According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), driving a car costs about $9,000 per year. This is almost one-third the average cost of a car ($30,500) in 2012.
In a tough economy, almost anything that saves money is welcomed with open arms. Fortunately, car ownership provides many opportunities to cut costs.
Why This Isn’t About Mass Transit and Other Car Alternatives
It is a given that to the extent that drivers use alternatives to driving like walking, bicycling or mass transit they will be able to reduce or even eliminate car ownership costs like fuel, maintenance and insurance. That’s a no-brainer.
For many people, the above alternatives are not feasible; cars are the best transportation option for them. With that in mind, this article discusses ways to save costs within the context of remaining a car driver.
Fuel Costs: The Most Immediate Way to Save Money
Drivers have more control over reducing fuel costs than any other cost of car ownership. What’s more is that just about any measure a driver takes to reduce fuel costs can be done immediately and reaping the benefits is almost equally immediate.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s website, fueleconomy.gov, drivers can do several things to save on fuel costs without buying a new car. Refraining from jackrabbit starts and following the speed limit can save $0.41 to $1.70 per gallon (assuming gasoline price of $3.61 per gallon). Every five miles per hour (MPH) over 50 MPH costs about an extra $0.25 per gallon.
Avoiding excessive idling, reducing the weight of extra stuff in the car and using cruise control and overdrive gears also save money.
Drivers can also use plastic to save on fuel costs. Many credit cards offer gas rewards – which can be found on NerdWallet. Eligible purchases earn points that can be converted to gas savings. The best cards offer five percent savings, but three percent is more typical.
Grocery store club cards offered by many large chains also offer savings on gasoline purchases.
Keep Insurance Costs as Low as Possible
Saving on insurance is another way to keep costs down, but it is harder to immediately reap some of the benefits. It is well-known that safer driving in general reduces premiums. If premiums have already gone up however, avoiding traffic violations and accidents will take time before premiums go down again.
If it’s affordable to do so, increasing the deductible will lower premiums. For cars with a lot of age and mileage, collision and comprehensive coverage may not pay much in the event of an accident. Eliminating collision and comprehensive coverage in this situation would save car owners from spending money on coverage they aren’t likely to benefit from.
Drivers should see what discounts they are eligible for. Anti-theft devices, safety devices, parking the car in a garage and membership in certain organizations are all ways to get discounts.
Drivers can also save money by resisting the urge to pay in installments. Paying for a six-month or one-year policy in one payment is cheaper.
Maintenance: Pay Now or Pay Later
Drivers often cut corners on maintenance in an effort to save money, but this is often short-term-smart/long-term-foolish. Changing oil regularly is probably the cheapest way to avoid many common major repairs from engine breakdowns.
Certain parts have a domino effect if not maintained properly. Saving money by allowing a belt to wear down may save some money in the short term, but if the belt snaps, it could mean not only having to replace the belt, but also connected parts like water pumps.
It is also critical to keep certain parts maintained, because it’s game over when they fail. Timing belts are notorious for this. If this breaks down, not only are there repair costs with the belt and other affected parts, but also towing and car rental. Replacing the timing belt when the owner???s manual specified would have been a lot cheaper.
Let’s face it, driving a car is never going to be free or even cheap. With a little effort drivers can at least avoid many unnecessary costs.