5 Simple Ways to Cut Your Car Expenses

By Bob Lotich on 6 October 2010 (Updated 6 July 2012) 7 comments

Transportation today can be considered a basic need. We need it for work, gathering resources, and basic improvement of our lives. That being said, it can also be a major cost that has the potential to break budgets. With ever-rising gas prices, it's important to do what we can to cut back vehicle expenses. Here are five simple things you can do to keep that cash in your wallet! (See also: How to Save Money Buying a New Car and Be Happy.)

1. Drive Older, Reliable Vehicles

According to Money-Zine.com, a vehicle bought for $25,000 will on average depreciate by $3,750.00 within the first year. Ouch! That's a 15% drop in value in just 12 short months! After five years, the vehicle would have dropped nearly 55% of its value and be worth $11,093. Unless you're a millionaire, it's unwise to take this financial hit. Let someone else buy the car new!

With that being said, you want to make sure that you don't buy an unreliable vehicle. Purchase something that will stand the test of time. Read Consumer Reports and find the vehicle that is right for you!

2. Perform Routine Maintenance

Lack of routine maintenance can be the difference between low repair costs and outrageous repair charges. It is vital to keep a regular maintenance schedule. Every vehicle is different, so it is best to refer to your owner's manual. However, here is a general service schedule you could follow:

  • At time of gas fill: Check fluid levels and tire condition and pressure.
     
  • Every 3,000 miles or three months: Change oil, check hoses, wipers, tread depth, and battery.
     
  • Every 7,500 miles or six months: Service battery, rotate and balance tires, and check brake pad wear.
     
  • Every 15,000 miles or one year: Replace transmission fluid and air filters, and have a mechanic do a thorough check on entire vehicle.
     
  • Every 60,000 miles or four years: Replace and refill power steering fluid and replace timing belt.

It'll feel like you're spending more money and time, but if regular maintenance prevents an accident or major repair, you'll be glad you put in the extra effort!

3. Get Another Car Insurance Quote

It's easy to buy car insurance and just forget about it. However, it's not always the best thing for our billfolds! Here are three strategies you can use to lower your car insurance expenses:

  • Get a quote from another insurance agency. Unless you are with one of the top rated insurance companies and are getting a fantastic deal, you might want to shop the competition occasionally. When I first shopped around, I found that by switching companies I was able to save over $500 a year for the same coverage.
     
  • Ask your current insurance company for discounts. Sometimes a simple phone call to your insurance agent will uncover discounts you can use. Look for discounts for students, seniors, cars that have passive restraint systems, anti-lock brakes, and anti-theft devices. Also, by grouping home insurance with auto insurance, many companies offer a bundle discount!
     
  • Raise your deductible if you have a healthy savings account. You'll be amazed at how much money you can save if you simply raise your deductible. If you can write a check for a $1,000 deductible, why not save money on the premium?

4. Drive Less, Save More

Of course, if you're going to drive less, you'll save money on fuel. But you'll save money at more places than the pump! Think about oil changes, tire wear and tear, and general part replacement. Driving your vehicle lowers its value. Try consolidating your trips. Only drive if absolutely necessary!

Consider taking the bus, a bicycle, or other forms of transportation. Owning and operating a vehicle is an expensive endeavor. The more we can utilize low cost or free transportation options, the more money we'll save.

Some insurance companies offer a device you can attach to your car that records your speed, time of operation, etc. After a specified amount of time, you plug the device into your computer and upload the information to their website. Progressive is one such company that offers this program. As long as you're not concerned about big brother tracking your every movement, this is a great option to consider!

5. Get the Best Deal on Repairs

When it comes time to make repairs, shop around! Not every mechanic will give you a fair deal. One website to try is RepairPal.com. There, you find a range of costs for your particular repair. Having pricing information is vital to getting the best deal. Simply select your car make, model, year, and service type. You'll get an estimate by which you can judge the bids of mechanics in your area.

You CAN save money on car expenses!

The key to saving money is research and diligence. Make sure you're keeping up with routine maintenance, obtaining the best car insurance quote, and driving smart. Soon, you'll be saving money without having to think about it. You CAN save money on car expenses, so why not get started?

This guest post is by Bob Lotich of ChristianPF.com, a website that approaches financial topics using timeless Biblical principles. Read more from ChristianPF.com:

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Guest's picture
andyg8180

Thats to generous on the maintenance:

If you own a honda or toyota, you can get away with a timing belt change after 75K... I waited till 100K on mine.

Oil changes every 5000 miles (7500 on some)... (3000 is just stupid on newer models)

windshield wipers when they start streaking

new Air filters when you cant pat the dirt out

Transmission fluid shouldn't be changed if you've never ever done it

Guest's picture
Guest

Agreed. Changing your oil every 3,000 miles was necessary back in the old days. If your car was made in the past 20 years, you can double or triple that easily in most situations. That is, if you use good oil, and most name brand oil is good enough.

Don't forget properly inflated tires! And get the rotated once in a while to extend their life.

Guest's picture

Great post. I'm a guy who buys used cars for cash, takes care of them, and drives them into the ground. Drove my 1992 camry from 2001-2009. Hoping my 2005 subaru will last just as long. Regular maintenance is key. It also helps to know or learn about your car. You can save more money by performing your own oil changes, and your belt, battery, and fluid replacements, etc. My father taught me some basics about cars, and I've got a regular mechanic who knows me and my car well, should I need serious work. Whenever possible, watch your mechanic work, or ask him to explain the issue/repair process. Every car has its quirks, so learn yours.

Guest's picture
Guest

A better tip to save money in car maintenance is to follow the owners manual. Most new cars made within the last 10 years no longer require oil changes every 3000 miles. Many can go anywhere from 5000-10000 miles. While it is good advice to check your tires frequently, don't follow the old logic of when to service the car, and don't do things if your mechanic says you should. Check the maintenance schedule in the owners manual! Even the service departments at the dealers try to sell you things you don't need.

Guest's picture
Guest

If you don't trust your mechanic, you should probably find a new one. The mechanic that I go to is straight up and honest about what needs to be done when. They're a family shop, so they know that if they treat the customers fairly the first time, they'll come back again. I would never take my car to a chain shop.

Guest's picture
Guest

new Air filters when you cant pat the dirt out

that's definately wrong, you need new air filters, check out some independant tests............i've worked in parts/maintanece and hvac.......don't be too cheap and reuse filters!

Transmission fluid shouldn't be changed if you've never ever done it

false! do not have your transmission power flushed! ever.......that will loosen stuff up in the trans mission and cause failure......instead have a knowledgeable mechanice drop the pan, change the filter and put in new fluid. transmission fluid does wear out!
also check some trans need to be changed in a s little as 25k or they will wear out premature........check with a good shop!

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Guest's picture
Silvia Summer

if you want a simple way to keep track of your car expenses, you can use this free online tool http://automobill.net/