I’m a commuter. I unfortunately drive over 60 miles each way to my job every day (… it’s a long story why …). For me, I rely on my car like its another set of legs. If it stops working, then I’m not getting to work. And that’s a problem!
As much as we tend to love our cars, they are really nothing more than a pile of steel and bolts. They can be temperamental. Occasionally, they don’t like to cooperate. Make no mistake – They are mechanical machines that are certain to one day stop working. Sometimes they can be really nasty and require thousands of dollars in repairs! Argh!
This is why I strongly advocate NOT to put any more in your car than you have to. Recognize its simply a tool to get you from A to B. It’s a tool that you have to maintain if you want it to run in tip-top shape. Here’s a few ways that you can do just to keep your vehicle running like a champ on as minimal of a budget as possible.
1. Don’t drive in the first place!
The less you drive, the better it is for your car. But you can also extend this way of thinking to yourself!
If you’re going some place local, why not try walking or riding a bike? Not only will you save some money on gas and put fewer miles on your car, but it will also be a cheap and easy way for you to get some more exercise involved.
2. Don’t buy a “status” car.
I get it: A solid black SUV with the fancy logo on the back. It’s looks cool!
But here’s what’s not cool: The average auto loan is 5 years or 60 months. So if you’re looking at a luxury vehicle that has a $60,000 price tag, the math works out to over $1,000 per month in payments! Ouch! That’s more than some people’s mortgage payments!
And worse than that – most cars lose an average of 63% of their value in 5 years. Ask yourself honestly: Is this really the best way to invest $60,000? Would you buy a stock that you knew for sure was going to lose 63% of its value in 5 years? I think not!
3. Buy a used car instead of a new one.
Instead of buying a new car, purchase a used one. Used cars have already depreciated, and so you’re buying it closer to its true value.
4. Buy used instead of leasing your car.
Leasing a car may seem (at times) like a good deal. But look a few years down the road. When the lease expires and you turn it back in, you’ll have nothing. On the other hand, with the used car, you can drive it until it dies – payment free!
5. Know your car’s value.
Before you go shopping for a vehicle, if you plan to trade in your current one, make sure you know its value by looking it up on Kelley Blue Book. That way you won’t get ripped when the dealership goes to make you an offer.
6. Get pre-approved with a credit union.
Most people finance their vehicles (unless you’ve got a briefcase of hundred dollar bills just sitting around ready to spend). But where a lot of people get into trouble is when they take whatever finance offer they dealership makes them at the time of purchase. Don’t do that! Before looking or buying any vehicle from a dealership, get pre-approved at a credit union. Generally they will have a lower interest rate and better terms than what the dealership is going to offer you. I’ve done this trick several times and it saved a ton!
7. Don’t take the first offer.
Vehicles, whether new or used, are like anything else – the price is negotiable. Whatever the salesmen offers you, ask for less. Just do it. You’ll be surprised at how often they are willing to work with you. And if it shaves thousands of dollars off of your price tag, then more power to you.
8. Don’t buy insurance through the dealership.
Auto insurance is a topic all of its own. When you’re at the dealership, don’t buy credit life or credit disability insurance through them. You can find it cheaper from your regular insurance provider or another place online.
9. Skip buying a service contract or extended warranty.
An extended warranty may sound like peace of mind. But usually when you dig into the costs, you’ll see that its’ not worth it. Chances are you’ll never use it – or not enough to make it worth the extra expense.
10. Refinance your auto payments.
Just like your mortgage, you can always shop around for a cheaper rate; even after you made your purchase. Again, I suggest looking to credit unions. I’ve done this twice now and found them to have better deals.
11. Drive your car for as many years as you possibly can.
There’s no magic expiration date that say that after your car gets above 100,000 miles or is more than 5 years old that it must go. For the best bang for your buck, keep your car as long as its working good.
12. Park your car inside.
Keep your car indoors (in the garage) as much as possible. This will keep the weather and elements from corroding it.
13. Service your car regularly according to the manual.
This will keep your engine tuned and your car in tip-top shape. Check the vehicle’s manual. Towards the back there is always a recommended service schedule.
14. Find an auto service you trust.
I can’t stress how important this one is!
We all know stories and have seen the 20/20 hidden-camera specials about those places that charge you +$1,000 bucks for a part that should only cost $100. Keep trying places where you feel you’re getting honest feedback, and you’ll avoid getting ripped off for every little thing.
15. Change your own air filters.
It’s really not that hard. Usually you just open the hood and pop a new one in. You can find a 3 minute instructional video for literally made or model on YouTube.
16. Change your own windshield wipers.
Again – this is another 5 minute job that an oil change place will happily charge you $30 to do for you. New wipers just snap on and snap off. It’s that easy.
17. Brake more gradually.
This will make your brake pads last longer.
18. Group your errands.
If you’ve got places to go, wait until you can combine your errands into one trip. That way you won’t drive unnecessarily, racking up extra miles and wear-and-tear.
19. Commute to work with coworkers or friends.
Not only is this great way to save on driving, but it can also help you to make better friends with the people you work with.
Featured image courtesy of Flickr