I just read an interesting little tiny article over at the Motley Fool about different ways to save money on your car. Not on buying a car, but rather on maintenance and the like. Here are their notes, and my thoughts follow:
* Minimize your speeding, and follow parking rules. Tickets are costly, and if you end up getting your insurance premiums increased, you’ll suffer a double financial whammy. (Speeding also consumes more gas.)
* Be insurance-smart. Shop around and make sure you’re paying as little as possible for your desired level of coverage. Progressive and Berkshire Hathaway’s GEICO unit are good places to start looking. Also look into discounts for alarms, short commutes, or safety features.
* Spend some time comparing local gas stations and use the ones that offer the lowest prices. Take advantage of special deals that offer you a few cents off your gasoline on certain days. If your car doesn’t need premium gas, don’t use it. Check out GasPriceWatch, which can help you find low prices. You can also save gas by keeping your RPMs at lower levels. (Below 3,000 is a good target.)
* Spend some time finding a good and honest mechanic. Ask friends for referrals. Using a mechanic who inflates his rates — or worse, recommends unnecessary work — will cost you.
* Keep tires properly inflated, and rotate them on schedule.
* Take public transportation when you can. Or walk, when that’s practical. Or carpool.
* Follow your car’s recommended maintenance plan. Skipping oil changes and the like might save you a few dollars now, but it could cost you many more later.
* Before you rent a car, verify with your insurance agent whether your policy covers rental cars. If it does, you can say “no thanks” when the car rental agent asks whether you want to buy insurance coverage.
* Look into getting new tires at a discount store, such as Costco. The prices are often lower than elsewhere.
While these are all good points, my main thought on saving money on your car actually involves what KIND of car you drive. If you want to save some real money, never buy more car than you can afford. Sure, a new BMW looks nice in your driveway and impresses your friends..but that $600+ per month car payment sure does not help your financial situation if you make $35,000 per year. Also, big cars and trucks use WAY more gasoline, costing you upwards of hundreds of dollars a month in extra costs just on gas alone. And, expensive cars are more expensive to maintain and insure.
Do yourself a favor. Buy what you can afford, or even better, buy used. Your wallet and your retirement fund will thank you.