*This is the 21st day of the One Month Spending Freeze Challenge. Please click here to see all of the posts in this series.*
You’ve been waiting for this one, haven’t you? Owning a car is a whole ordeal, what with car registration all the way to car insurance, and it can get expensive real fast. But there are several things you can do, even before you buy a car, to make sure that you are spending less than the average person will on their car. In fact, I’m pretty sure you could save a minimum of $200 a month on car expenses by just doing a few simple things. That’s $2,400 a year, by the way.
How to Save Money on Car Expenses
Here are some ideas to help you lower the overall costs of driving a car:
Inspect Your Car
I wrote a post earlier this year about inspecting a car before you buy it. While you may not be buying a car right now, that post is important to read, because a lot of what you need to inspect can be done by you today in your current car. You need to find out if the car you are currently driving is any good. Will it last? If you inspect it and it’s not working well, you can either get repairs done or you can try to sell it soon.
It can be extremely expensive to maintain a car, especially once it hits a certain age. Some makes and models can outlast others, but generally a car will start to have a lot of maintenance in its future when it hits the 100,000 mile mark.
Estimated Savings in a Month: $30-$500
Maintain Your Car
You need to realize that when you don’t do the required maintenance (oil changes, tire rotations and balances, etc.), really bad things can happen and you will end up wasting money in the long run. Instead, spend a little money to maintain your car and you won’t have to deal with major issues that come from neglecting it.
Car tires can be such a huge expense, but if you don’t have good tires you won’t be getting anywhere fast! So if you need tires, save as much as you can each month and then shop around. There’s nothing worse than calling the nearest tire shop to get a quote and just going with them because you didn’t want to call any other shops. I’ve heard that both Sam’s Club and Costco are great places to get new tires.
Estimated Savings in a Month: $30-$300
Driving less sounds extremely simple and obvious, but are you taking it to heart?
This past year we have had a car that decides to break down pretty much every day. Because of this, I have spent a lot of time at home. I rarely leave my house anymore. Of course not everyone wants to go that far and spend all their waking hours at home, but I’ve noticed that the more time I spend at home, the less we have to fill up our car with gas. When I drive the car less, we don’t have to do as much maintenance. When I stay at home rather than drive my car, I am putting way less miles on the car, hopefully extending its life. Just by driving less, we are saving money in several different ways.
I’m sure if I was in a different position, like I had more money in my bank account or I had a working car in my driveway, that I would probably continue driving my car because I really do like to go places. We like to take drives sometimes and look at houses or take a drive in the mountains and see the beauty surrounding us. But those things can be planned and they don’ t have to happen every day or every weekend. Plan to drive your car less, and you will notice that it costs less money overall to drive it.
Estimated savings in one month: $20-$200
Save on Gas
I remember when I was in high school that gas prices started to go up, and before I graduated they were already in the $3 range. Only a few years before that gas was in the $1 range. Now it seems like gas prices go up and down all the time and you never really know how much you might have to pay at the pump. Despite these fluctuations in gas prices, there are plenty of ways to save on gas.
Most gas stations have a frequent buyer card that can help you save a certain amount per gallon. My husband has one for work, but he doesn’t remember to use it every time. If you get one, just make sure that you are using it. You can also save a few cents per gallon through some grocery stores.
We got a credit card several years ago just to use on gas since we got cash back for gas purchases. It’s totally worth it if you can pay the balance off every month.
I’ve also heard that you should not fill up on the weekends because that is when prices are a bit higher since more people are driving.
Estimated Savings in a Month: $10-$30
Get Rid of Loans
If you have a car loan, get it out of your life ASAP. Car loans often come with higher interest rates, and nearly all cars depreciate in value. That means when you go to sell your car, you will likely sell it for a lot less than you bought it for. Which means paying interest on it doesn’t make much sense. So if you have a car loan do what you can to pay that off right away. If you are thinking of getting a car in the near future, try to come up with the cash first so you don’t have added interest each month.
Estimated Savings in a Month: $5-$80
Find the Best and Cheapest Insurance
I don’t know anyone who enjoys shopping around for car insurance, but it’s necessary if you want to save more money.
It seems counterintuitive, but the longer you are with a specific insurance company, the higher your rates become. I would suggest shopping around for insurance at least once a year. About a month before you are set to renew for the year, start getting quotes online or calling your agent to see if they can find you a better deal.
Another thing you should start doing to pay less is to pay for your insurance in lump sums (either six months or a year) rather than each month. The best way to save money to pay for those lump sums is to set money aside every month. Take the cost of your insurance on a yearly basis and divide it by 12 to figure out how much you need to save each month. When you are paying your insurance each month, you often have to pay a higher amount.
Estimated Savings in a Month: $20-$50
Get a Good Mechanic
It pays to use a good mechanic. The thing is, some mechanics take you for all you’re worth. They can be dishonest and charge more or “fix” something that didn’t need to be fixed. This is why you need to find someone you completely trust, who doesn’t charge an arm and a leg.
My husband is often the one to fix our cars, but when it comes to mechanical issues, he has to find someone to fix it for us. We don’t have a mechanic, so we had to take our car to the dealer to get it fixed a few months ago. They fixed it, and then less than a week later it was already breaking down again. So I hope one day soon my husband can find someone he trusts who knows more about our particular car.
Estimated Savings in a Month: $25-$200
Keep Just One Car
When you’re a family, you may need two cars: one for mom and one for dad. But think about the second car and if it’s a true need. If mom can use the car when dad is home, then it may be more of a luxury.
Estimated Savings in a Month: $50-$300
Overall, you can save a minimum of $190 a month by doing all these things. On the high end, you could save nearly $1700 every month!
There are so many other ways to save on costs related to driving, so don’t stop at this list. If you already are doing these things, seek out more ways to save. It’s not worth it to spend tons of money on car costs!
How do you save money on car expenses?
Shopping around for good insurance and maintaining your car are key! I remember looking through nearly every insurance provider before finally deciding on our current one. Those are long-term wins that add up! And yep, I will pay good money to get my car maintained well and proper if it means it’ll last me at least 10 years. Great tips, Charlee!
Thank you, Nina! I am terrible at calling around for car insurance, but I am determined to get it done in the next few weeks so we can pay less for the next six months. Yea, and the better you treat your car and maintain it, the longer it will last you. You have to think long-term with cars!
Kristina-Cents and Order says
Great reminder on the insurance-I never thought to get quotes once a year. I’ll have to give that a try since we’ve been using the same company for 5+ years.
I agree on the costs to maintain an older car. We have to get cars inspected annually to get our tags and my van with 90k miles needed $500 in work to pass inspection this time. Ouch!
Hopefully you can get better rates for car insurance by calling around, Kristina. Also, think about bundling with home insurance if that is cheaper. You can kill two birds with one stone that way! I really dread inspection time because I’m so worried about our car not passing. That’s not a fun bill, especially right when you have to pay for registration, too!
Having a great mechanic is a huge help. My whole extended family uses one shop for our business. There have been many times where we’ll bring a vehicle in and they’ll fix something minor and not even charge us. A good mechanic is worth his weight in gold.
That is priceless. How awesome that you can all rely on the same mechanic, Janeen! My parent’s neighbor is a mechanic, but he’s so busy that my parents never ask him to look at their cars. In the past he looked at mine and it was just a fuse, so he didn’t charge me anything. I hope we can find a good mechanic soon!