Frugal Living Tips For Car Owners
A Reality Check
In a perfect world none of us would need a car, but we are so far removed from that perfect scenario as to render it not worth discussing. Our society is dependent on the automobile. Period! Since the 1950’s when society shifted from the downtown center to the suburbs, we have been a society on the go, and go, and go some more and go further, and that is just the reality of the situation. Sure, there are those like yours truly, who do not use a car during the week, but we are few and far between.
Another truth is that owning a vehicle is expensive. Quite obviously, the cost of fuel is high and most likely will get higher, but apart from that, maintaining a vehicle also cuts into the budget. Who among you has the spare cash to pay a mechanic $70-$100 per hour to work on your car? I don’t know how many times in the past I have budgeted carefully for a month, mapped out the expenditure of every nickel, only to have my car break down and shoot my budget out of the water.
So for all of you who feel that you car, van, or truck is an albatross around your neck, and yet do not know how to save money in this increasingly frustrating experience, this article is for you. Below you will find tips on how to cut expenses and just maybe….just maybe….make car-ownership a little more palatable.
Never Buy New
Oh, I know, this flies against the thinking of most, but seriously, why do you want to buy a new car that will depreciate by 15% as soon as you drive it off the lot? Why do you want to sign a five-year contract so that you can make interest payments on top of the price of the car?
Do you remember the day when cars were made to last? I certainly do and it was not that long ago. In fact, there are still car manufacturers that make vehicles that are good for 200,000 miles provided you give them regular maintenance. Toyota and Nissan are two such companies and you can buy a used car made by them with confidence. It simply makes no frugal sense to buy a new car, and you can take that to the bank.
Do Regular Maintenance Yourself
A recent study showed that 46% of American drivers do not know how to change a tire. To this writer, there is no greater frugal sacrilege than to pay someone to change your tire for you. Anyone interested in saving money will learn how to do basic maintenance on a vehicle. What is basic maintenance? Oil changes certainly fall under that category. Changing the oil and oil filter takes about an hour and requires no mechanical ability whatsoever.
My wife, the love of my life, changes brake pads on her car. What she is lacking in know-how she more than makes up for with determination and willingness. When she changes the brake pads she saves us a minimum of $200. Do you need a new radiator or battery? Change them yourself! How about a car door or trunk lid, windshield or bumper? Change them yourself! There are tutorials on the internet for practically any car maintenance you may need, and those tutorials do not cost you $70 per hour like a mechanic will cost you.
Can you change a tire and your oil?
If You Need Maintenance, Shop Around
Never go to a dealership for maintenance. Quite frankly you would be better off flushing your money down the toilet. Shop around for an independent shop that will do the job for less. You might also check out local high schools and junior colleges; oftentimes they will take on the job as a teaching lesson.
You might also look into taking extension courses at community centers; the more you can learn about car maintenance, the happier your pocketbook will be with you.
Cut down on Gas
If you want better fuel efficiency, a general rule to follow is to buy a car with a standard transmission rather than an automatic. There are newer transmissions that have been developed that will give you even better fuel efficiency. Dual-clutch transmissions and CVT’s (continually variable transmissions) are all designed to increase your gas mileage.
Setting up a schedule for regular maintenance will improve your gas mileage. Keep those filters clean and keep the tires at their proper inflation levels.
Of course, you could actually walk the six blocks to the convenience store rather than drive, and you don’t need to warm up the car for ten minutes before driving it. Thirty seconds is adequate for most engines designed today.
Cut down on the use of the heater and air-conditioner.
Learn proper driving techniques; pulling away from a stop sign with the pedal to the metal is a waste of gas, and if you have cruise control then use it when driving on the highways.
There is a reason why cars have spoilers; the use of spoilers makes a car more aerodynamic and that means less fuel consumption. Thinking in those same terms, if you have a roof rack and you don’t need it, take it off. All you are doing by keeping it up there is providing more surface for air drag, and that means less gas mileage.
A trick I learned a long time ago from my father, and now I pass it along to you free of charge….when on the freeway, drive behind semi-trucks. Let their mammoth size block the wind while you slip in behind them and have a smooth, wind-free ride. Again, this means better gas mileage.
Use That Clutch
If you own a car with a manual transmission, learn that the clutch is important not just for shifting gears. Proper use of the clutch can improve your gas mileage AND save wear and tear on your brakes.
Where space allows, use your clutch to slow up in traffic rather than using your brake. Believe me, you will increase your fuel efficiency, and it will be a whole lot more fun driving.
Recent studies have shown that 74% of Americans prefer automatic transmissions. Why? Convenience and ease of driving, although I suspect many like the automatic because it frees a hand for cell phone use. We need to reverse that trend, and anyone serious about saving money while driving will seriously consider getting a car with a manual transmission.
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Go for a Smooth Drive!
Cut down on the jerky driving, and practice the Zen of Smooth Driving. Better gas mileage is achieved and less wear on your car is realized when you learn to drive slower and steadier. Everyone is in a hurry to get nowhere these days. There is no such thing as a quick trip across town, so quit trying to achieve it. When you consider the number of stoplights and stop signs you are going to be facing, and the amount of traffic you will be battling, you will come to realize that it makes no sense to be in a hurry. The system is working against you the minute you pull out of your driveway, so why not work with the system?
Living in a Dream World
Yes, this writer would be perfectly happy is there were no cars allowed within city limits, but that dream went bye-bye about the same time I realized that Santa Claus didn’t exist. This writer would be perfectly happy if SUV’s were outlawed in this country and if Hummers were declared a public nuisance, but again, think Santa Claus.
Since I am not going to get my way on any of those issues, my next step is to try to help people save money while they own a vehicle. Most of what you have read is common sense, and it is all available to any driver willing to consider a little bit of change in thinking.
If you are interested in savings thousands of dollars yearly, then start practicing these frugal tips. If not, well, then I hope you and your Hummer will be very happy together!
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)