According to AAA, the average annual cost to own a small-sized sedan is just over $7,000. This includes taxes, fees, maintenance, insurance, licensing, and fuel costs – not to mention any car payments you may owe.
Fortunately, there are many ways to cut down on vehicle costs so you can put that extra money toward your other financial goals.
Tip #1: Keep Up With Maintenance
If your car is under warranty and you’re performing routine maintenance yourself rather than taking it to a dealership or repair shop, make sure you’re using the proper oil and fluids so you don’t damage the engine or other major powertrain parts.
After all, taking good care of your vehicle will help it last longer and reduce the chances of an unexpected and potentially costly breakdown. Carefully read your car’s owner manual and keep up with regular maintenance according to the recommended service schedule.
Most manufacturer maintenance schedules advise drivers to go in for tune-ups every 30,000 miles or so. While paying for these products and services costs more in the short term, it will save you money in the long run by increasing your vehicle’s lifespan.
To cover routine maintenance for a car that’s under warranty, take the following steps to keep your vehicle in good shape:
Typically, you should plan to change your oil every three months or 3,000 miles. However, for some cars and drivers, this may be too frequent. This is especially true if you use synthetic oils, which tend to last longer. Check the recommended oil change frequency and oil type according to your manufacturer.
While getting your oil changed too often won’t hurt your vehicle, you can get into trouble if you don’t have it changed often enough. Checking your engine oil monthly or having it changed as directed is essential for keeping your engine intact. Failing to change your oil when necessary will degrade your engine and can lead to maintenance issues such as engine blow-outs, which can have a big impact on your personal finances. You can either change the oil yourself or take it to a mechanic.
Tires wear down differently depending on where they are positioned on your vehicle. Based on your car and driving habits, certain tires will wear faster than others. To increase the longevity of your tires, it is important to have them rotated once every 4,000 miles or so. This will ensure even wear distribution, meaning you will not need to replace your tires as frequently.
Keeping your tires properly inflated reduces tread wear and increases fuel efficiency, lowering your gas costs.
Maintenance At Home
You can perform certain regular maintenance items at home with minimal tools and equipment. The following can be done yourself if you take the time to learn how:
- Check fluids: Check your brake, transmission, power steering, and coolant fluids for any leaks often. These fluids also must be kept at certain levels to keep your vehicle running smoothly.
- Replace the engine and air filters: Your car’s air filter needs to be changed at least once a year. If not, it can greatly affect your engine’s performance.
- Replace windshield wiper blades, fuses, and lightbulbs: Switching out damaged or worn-out windshield wiper blades is necessary to prevent potential damage to the glass or a decrease in visibility during a storm. You should also keep a particular eye on your fuses and lightbulbs to see if they also need to be replaced.
- Check belts, hoses, lights, and brakes: Having these items inspected regularly can ensure your car’s systems are in good condition and working properly.
- Battery cleaning: You should clean your battery periodically to ensure that no corrosion builds up and interferes with your battery’s ability to function. If your car is having trouble starting or you notice problems with the electrical parts of your car, you may need to clean the corrosion off the battery.
It is possible to change your own oil at home as well. However, changing your car’s oil is not quite as simple as the other items mentioned above. It is certainly one way to reduce costs, but many may opt to have a mechanic change their oil instead.
Take Care Of Issues As Soon As They Occur
In addition to regular maintenance, it’s important to address issues as soon as they arise. A small issue left unaddressed can quickly develop into a bigger, more expensive problem. When a maintenance light comes on or you hear a strange noise, have it checked out as soon as you can.
Tip #2: Keep Your Car For Longer
The minute you drive a new car off the lot, it depreciates in value. Your vehicle continues to depreciate as you drive it, but not nearly as significantly after the first year (and even less so after the ninth year of ownership). Depreciation in your car’s value is not a regular expense you will pay, but it will impact your budget when it comes time to trade in your vehicle.
The more often you trade in your old vehicles, the greater depreciation costs you will face. In other words, you will get a better value if you trade your car in between your ninth and tenth year of ownership than you would between your first and second year of ownership. If you keep your car in good condition and it is operable, it can be a good financial decision to wait until your depreciation is less significant before upgrading to the newest model.
Following this tip, of course, means keeping your vehicle in good shape so that mechanical issues do not become a liability. Keeping an older vehicle does run a greater risk of an expensive mechanical breakdown.
Should I Get An Extended Warranty On My Car?
You can guard against a potentially costly breakdown with an extended warranty, though this is not for all drivers. Carefully consider if an extended car warranty is worth it for you. If you do purchase an extended warranty, beware of the many low-value warranty companies and pick a provider with a good reputation and inexpensive plans, such as Toco. Toco is accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), holds an A+ BBB rating, and has a customer review score of 4.4 out of 5 stars.
Before signing any extended warranty contract, check your provider’s ratings on sites like the BBB and Trustpilot. You can also read customer complaints and see how the company responds. Companies like Toco will take care to address all posted complaints, typically to the customer’s satisfaction. You can get a free quote from the provider by visiting TocoWarranty.com.
Tip #3: Improve Your Driving Habits
Rapid acceleration and hard braking are bad for fuel efficiency. You can save greatly on gas costs by making sure to accelerate gently and cruise to a stop whenever possible.
Safe driving, such as not looking at your cell phone while on the road and not driving while intoxicated, also reduces the chances that you will be issued a costly ticket or get into an accident.
Tip #4: Lower Your Car Insurance Insurance Costs
The average cost of car insurance can be quite high. However, there are some ways you can potentially lower your premiums and start saving money.
Defensive Driving Class
Most insurers offer rate reductions to drivers that complete a defensive driving course. Contact your insurer to see if this is the case, and consider signing up for an approved class. These classes may charge a small registration fee but quickly pay for themselves in rate reductions.
Consider comparing quotes from a few of the best auto insurance companies. You may find better rates with a new insurer. Many car insurance companies even offer discounts to new customers that switch over from competitors.
Several insurers offer usage-based insurance discounts. These programs monitor your driving habits and offer reduced rates for safe driving and people who drive less frequently. One insurer, Metromile, is entirely usage-based and may be a good choice if you do not drive frequently.
Tip #5: Refinance Your Auto Loan
If you financed your vehicle and have to make regular auto loan payments, you may be able to refinance your auto loan to get better interest rates. By refinancing, you take out a lower-interest loan to pay off your current loan. Then, you start making payments on the lower-interest loan instead.
If you think that you were given a bad deal or if your credit score recently increased, looking into car loan refinancing is a good idea.