Your car can cost you less than it currently does. Here are some money-saving tips:
- Minimize your speeding, and follow parking rules. Tickets are costly, and if you end up getting your insurance premiums increased, you'll suffer a financial double whammy. (Speeding also consumes more gas.)
- Be insurance-smart. Shop around and make sure you're paying as little for your desired level of coverage as you need to. Look into discounts for alarms, short commutes, or safety features. (Read about how one Fool reduced his premium, and drive by our Insurance area.)
- Spend some time comparing local gas stations and use the ones that offer the lowest rates. Take advantage of special deals that offer you a few cents off on certain days. If your car doesn't need premium gas, don't use it. One very useful resource is GasPriceWatch, which can help you find low gas prices. You can also save gas by keeping your RPMs at lower levels. (Below 3,000 is a good target.)
- Spend some time finding a good and honest mechanic. Ask friends for referrals. Using one who inflates his rates -- or worse, recommends unnecessary work -- will cost you.
- Keep tires properly inflated and rotate them on schedule.
- Take public transportation when you can. Or walk, when that's practical. Or carpool.
- Follow your car's recommended maintenance plan. Skipping oil changes and the like might save you a few dollars now, but might cost you many more later.
- Before you rent a car, verify from your car insurance agent whether your policy covers rental cars. If it does, you can say "no thanks" when the car rental agent asks if you want to buy insurance coverage.
- Look into getting new tires at a discount store such as Costco
(NASDAQ:COST)or Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT). The prices are often lower than elsewhere.
Many of these tips come from our Living Below Your Means discussion board. Drop by for thousands of other tips, and good conversation, too. If you're in the market for a new (or used) car, check out the Fool's How to Buy a Car area and ask questions on our Buying and Maintaining a Car discussion board.
Finally, here are two suggestions from Fool readers:
You mentioned changing your oil as recommended. Changing your type of oil could have a much greater impact. I've used synthetic oil for the last 10 years. I change my oil only once a year or every 25,000 miles. Synthetic makes your car more efficient, you produce less waste (since you're not throwing out oil every 3,000 miles), and saves you a lot of money. My first car in which I used synthetic lasted 156,000 miles. I would probably still have it, but it was totaled in an accident eight years ago. My current car has 136,000 and I plan on keeping it the rest of my life -- hopefully 30 or 40 years! -- Craig Glasser
Regularly check your gas mileage -- how many miles you're getting per gallon of gas. If the gas mileage drops, it often indicates that something needs to be repaired. Example(s): The gas mileage dropped on my Dodge Grand Caravan, and I didn't pay attention to it. The engine had allowed a lot of unburned fuel into the exhaust system, which destroyed the catalytic converter, muffler, and resonator. Had I picked up on this earlier, the $600 repair would have been unnecessary, and I would have saved some gas, to boot.
The second example involves the same vehicle. This time I paid attention to the reduction in gas mileage. I started to do a tune-up and found a bad spark plug wire. This time it was a $20 repair instead of replacing the entire exhaust system again. Also, I know that summer gas mileage is higher than winter mileage for my vehicles. I use a program to track all vehicle expenses and gas mileage. It tells me when scheduled maintenance is due, and I will notice when gas mileage drops. The program I use is Vehicle Record System (VRS), a shareware program that can be used free for up to three or so vehicles and for a registration fee can be used to track additional vehicles. -- Paul Wyles