How to keep kids from destroying your car

This is the final post in a three-part series on how to save big money on vehicles. If you haven’t already, read parts one and two. Also, don’t forget to enter to win the Ultimate Car Care Kit from HomeRight®, running in conjunction with this series. Enter by clicking here or on the photo below. 


You’re probably aware by now that our family drives cars until the wheels fall off, which has saved us tens of thousands of dollars over the years and allowed us to have zero car payments!

I gotta tell you, though, with all the effort we put into making our cars go the distance, nothing will add wear and tear like these two little rascals:


Thanks to them (I’ve gotta blame someone, right?), my car often looks like the inside of a giant purse – used napkins, fast food restaurant toys, loose change, sports paraphernalia, crumbs, an occasional pair of underwear (no joke).

So today I thought I’d wrap up my auto-saving series by sharing five tips for how we can keep the kids from destroying our vehicles.

1. Keep it locked.

This may seem obvious and most of you probably already lock your car when you’re not in it. But this didn’t become a habit for me until recently. I used to leave my car unlocked in the driveway for convenience sake. Then my 2-year old decided it was his personal playground and would literally open the door himself, hop in and proceed to empty the glove box, tissue box, etc. Not only was this a horribly messy situation, it was also extremely dangerous. So, especially if you have young kids or grand kids, keep your doors locked and make a rule that playing in and around vehicles is not allowed.

2. Have them help clean and maintain it.

After we get home from a trip, I try to make an announcement for everyone to pick up all the stuff that needs to go inside as we exit the car. No one leaves the car empty-handed. I’m still working on consistency with this, but it is definitely helping the kids think about the fact that our car is not their personal wastebasket or storage closet.

Also, consider having the kids help vacuum or wash the car when it needs a good detail job. Fortunately, I’ve got kids at ages where they’ll do this somewhat willingly. I’ll have to get creative as they get older. 😉 #choresformoney

AutorRight-Easy-Wash-Stick AutoRight-Auto-Wash-Stick

3. Choose leather upholstery.

Oh, the sweet, sweet wipe-ability. Need I say more? Of course, I realize many of you have cloth interiors and, since I don’t want you running out and getting a new car, 😉 below are a few tips for cleaning out tough stains from cloth upholstery. (These tricks work on carpets, too.)

  • Fast-food grease – Greasy stains can be removed from both carpet and upholstery by using paint thinner and covering the stain with salt. Make sure the paint thinner you choose passes a colorfastness test by first applying it on a hidden area. Once the greasy stain is absorbed, vacuum the stain to remove it. Or put cornmeal on the stain and let it sit overnight, then vacuum. I’m also a huge fan of the AutoRight Multi-Purpose Steam Machine* to remove tough dirt and grime. Enter to win one here.
  • Ink stains – Hairspray can remove all types of ink stains from carpet and upholstery.
  • Carsick stains – Try club soda mixed with baking soda and water.
  • Blood stains – Blood should always be treated with cold water. Mix the cold water with dry laundry detergent to make a paste, then apply to the stain. Once it’s dry, brush the debris away and vacuum.
  • Frayed carpet – Buy some liquid resin at a craft store and apply to the frayed edges and trim. This should keep the edges from excessive fraying.

If you’re sick of scrubbing cloth upholstery, you could also consider purchasing washable seat covers.

4. Prevent food and drink accidents.

Consider only allowing “safe” foods inside the car when possible. Ideally, that list would include foods that are easy to pick up or vacuum, like dry cereals, trail mixes, animal crackers and dried fruits. I’ve been guilty of giving my littles pudding in the car. Never again. Shudder. #rookieparentmistake 

5. Apply the Law of Domestic Input to your car.

I explain this law in more detail in my e-book, “Organized for Real: How to Conquer Life’s Top 5 Chaos Hotspots.” Here’s a brief summary.

The Law of Domestic Input states that for every chore that is either completed or avoided, there is an equal and similar chore completed or avoided. So if we leave gum wrappers, soda cups, etc. in the car, our kids will think nothing of adding to the mess with their own junk.

Whenever we confront a mess, we typically don’t feel bad about adding to it. On the contrary, when most normal people encounter order, cleanliness and beauty, we have a tendency to feel a twinge of guilt about crapping it up. Hence the clean, organized vehicles (and homes) seem to stay organized, while the clutter keeps piling up in the chaotic ones. So if we make the effort to keep it clean, it gradually becomes easier to keep it clean.

To find out more about the Law of Domestic Input and other practical cleaning and organizing tips, snatch a copy of my e-book here.

I hope this series on how to save money on vehicles was helpful in some way. Do you have any tips I may have missed? Please share in a comment.

* Affiliate links are provided in this post for your convenience. 

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