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Saving Money on Car Expenses

Updated on May 5, 2011

Saving Money on Cars: Purchasing A Car

With raising fuel costs due to inflation, it's important now more than ever that we get creative in how we save our hard earned money. One area where I've managed to individually generate significant savings in through transportation costs. Here are a few general tips:

If you must buy a car, keep in mind that the value of a car depreciates rapidly over the years, and the value also decreases the more a car is traded. Meaning trading one car of the same value for another car results in a net loss for both parties. Cars can't be traded like clothes, so don't do it. Hang onto your automobile for as long as possible.

When purchasing an automobile, it's best to buy a car aged of two to three years for the same very reasons I outlined in the first paragraph. In no more than a couple of years, the car's price will be cut in half. As far as I'm concerned, a 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer (my favourite vehicle) is just as pretty as a 2011, and the quality is on par. People often hand horrible advice when buying cars, usually going on either extreme. Many suggest buying a brand new vehicle to avoid maintenance costs, leaving you with a vehicle that you've paid more than double than you would have to in no more than two years. Not to mention you'll most likely be saddled with a criminal car payment plan that eats you alive on interest rates. The other extreme is buying a clunker because it's so cheap. The problem with buying say, a 1991 Hyundai Pony, is that it will most likely break down at least once or twice every year, eating up your income on maintenance costs. Cars of such older models also consume greater amounts of fuel.

Trust me when I say, you can't go wrong by buying an aged car of around two to three years for a budget of say around $5,000 to $9000. This should preferably be bought with your own savings, so you don't have to pay into a car payment. You'll save on interest rates and not have to hassle over budgeting car payments. You'll have the mental satisfaction of actually owning the vehicle rather than the bank owning you.

When buying a new car, consider the compact models. They're often cheaper, and because they're lighter, they usually get better gasoline mileage. In addition, the insurance is cheaper.

Saving Money on Cars: Do You Need A Car?

Perhaps the best way to save money on transportation is to truly ask yourself if you need a car. Is your public transportation system reliable and economical? How long does it truly take you to reach the key places of business by walking, biking, bussing, and driving? You need to carefully weight in such decisions.

I have one rule of thumb that saves me a lot of money and enhances my physical health. If it takes under an hour to walk there, I shouldn't have to drive there. Ask yourself just how many key establishments are less than an hour's walk away, and check them off your list. If every single key place is checked off, you may miraculously discover you don't need a car after all.

Use the same philosophy when weighing in employment and income generating opportunities. Ask yourself how much more you would have to earn per hour if you had to use a car, versus say finding a job that's less than an hour's walking distance from home, or better yet, a stay at home job opportunity. You must also consider more than the raw economics of the deal. Jobs at a walking distance and at home saves you time, and as you no doubt know, time is money. The car job would most likely mean you have to find additional time in your busy schedule to exercise, and perhaps even pay for a gym membership. The stay at home job saves up an hour you could potentially use for exercise, and the walking to work job simultaneously does the exercise for you while having the added benefit of bringing you to work. Under no circumstance are you to overlook the opportunity to have a job at walking distance from your place of residence. If you were to accept a job of say $12 an hour (not an astronomical wage by any means) within an hour walking distance from home, you would need the equivalent of $21 an hour (nearly double) to make up for the savings and lifestyle costs if you were to hypothetically accept a job which required a car. Employers know this math better than anyone, which is why they often hand you a worried look when you explain your address isn't a walking distance away. The worried look is a nice way for employers to explain they have already found a few candidates who can walk to work.

Saving Money on Cars: Maintenance

Here are a few tips for saving money on car maintenance:

  • Keep your car properly tuned. A poorly tuned car uses between 25% and 33% more gasoline each year.
  • Change the oil and oil filter in your car every 3,000 miles, regardless of how often your owner's manual recommends. More frequent oil changes are the single most important factor in extending the life of your engine, and will more than pay for themselves in savings on repairs and engine wear.
  • Check your car's air filter monthly. A dirty filter shortens the engine's life and reduces gasoline mileage up to 10%. You can clean the filter by removing it and blowing it with an air hose.
  • Use steel-belted radial tires. This can increase your gasoline mileage up to 10% per year.
  • When filling up, don't use higher octane gas. For most cars, premium gasoline offers no benefit. Unless your car has a high-performance engine and your manufacturer recommends a high-octane gas, use the less expensive gas. Premium gas costs 10% to 15% higher than regular.
  • Check your tire pressure regularly. You can lose up to 6% in gasoline mileage for every pound of under-inflation.
  • Add thousands of miles to the life of your tires by having them balanced once a year. In addition to destroying the tread, improperly balanced tires can wear out your shock absorbers and damage your suspension system, leading to more expense.
  • Check fluid levels regularly. Low battery water shortens your battery's life. Also check coolant, automatic transmission fluid, brake and clutch fluids.
  • If you live in an area that has winter and summer seasonal weathers, be sure to make use of seasonal tires, rather than all season tires. Seasonal tires will reduce the wear and tare on your tires, making your automobile consume less energy when accelerating or breaking. This can reduce fuel costs significantly, approximately 20% per year.


Saving Money on Cars: Good Driving

Being a good driver saves money, and by that I don't necessarily mean costs on insurance and repair. Even a bad driver, who is lucky and hasn't been in an accident, thus has excellent insurance, will cost a lot more money than a good driver. Here are some tips to become a good driver and lower fuel consumption in the process:

  • Don't tailgate vehicles: Tailgating causes you to break sharply putting wear on your poor tires. Over time, this certainly takes a toll on your vehicle's fuel efficiency. Gradually breaking, while keeping a safe distance from other vehicles, is good for your fuel economy.
  • Learn how to park: Learn how to parallel park and learn how to park in general. All that time you spend fiddling around, figuring out how to park, the engine is still running and the exhaust is still wasting away your fuel and subsequently your precious dollars. Also, when entering a vast parking lot, it doesn't hurt to take a second to look around and find the closest empty parking spot. Going out for a sight seeing strolls around the parking lot is a waste of valuable time and money.
  • When approaching an incline, reasonably accelerate your vehicle just before you hit the incline in order to build up momentum. This should require you to make use of less horsepower in order to overpower the incline, thus saving money on fuel costs.
  • When going down an incline, for as long as humanly possible, keep your foot off both the gas and break pedals. Of course, only do this within reason, if you have to break to let that pedestrian through, do it. Using the momentum of the incline and the weight of your car to carry you all the way down the hill, as if you were on neutral, saves a lot of money on fuel.
  • Before you go anywhere, make sure you're ready before you turn the ignition. Cars sitting idle with the engine running are blowing away hard earned money.

-Donovan D. Westhaver


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    • profile image

      Tyre Machines 

      7 years ago

      The one most key issue in maintaining your tires is sticking to the fairly precise inflation pressure. Almost all new cars have installed tire pressure monitoring devices, still it’s useful to appreciate and recognize how to conduct the test yourself.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Nice points, thank you.

      BTW, I have a Honda that looks like the one on the picture except the doors are just regulard doors cannot be used as wings :)


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