance trips. Washing the car: this is a purely cosmetic decision. The paint job lasts no longer if you wash the car, don't wash it, apply wax or not. That said, if you scrape your car and metal is exposed buy touch up paint and deal with it as soon as possible. If you don't rust will settle in, and that will compromise the body structure of the vehicle. Treat your baby like a baby and you will save money in the long haul.