How to Reduce Car Expenses

In addition to using a Goodyear card to reduce my car expenses, I have a few other ways of keeping my car costs down. As I mentioned yesterday, Goodyear sometimes offers a “12 months same as cash” offer. I learned Saturday that they’re offering it now through April 5. The manager made sure to remind me that the finance charges will apply if I don’t finish paying the bill before the 12 months was up – that’s what I call good service.

And now, without further ado, here are my nine tips for reducing your car expenses.

Follow the Recommended Maintenance Schedule
Although auto shops want you to change your oil every 3,000 miles, most newer cars don’t need service nearly that often. My eleven-year-old car requires service every 5,000 miles or four months. Because I only drive 8,000 miles a year, I go in for service every four months, more often if your dealer recommends it because of where you live. To keep your car in good condition, I would use the lower of either the mileage or time recommendation as a guide for service. By going three times a year instead of four, I save $20 a year on maintenance.

Don’t Delay Tune-Ups
When I was younger, I delayed my 30,000 mile tune-up because I was poor. I later learned that delaying my tune-up and other maintenance probably actually added to my car expenses because the car ran less efficiently. I don’t delay my tune-ups anymore.

Buy Tires at Costco
If you have a Costco membership, then this is the best place to buy your tires. Not only are they discounted, but they have an insanely good warranty (for free). I’ve tested the warranty several times, because I have very bad luck with tires. I’ve gotten a nail stuck in my tire, and they replaced it with a new tire for $1. I had a tire that was losing air, and they replaced it for free. The downside is that there can be a long wait, so if you get your tires on a Saturday, I recommend arriving the minute the tire shop opens, and then going inside to do your Costco shopping (with a list, of course.)

Keep Tires Properly Inflated
If your tires are under-inflated, you’ll burn more gas. If your tires are over-inflated, you have less control of the car. Accidents are costly.

Don’t Get Service at the Dealer
My husband insists on getting service at the dealer, even though his car is out of warranty. I insist he’s throwing money away. We haven’t worked that one out yet, but I always go to Goodyear. They know how to work on most cars and have the same equipment. What they don’t have are overpriced factory parts and overpriced labor. I save at least 50% on tune-ups, and nearly 70% on struts, brakes, and other routine maintenance costs. I also save on major service. For example, this weekend I took my car in because it was making a bad sound. They said I need to replace the wheel hub bearings, at a cost of $831.40. Toyota would charge me $1260.

Get a Second Opinion
If a mechanic recommends a major service that doesn’t sound reasonable to you, take it to another mechanic to have it checked out. You could just go in and say you hear a strange sound from under the car and see what they recommend. Just make sure it’s a mechanic with a good reputation for honesty. I want to get a second opinion on my wheel hub bearings, although it seems reasonable that a car with 116,000 miles might need that. I was considering taking my car to Toyota, but they want to charge me $99 just for the inspection.

Keep Your Car At Least Ten Years
Of course, this only applies if you have a good car. My first car was a Pontiac built by Isuzu. It was also a former rental. I will never buy any of those again. I only kept the car for five years because by the end it had developed the annoying habit of stalling at on-ramps and red lights, and overheating the brakes. It was replaced by a brand new Toyota. (I had a friend at the dealer who got me a very, very good deal and financial help from my Dad.) The loan has been paid off for six years now. I haven’t had any major issues, like the transmission or the engine blowing.

Replace Old Gas Guzzlers or Cars that Break Down Often
If you have an old car that is unreliable or guzzles gas, then I would consider replacing it with a late-model used car that gets good mileage and has a good safety and reliability record. Personally, I would stick with Japanese cars. I’ve compared gas mileage between Japanese and German cars and Japanese cars definitely get better mileage. I haven’t considered American cars. I know it seems counter-intuitive to save money by buying a different car, but if your car is in the shop every other week, belching smoke, or only gets 15 miles to the gallon, you’re spending far more to keep that car than you would if you bought a more reliable, fuel-conscious car.

Buy Late Model Used Cars
Late model used cars tend to be leased cars. They’re better than rentals because leases have to be return in excellent condition and have mileage limits. I might consider buying my next Toyota or Honda new, because they hold their value well, but if I can find a good former lease, I’ll buy it. By buying a car that’s a few years old, you not only avoid the immediate loss in value, but you also have lower insurance and registration costs, both of which are car expenses you don’t consider on a daily basis but that do add up.

If you use these nine tips to reducing car costs, you could save thousands of dollars in maintenance, insurance, and car payments. Do you have other tips to reduce car expenses?

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