New or used, sporty or practical, a car is not only a major purchase, but it also keeps wringing money out of its owner throughout its lifetime. Gas, oil changes, accidents — no question, a car is an expensive family member.
But for many of us, especially those who don’t live in one of the few American cities with reliable public transit, a car is also a necessity. Until that “Star Trek” transporter technology arrives, we’ll be driving — and fixing, and filling up, and coaxing — our cars to keep on running for years.
That’s why even the smallest ways to save on car costs are important. From the right insurance policy to simple car-maintenance tips, knowing how to keep your car’s insistent monetary demands at bay can leave more cash in your wallet.
Rev your engines — here are tips for saving on car costs that absolutely everyone can use.
1. Trim your car insurance premiums
Take a little time to shave even more off your vehicle insurance bill. Start by reading Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson’s “The Secret to Getting the Best Possible Deal on Car Insurance.”
Next, try these steps:
- Call your insurance agent. Ask how you can save on your insurance. For example, discuss raising your deductibles (which may lower your premium) or whether it is no longer worthwhile to pay for comprehensive and collision coverage for an older vehicle. Also, ask about getting a deal for bundling your auto insurance with other policies, such as homeowners, renters or a jewelry policy.
- Take a defensive driving class. Careful drivers are cheaper to insure. If you’re an AARP member, there’s even an online course you can take. CarInsurance.com says:
“[S]tates may require insurers to offer certain discounts to encourage good driver behavior — such as taking defensive driving courses.”
2. Shop around for a better rate
Switching vehicle insurance companies might save you a bundle.
To use The Zebra, visit the website and enter your ZIP code. Answer some basic questions, and get your quotes. You can also find the best car insurance options listed by state and vehicle. The Zebra does not sell users’ information to third parties or spammers, so you won’t get sales calls from doing a search.
Gabi is another car insurance search engine. In under two minutes, you can easily submit your current insurance policy and let Gabi shop around for the best coverage, delivering as many as 20 quotes.
Or, if you prefer, use The Zebra’s licensed insurance brokers to ask questions and understand your options.
3. Rent out your car to help pay its upkeep
You can get your car to help earn its keep by renting it to others when you aren’t driving it.
Our article “How to Make Extra Money Renting Out Your Car” has the details.
4. Use cruise control
Know how and when to engage your cruise control, and don’t be afraid to use it. AARP estimates doing so can reduce your highway fuel usage by 7%.
Depending on how much you drive and how much of that travel is on the highway, you could save $100 or more annually.
5. Don’t be a car snob
When you buy or lease your next car, think seriously about getting a less-expensive model.
Here’s where you can save thousands from the start, simply by choosing a Mazda over a Mercedes, or a slightly used car over a brand-spanking-new vehicle.
Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson says he’s never bought a new car, since a new vehicle loses thousands of dollars in value the minute you drive it off the lot.
Depreciation can account for nearly 40% of the expense of owning a new vehicle, costing you more than $3,000 per year, Money Talks News reports.
6. Be smart about gas
Someday we may all have electric cars, but until then, gasoline will remain a major part of your car budget.
Be smart about where you buy it and how you pay for it. Many grocery stores or credit cards offer loyalty points that can be used at certain gas stations. Don’t let those go to waste.
Also, try checking into smartphone apps, like GasBuddy, that can help you locate the cheapest price on gas near you.
7. Relax your hot foot
If your speed goes up, your gas mileage will go down. There’s no trophy for being the Mario Andretti of your Minnesota suburb.
Likewise, don’t slam your foot down on your brake pedal either. You’ll extend the life of your brake pads by coasting or easing into stops rather than constantly pounding on the brakes.
8. Keep tires properly inflated
Driving with properly inflated tires can improve your gas mileage up to 3%, the EPA reports.
That one improvement will show up at the gas pump.
And it’s easier than ever to do. You’ll find digital and analog gauges to buy for a few dollars that are easy to use and read. Some newer vehicles may even sport a digital readout of the inflation level for tires.
9. Take care of your car
You don’t have to baby your car, but don’t ignore its needs, either.
Regular oil changes, air-filter replacements and even things as simple as new wiper blades can keep it purring longer.
10. Handle small repairs yourself
Not everyone is a mechanic. But these days, many simple car-maintenance items can be performed at home by even fairly new drivers.
Oil changes, tire rotations and air-filter replacement don’t really need a professional to do them. Get started by following the steps in “8 Car Repairs and Maintenance Tasks You Easily Can Do Yourself.”
Other good ideas:
- Ask a handy friend to show you how to do maintenance jobs the first time.
- Take a basic car know-how course at your community college.
What tricks do you recommend for keeping car costs at bay? Share with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.
How to find cheaper car insurance in minutes
Getting a better deal on car insurance doesn't have to be hard. You can have The Zebra, an insurance comparison site compare quotes in just a few minutes and find you the best rates. Consumers save an average of $368 per year, according to the site, so if you're ready to secure your new rate, get started now.
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