I don’t know about you, but having a car has become more and more of a necessity for us. After considering our options, it would be impractical for us to become a one car family, or to rely on public transportation. We are, however, intent on reducing our expenses, so we’re trying to cut our transportation costs.
Aside from carpooling, there are a number to reduce our automotive expenses. Today I’m going to highlight some suggestions that will hopefully save you some money.
Saving money on gasoline
Saving money on gas is a big concern for us. My husband is in the habit of saving gas receipts and dumping the information into a spreadsheet. He’s therefore able to track and see his gas mileage and spot trouble. For example, we noticed that I needed a tuneup when my car’s mileage dipped lower than normal.
Your behavior behind the wheel can also help improve your mileage and thus save money. “Hypermiling” was a popular term when gas was $4/gallon and everyone was trying to cut down on fill ups. The term basically refers to driving in a more fuel efficient way, though some practitioners take it to the extreme. For most drivers it boiled down to a few simple changes when they’re on the road.
- Track your mileage. Take a page from my husband’s book and record your miles driven and gallons burned after every fill up in a mileage spreadsheet.
- Drive the speed limit. Life in the fast lane isn’t always better, as your mileage drops dramatically at high speeds.
- Reduce fast acceleration and braking. By maintaining a relatively steady speed, you can waste less gas. Anticipate the traffic and lights ahead and coast if possible. If you’re driving a distance on a relatively flat highway, consider using cruise control to help you maintain a fuel efficient pace.
- Turn off your car to reduce idling. I was surprised to learn that if you’re going to be idle for more than 10 seconds, it pays to turn off the car and restart it later. While I’m not comfortable doing this at a red light, it might be useful for those waiting to pick up their kids from school.
Saving on car insurance
Another big expense with owning a car is having enough insurance to cover it. Over the years, we have found ways to save money on car insurance.
Shop around for the best deal. It’s amazing to me how effective shopping around can be. There can be a huge difference between insurance companies for the same coverage on the same car. When I shopped around for car insurance, I discovered that by switching companies I could save $40/month — a huge savings for a college student.
See if your memberships can get your a good deal. We really saved money with this tip. After doing our regular, semi-annual price shop, we checked our Costco membership and found a policy for about half of what we were paying. We’ve also taken advantage of the free towing and roadside assistance that they offer.
Maintaining your car
My husband and I are thrilled that we don’t have any car payments. We’d like to make this situation last as long as possible, so we’re doing our best to keep our cars in good condition. The good news is that it’s possible to do some minor checkups and car maintenance yourself. Not only will you save some money, you’ll also learn quite a bit about your vehicle.
- Air filters: A clogged air filter can decrease your fuel efficiency, so check it out whenever you get a tune up.
- Clean the car inside and out: Not only does this improve the appearance of the vehicle, but you can use it as a chance to see if there is any rust or other maintenance problems developing. Having a clean car may also help reduce your urge for a new car that you can’t afford.
- Fluids: Checking and filling your fluids yourself is a great way to keep your car running smooth while saving money.
- Tire pressure: This is a common tip for saving gasoline, but it’s not a big win according to Edmunds’ tests. Regardless, underinflation can wear out tires quicker and become a serious safety issue.
If you’re not a handy person, then by all means spend some money on a trustworthy mechanic. Either way, having regular check ups on your car can improve the life of your vehicle and save you money at the pump.
Replacing your car
Eventually, even a well maintained car will break down and you’ll have to find a replacement. Having a car replacement fund allows you to get a car without having expensive financing.
Open a high interest savings account specifically for your car replacement fund. We’ve used ING Direct for our savings for the last couple of years. If you already have an account with them, setting up a sub-account takes less than 5 minutes. Having a separate account reduces the chances of you dipping into it before your next car purchase.
It’s also a good idea to automate a deposit into your car savings account every time you get paid. Have the transfer go from your checking account into your savings account immediately after getting paid. If you don’t, you might spend the money instead of saving it. If you can, aim for saving a car payment ($250-$350) into your fund each month.
Any other suggestions?
I’ve shared some of my favorite tips, and I hope that they help you reduce your car expenses. If you have any tips, please share them as I’m hoping to stretch our transportation dollars even further.