Lower your car costs with these easy tips
There are easy ways to reduce your car costs and keep maintenance expenses to a minimum. Lowering your auto expenses takes a bit of planning and attention, but the dollars you save will be worth it. Here are some tips.
Some regular maintenance tasks are simple enough that you can learn to do them yourself. Online resources will give you step-by-step instructions on how to change your oil or replace a broken headlight easily and safely. Doing it yourself also means you can seek out low-priced parts. This alone can save you several hundred dollars a year.
Service with a smile
A tune-up might cost you $100, but that in turn can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. A poorly tuned vehicle may burn 10 to 30 percent more fuel, plus it will wear out faster and lead to more expensive problems. Follow the detailed maintenance schedule in your owner's manual. Regular servicing, including oil changes, checking the filters, belts, and fluids, and rotating the tires can help you keep your vehicle running smoothly for years. With attentive maintenance, you can generally expect today's well-built cars to hit the 200,000-mile mark (and even beyond) before you have to buy a new one.
Keep up the pressure
Check your tire pressure regularly. Lower your car costs by making sure you know the ideal pressure for your tires. It can fluctuate significantly with the weather and driving conditions. An improperly inflated tire is inefficient and will significantly reduce your mileage, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. For example, if your tires are just 2 PSI (pounds per square inch) under the recommended pressure, your mileage decreases by a full percent.
Freshen up the air
Clean the air filter every month and replace it if necessary. This alone may help you reduce your car costs by up to $100 a year, since a dirty filter will decrease your mileage by up to 10 percent.
Premium doesn’t pay
Forget about paying for premium gas. Studies show that regular engines don’t need it, and high-end power trains run just as well on regular. (The only time you’ll need to go the premium route is if your car has a fuel-hungry supercharger. Your owner’s manual will tell you if you need the higher octane content.) Engines these days are equipped with a sensor that adjusts automatically for different octane levels. Your engine only cares if the gas is clean, not the amount of octane.
Get it in gear
In the old days, drivers were told to let the engine warm up for a bit before getting in gear. Not anymore. Turn it on and get on your way. The engine will actually warm up faster if you’re driving. Remember the less breaking and accelerating you do, the less gas you’ll burn. Try to maintain a steady speed and don’t live in the fast lane. Fuel efficiency drops significantly above 60 MPH.
Tip you can use
Speed is expensive! Gas mileage drops significantly above 60 MPH.
What goes around…
If your mechanic tells you a major part needs replacing, ask if a rebuilt one will do the job. These are used parts that have been dismantled, cleaned and machined. If needed, smaller, worn components are replaced. They should also come with a warranty. These reconditioned parts can reduce auto expenses significantly. Installing a new transmission, for example, can cost you between $1,500 and $3,500. The price for a rebuilt unit? About half that.
Don’t be a drag
Fancy rooftop bins, bike carriers, and ski racks are found on top of more and more vehicles. But that extra wind resistance can decrease fuel efficiency by as much as 5%. If you don’t need the extra carrying capacity, take it off and stash it in your garage or storage locker.
What's next? Becoming a bargain hunter