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Leaving Your Car Unused on Vacation: 11 Essential Maintenance Tips

Jessica Pilon-Summons

Are you all set for that much-needed vacation? Ah – your car! It needs to be looked after while you’re away. 

We've got you covered. With this guide, you’ll learn how to keep your car in top condition during your trip. Here's what we'll cover:

  1. Things to consider before your trip
  2. Fuel: how long can fuel sit in a car?
  3. Oil in the vehicle
  4. Car battery: how long should a car battery last without driving?
  5. Belts and fluids
  6. How long can you leave a car without starting it?
  7. Options for your car if you’re going away
  8. Leaving your car unused: checklists from 1 week to 1 year
  9. FAQ

Let’s dive in so you can move on to your other to-dos (those bags won’t pack themselves).

Things to consider before leaving

Holiday mode is almost activated. But don't forget to sort out your car, even if it won't join you on your trip. Here’s a quick list of things to consider.

black Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses on beach sand
Photo by Ethan Robertson / Unsplash

Before your trip

  • Check your car's general condition. Look for any existing issues (like fluid leaks, unusual noises or warning lights on the dashboard). Address any necessary repairs before you leave. Leave it to a trusted pro like the RACQ if you don’t know what to look for.
  • Check fluid levels. Ensure that essential fluids like engine oil, coolant, brake fluid and windshield washer fluid are at the recommended levels. Top any up that look like they need it. 
  • Do a tyre check. Inspect your tyres for proper inflation and tread wear. Over long periods of inactivity, underinflated tyres can lead to reduced fuel efficiency and other potential issues. 
  • Check your car battery condition. Clean any corrosion on the terminals and make sure all connections are secure. Weak or old batteries can cause starting issues.
  • Decide where to leave your car. You can choose between options like long-term car storage, airport parking, family and friends or rent your car with us to earn some money while you’re away.

During your trip

Make regular check-ins. If friends or family are taking care of your car, ask them to do a quick check-in every few weeks. It's as simple as starting the engine, checking tyre pressure and ensuring all's well. Even if you’ve left it with the pros in long-term storage, having someone you trust give it an occasional once-over can't hurt. 

After your trip

Take it for a full inspection. No matter where it spent your vacation, get your car inspected for any new issues that cropped up while you were away.

With that general advice, let’s dig deeper into specifics. 

4 key aspects of leaving your car unused

There are four things to consider before leaving your car unused.

 Fuel tank

  • Battery
  • Oil, belts and fluid
  • How long to go between starting your car

Here’s what you need to know. 

Fuel: How long can fuel sit in a car?

a white car with a green gas pump
Photo by engin akyurt / Unsplash

Fuel can sit in your car for about 3 to 6 months without significant issues. For longer vacations, it's best to use a fuel stabiliser or ask a friend or family member to start your car and run it briefly to circulate fresh fuel.

Battery: How long should a car battery last without driving?

A car battery should last 2 to 3 weeks without driving (if it’s in good condition). If you’re taking a longer trip, you can still keep the car battery charged when not in use. Consider disconnecting the battery or using a battery maintainer to keep it charged. Learn how often you should start your car to keep the battery charged.

Oil, belts and fluids: Should they be checked?

Before you leave, check your oil level and its condition. If it's due for an oil change soon, it's best to get it done before your trip. Fresh oil helps protect your engine during prolonged periods of inactivity.

You should also check the condition of your belts and ensure all fluids (like brake fluid, coolant, and windshield washer fluid) are at the proper levels. This helps prevent any unexpected issues while you're away.

How long can you leave a car without starting it?

Without worrying too much, you can leave your car without starting it for about two weeks. Even if you’re still away, someone should start your car every two weeks or so. This brief run ensures that various components stay lubricated and prevents the battery from draining.

Now, let’s look at the best way to leave your car when on holiday.

Where to leave your car when on vacation

white and blue analog tachometer gauge
Photo by Chris Liverani / Unsplash

Now that you know what to do, let's look at where to leave your car while on vacation. Each has its own perks and points to ponder.

Rent out your car

Offset some of your travel costs and rent your car with Uber Carshare. There’s more than just the extra money in your pocket to love, though. When you share your car, it’s not sitting unused. No need to worry about that extra maintenance or parking long-term. 

Pros of renting your car: 

  • Extra income. 
  • Your car doesn't sit idle.
  • Flexibility. You decide when and for how long it's available.

Read about how Naomi shared her car on a trip to Europe.

Family and friends

Leaving your car with loved ones can be hassle-free and budget-friendly. Plus, you trust them.

Just make sure your family or friends are up for the task and aware of any car care specifics.


  • Familiarity. Your car is in familiar hands.
  • Budget-friendly. It's usually a cost-effective choice.
  • Peace of mind. Trusted individuals look after your car.


  • Coordination. Arranging drop-off and pickup can be a challenge.
  • Responsibility. They may lack time or expertise for thorough car care.
  • Insurance. Your family and friends may not be insured to drive your car.

Long-term storage

Professional storage keeps your car in great condition with top-notch security and climate control.

It can be good for long trips, but be sure to choose a reputable facility.


  • Protection. Your car stays safe from the elements.
  • Maintenance. Facilities often offer upkeep services.
  • Peace of mind. Relax on holidays knowing your car is taken care of.


  • Cost. Storage fees add up, especially for extended stays.
  • Limited access. No access while in storage.
  • Research needed. Finding the right facility takes time.

Airport parking

white airplane
Photo by Bao Menglong / Unsplash

Airport parking is convenient for short trips and is usually secure. Check costs and availability, as it can be pricey during busy times.


  • Convenience. Easy access upon return.
  • Security. Airports usually have robust security.
  • Short trips. Perfect for weekend getaways.


  • Cost. Airport parking can be expensive on longer vacations.
  • Availability. Spots may be limited during peak times.
  • Distance. Your car may be parked far from the terminal.

Deciding among these options comes down to your circumstances and preferences. Think about your trip length, budget and comfort level to pick the best fit for you. Your car will be in good hands, whether with loved ones, in secure storage, at the airport or on a shared ride.

Leaving your car unused: checklists

person writing bucket list on book
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters / Unsplash

How long can you leave a car while on holidays? Well, that depends on what you do before you go. Here’s what to do when leaving your car unused.

Leaving your car unused 1 to 3 weeks


  • Check fuel level.
  • Top up essential fluids.
  • Verify tire pressure. 


  • You can leave your car unused for two to three weeks. To be safe, start it briefly after two weeks.
  • Monitor battery health. 


  • Inspect for any issues.
  • Refill fuel if needed.

Leaving your car unused 1 month (4 weeks)

There’s a bit more to do if you’re not using a car for a month.


  • Complete a full service check.
  • Add fuel stabiliser if necessary. 


  • Start the car every two weeks.
  • Keep the battery charged. 


  • Check oil and fluid levels.
  • Examine tyres for any flat spots.

Leaving your car unused for 3 months


  • Complete a full-service check (make sure to top up all fluids).
  • Add fuel stabiliser if necessary.
  • Remove the battery or use a maintainer. 


  • Start the car fortnightly to keep the battery charged.
  • Check tyre pressure. 


  • Full inspection and service.
  • Consider an oil change.

Leaving your car unused 6 months


  • Service your car thoroughly.
  • Fuel can sit in your car for three to six months, but to be safe, add fuel stabiliser.
  • Remove the battery. 


  • Keep the tyres elevated.
  • Maintain proper storage conditions. 


  • Professional inspection and service.
  • Reconnect the battery.

Leaving your car unused 6 months to 1 year


  • Complete all necessary services. 
  • Add fuel stabiliser if necessary.
  • Remove the battery.
  • Consider long-term storage.


  • Store the car in a secure facility.
  • Follow facility guidelines. 


  • Full inspection and service.
  • Reconnect the battery.

Recap: Leaving a car unused (battery, fuel, and how often to start it)

Taking care of your car while you're on holiday is essential. Make sure you’re ready to hit the road when you return. Remember these key points:

  • Check fuel levels and use stabilisers for long vacations.
  • Monitor your oil condition and consider an oil change if due.
  • Your car battery should last two to three weeks without driving. Ensure your battery is charged or disconnected for extended trips.
  • Inspect belts and top up essential fluids.
  • Start your car periodically, especially during lengthy absences.
  • Consider renting your car and earn money while you’re away.

Still need to know more? See more car maintenance checks or learn about how long tyres last.


Can you get a refund on unused car insurance if unused?

Typically, car insurance providers don't offer refunds for unused portions of your policy. But it's best to check with your specific insurance company for their policies on this matter. 

How long can a car battery sit unused?

A healthy car battery can sit unused for about 2 to 3 weeks without issues. Beyond that, it's advisable to disconnect it or use a battery maintainer. 

Is it bad to leave a car unused?

Leaving a car unused for an extended period can lead to various issues, including a dead battery, flat spots on tyres and fluid degradation. You must take proper precautions when leaving your car unused.

Does an unused car need insurance?

While not driving your car, you can reduce your coverage to save money. However, maintaining some level of insurance may still be advisable to protect against unexpected events. Check with your insurance provider and local authorities to be sure about your specific circumstances.

Does unused car oil go bad?

Over time, unused car oil can degrade and lose its effectiveness. It's best to check the oil condition and consider an oil change before using your car after an extended period of inactivity.

Information included in this article is accurate as of 16/10/2023. The information published on this blog is of a general nature only and does not consider your personal objectives, financial situation or particular needs. The information published on this site/page should not be relied upon as a substitute for personal financial or professional advice.