A consistent vehicle maintenance schedule is every smart car owner’s secret to saving cash over time. However, busy drivers know that keeping track of every step of the car care process can be hard, with dozens of needs to keep in mind. A vehicle maintenance log is a simple tool that can make your life easier in more ways than one.
Every car is susceptible to damage from debris, corrosion, and other natural factors that can’t easily be avoided. Rideshare drivers put even more pressure on their vehicles by practicing severe driving — which includes idling and driving in high traffic — for hours each day. Still, your driving habits don’t have to age your car faster. In fact, your car can last even longer than an average driver’s if you pay attention to its needs.
This guide will show you how a vehicle maintenance log can help you keep your car running healthily for years and decrease (or even eliminate) the cost of repairs you may otherwise face.
- What Is a Vehicle Maintenance Log?
- How to Create Your Vehicle Maintenance Log
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is a Vehicle Maintenance Log?
A vehicle maintenance log at its simplest is a complete record of your auto repairs, car condition, and preventive maintenance work. Many drivers use this tracker to stay on top of when they need to take their vehicle to the shop, how much repairs are costing them, and even who completed the repairs.
This auto maintenance log can prove to be particularly helpful for rideshare drivers. By keeping up with your car’s needs, you’ll always be confident that you’ll pass your Uber vehicle inspection — or at least know what must be fixed before you spend at least 30 minutes at the Uber Greenlight Hub.
Keeping a vehicle maintenance record can even help you maintain the value of your vehicle over time. Not only does the record help you reduce the amount of repairs needed, but it also acts as proof that you took care of your car. This is especially valuable for private sellers of used cars to have.
How to Create Your Vehicle Maintenance Log
Tracking your car maintenance record is a straightforward task that can save you from the headache and cost of car repairs in the future. If you’re interested in building a custom vehicle maintenance log from scratch, you can use this section as your guide.
Tools for Keeping Your Log
Before you start building out your log, it’s important for you to decide where you want to save it in the first place. Drivers can keep their maintenance and repair records in something as simple as a notebook, a binder, or an Excel spreadsheet. However, with all the free tools available to you online, we do recommend saving your car maintenance records on a platform that makes accessing your log as easy as possible.
Google Sheets is one of the best options out there, allowing you to fully customize your spreadsheet template on a cloud-based platform. When you use sheets, you can access your vehicle maintenance log on mobile or on your computer, and even share the log with family members or fleet members who may share the car.
If you want an easy smartphone-based option, you can check out the tracking capabilities of car mileage apps, too. These apps tend to offer fewer opportunities to customize, but they’re extremely convenient for busy drivers.
Building Your Vehicle Maintenance Log Template
The best vehicle maintenance logs are clear and easy to read. While you definitely want details about the services you perform, you don’t want the outline to be extremely complex if you want to encourage yourself to stay accountable. Here are five things you should track with your car maintenance log:
1. Date and Mileage
The first two columns of your vehicle maintenance log should always the date of service and your car’s mileage at the time of the service. This is primarily used to keep track of service intervals for recurring needs, like oil changes and air filter changes, and making sure your car parts are lasting their full lifespan.
For rideshare and delivery drivers, the mileage log is especially crucial, as your car maintenance schedule should be based on mileage. Because you’re putting more miles on your car than the average driver each month, tracking by month will be far too infrequent and won’t be enough for your driving habits. Still, don’t forget to track the date so you can also understand how much you’re driving in any given month.
2. Service Provider
Logging the name of the person or business that provided a service — whether it’s an independent contractor, your local auto repair shop, or you — will help you figure out who to go to if something goes wrong. For example, if you head to a mechanic for an AC system tune-up and your air conditioning is still performing poorly, you’ll be able to contact the same mechanic and often get a second look or even a second fix for free.
3. Service Description
The column you’ll be filling in most extensively in your vehicle maintenance log will be the description of the service that was provided. Here, you can log the types of inspections performed, car parts that were replaced, and any other relevant information that may impact your vehicle in the future.
To keep your maintenance record readable, you should stick to writing concise points with bullet points, rather than writing in complete sentences or paragraphs. This way, you can easily review your past maintenance and repair work in no time.
Next to your service description, we recommend taking notes about the condition your car was in before and after the service. This is a great section for you to write down the color of your engine oil or transmission fluid, or write notes about repairs that your mechanic suggests. With these notes written down, you’ll know what red flags you need to look out for and how much you can expect to spend in the near future.
You may even find it helpful to take pictures of relevant car parts before a third-party service to ensure that your mechanic is providing quality work and you’re not getting scammed. These pictures most likely won’t be logged in your spreadsheet, but since you’re tracking the date of service on your maintenance record, you’ll be able to easily find them on your phone or computer.
5. Service Cost
Finally, we recommend always writing down the cost of each individual service that’s completed, including the costs of materials if you’re following a DIY process at home. As an independent contractor, understanding your costs and expenses is a necessary part of maximizing your earnings and ensuring you never overspend. This can also help you estimate the amount of Uber driver tax deductions you can expect from maintenance and repairs alone.
Tracking your service cost can also help you figure out if you’re getting a deal from any given mechanic, if a service cost has increased, or if a service is completely overpriced.
Frequently Asked Questions
While there are a handful of sections we suggest you include in your vehicle maintenance log, the exact design is fully up to you. You can stick with a simple chart for all of your services, or even create an additional maintenance checklist for your recurring needs. Here are a few questions
1. Can I find vehicle maintenance log templates online?
Whether you want a printable vehicle maintenance log PDF or an Excel template, you can find pre-made templates online just by searching “free vehicle maintenance log template” on Google. This template, for example, works great on Excel.
You can even purchase an automotive maintenance record book if you want an easily stored notebook that’s already designed for your needs.
2. What’s the best way to keep a car maintenance log if I have multiple vehicles?
We recommend keeping separate logs for each vehicle you own to avoid mixing up your maintenance intervals. For example, if you choose to track your vehicle maintenance in Google Sheets, make sure you have a separate document — or at least a separate tab — for each of your vehicles.
3. Should I log basic weekly checkups in my vehicle maintenance log?
If it makes sense for you to do so, we definitely recommend it. You can use your vehicle log for anything from weekly tire pressure checks to car washes and tire rotations. Tracking anything and everything in your log will keep you highly accountable.
Master Your Car Care
Staying committed to keeping a car maintenance record will help you greatly reduce the cost of car ownership over time. When you’re ready to move on to your next car model, it can even help you make a high-value sale thanks to the fact that your vehicle is in good condition and well cared for.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.