Everybody wants to save money, but nobody wants to give up the fun stuff. And who can blame them? The good news is that there are a lot of common sense ways to save money without really giving anything up, and many of these can be found in your car.
The first way to save money on your car is perhaps the most obvious, but surprisingly often overlooked: shop around before buying. Shop other dealerships and see if you can come up with a better quote. Shop other brands with similar vehicles and see if you can save a few thousand dollars (which is not small change).
As a general rule, smaller cars cost less to buy and often to maintain and to run. Ask yourself how often you really need that bigger car. If you can make do without a van most of the time, but need it for the very occasional out-of-town trip, you might want to consider buying a smaller vehicle and renting a van on those occasions. Everybody’s situation is different, so take the time to do the calculations to see if you would save a worthwhile amount of money this way.
Check insurance rates before you buy. Two similar-looking vehicles might have significantly different insurance rates. If one costs you $200 more each year, you might prefer to buy the other vehicle.
Of course, shop around for insurance. But you already thought of that, right?
Pay cash, rather than a take out a car loan. And if you take out a loan because you just cannot scrape up the cash, make sure you can fast-track the payments. The difference between cash and credit can often add up to a couple thousand dollars. That’s right – they see you coming.
Keep your car well-maintained. Remember that there are some parts that need to be services. Delaying maintenance to save $100 is counterproductive if it means that a $1000 part breaks down as a result. Make sure to change the oil and air filters regularly and replace all belts at the first sign of wear. And if your garage presents you with a sky-high list of repairs needed, go through each one and ask two questions: Is this a safety issue? If I delay this, will I risk a more costly repair later?
You can also save quite a bit on gasoline by just driving smarter. For instance, drive slowly to save on gas. Not too slowly, mind you. For most vehicles, the optimal speed is around 80 – 90 km/hour. Slower than that reduces engine efficiency, higher than that increases wind resistance.
Keep the trunk empty when you don’t have a specific reason to transport things. You burn more fuel carrying around an extra load.
Keep your tires properly inflated. Under-inflated tires are not only a safety hazard but also increase rolling resistance – so you burn more fuel to move the car against the added resistance.
Don’t idle. When you run your engine without going anywhere, you are just flushing money down the toilet and polluting for no reason. In some cities, they are even passing anti-idling bylaws to deal with ground-level pollution.
Of course, one of the best ways to reduce the cost of gasoline and also of wear-and-tear on the vehicle is to combine trips. You can combine several errands instead of going out separately for each one (saving time, as well). You can also combine people by car-pooling, which gives each person a little less driving stress and a little more nap time.
No matter how you slice it, cars cost money. But they don’t have to cost as much as most people spend on them. These are just a few of the common sense tactics you can use to save money and reduce or avoid debt.