5 Secrets To Saving Bundles of Cash on Car Expenses
So you can save money for other things.
If you’re like many of us in the United States, you rely on your car to get around. Cars are great: they’re convenient, easy to drive, and with the advancement of technology, they’re getting safer all the time. There’s also nothing quite like driving your car on a sunny day with the windows down and your favorite song on the radio. The worst thing about cars? The expenses. After you’ve bought a car, you still need to spend a lot of money on gas, repairs, and general upkeep and maintenance. You can’t ignore these expenses, because they’re necessary for making your car function. The good news is that there are some things you can do to keep those costs low. Check out these easy, money-saving tricks to help reduce your out-of-pocket car expenses so you can feel good about grabbing that iced coffee on your next drive.
Trim insurance premiums.
The average car insurance policy costs $1,771 per year. But if you’re 50 or over, you could save 5-20 percent without sacrificing coverage or raising your deductible just by taking a defensive driving course. This easy-to-follow class is available online or in-person and typically requires 4 to 6 hours to complete. Once done, most major car insurance carriers (Allstate, Farmers, Geico, and Nationwide) reward you with a rate reduction because they want to help longtime drivers get acquainted with new driving laws, understand the effect of common medications on driving, and refresh their skills, making an accident less likely. Simply call your insurance company to find out which courses qualify.
Cut down on tire prices.
If you’ve ever had to replace a car tire, you know they can cost up to $300 each. To cut the cost of every tire, buy them online, then have them shipped free to an auto service shop for installation. This way, you can compare prices to find the lowest one, avoiding the markup on tires that comes from buying them through a mechanic. To start shopping, head to SimpleTire.com, TireRack.com, or Walmart.com. Or log on to Amazon.com for free shipping on select tires or on most tires if you’re an Amazon Prime member. Enter your car’s make, model, and year, buy the tires and have them shipped to a nearby installer, then show up at the appointed time and pay only for the installation.
Save on repairs.
According to AAA, the average cost of a single car repair is $500 to $600. But you can whittle down the price of your vehicle’s next fix by calling around to repair shops and asking one question: “What’s your hourly labor rate?” The biggest expense for every repair is labor, but this rate varies widely from shop to shop, so their answer will tell you how much you’ll end up saving. Also smart: Ask if the shop makes repairs using aftermarket parts (generic versions of your original car parts) since they cost a hefty 60 percent less than original equipment manufacturer parts (your car manufacturer’s brand-name version of the parts), saving you a bundle.
Pay less at the pump.
On average, most drivers spend $131 on gas every month. Fortunately, credit card issuers are offering you ways to save on fuel — free of annual fees. For example, PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature gives 5X points for every dollar you spend on gas, and the Citi Custom Cash Card gives 5% cash back on fuel up to $500 per billing cycle. To find more offers on fill-ups, visit CreditCards.com or NerdWallet.com.
Getting financing from a car dealership? Some dealers agree to a small down payment and low interest rate, but then call days after you drive off the lot claiming your financing fell through and you need to pay more to keep your vehicle. To dodge it: Ask if the down payment and interest rate are “final” (no changes can be made) or “conditional” (they can ask for more) and don’t sign a contract with blank fields. Or avoid it by getting a pre-approved loan from an independent lender.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.