Money Saving Tips: A Holiday Gift for Car Owners

by Don Elliott on November 30, 2011

Owning a car is the second biggest investment most of us will make in our lifetime. In an annual study done each year since 1950, AAA estimates that fuel, routine maintenance, tires, insurance, license and registration, loan finance charges, and depreciation for an average car driven 15,000 miles costs today’s car owner $8,588. How is it possible to have any money left over for holiday gift giving with all those car expenses?

Here are a few tips that might save a few dollars in the family’s budget.

  • Buy right – Do your homework before buying your next car. Impulse buying can break the budget even before the vehicle maintenance costs begin. Check out auto auctions, online tools, and pricing guides  on cars you can afford.
  • Keep it longer – Today’s cars will easily run 150,000 to 200,000 miles if properly maintained. R.L. Polk reports that the average age of passenger cars on the road in 2010 was 11 years, up 2 ½ years since 1995’s average.
  • Do-it-yourself – Service shops are very willing to replace light bulbs, windshield wipers, and top off windshield wiper fluid for you. These simple jobs are a small car expense, but one you could do without spending.
  • Gas mileage – Check your tire pressure regularly. Under or over inflated tires can cost you MPG. Remove any extra weight from the car that you don’t really need. Also, check your car’s aerodynamics. Bike racks, rooftop carriers, and Christmas wreaths on the front grill reduce your gas mileage efficiency.
  • Consider renting – Some drivers, particularly in an urban environment, have been able to forgo car ownership completely. They use daily or hourly car rental services as a more cost efficient alternative. If you have an older less reliable car, renting a car for longer trips might be cheaper than buying a new car that you might not otherwise need.
  • Slow down – Jackrabbit starts and excessive highway speeds burn extra fuel. These practices don’t actually get you places much faster. If you don’t believe me, check the estimated time of arrival on any GPS device. Speed up 5 miles per hour on cruise control and see how long it takes the device to shave one minute off of your trip.
  • Insurance – Car insurance is a very competitive business. If you haven’t reviewed your policy in a while, you might be surprised at the money you can save with safe driver discounts, good student discounts, bundled policies, and driver safety programs. An evaluation of deductibles and collision coverage can save lots of money, too. However, don’t always opt for the cheapest policy. A cheap insurance policy today can be expensive if you have an accident tomorrow.

As a final piece of advice, line up your automotive service shop, tire guy, collision repair center, auto finance resource, car insurance agent, and locksmith before you actually need them. When you call at the last minute to somebody you have not dealt with before, you will pay a premium price in addition to the regular car expense at your normal auto repair shop.

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