3 Ways To Save Money On Your Car

It can be depressing to calculate the amount of time you spend working to pay for your car. Your ride siphons money from you in an overwhelming amount of ways, including your monthly payment, gas, insurance, registration fees, maintenance and repair. If you want to start living more frugally, you can cast a stink eye at your car to look for ways to start cutting back.

Thousandaire offers these to consider:

* Keep your maintenance receipts. It pays to keep extensive records of what work you’ve had done, which shops performed the services and what sorts of warranties are backing it up. Your paper trail can save you a bundle, preventing you from getting unnecessary work done and covering repairs you need.

* Make insurers compete to keep you. It’s easier to keep on re-upping with your current insurer, but a competitive market means insurers are always undercutting one another to vie for your business.

* Read your tires. Keep a close eye on your tires, making sure they’re properly inflated in order to get optimal gas mileage and prevent a blowout. If you notice uneven tread wear, that’s probably a sign that something else is amiss.

Ten Ways You Can Stop Wasting Money on Your Car [Thousandaire]


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  1. Jane_Gage says:

    Also go to a car wash every three months. They’re set up to deal environmentally with the runoff, and it removes the salt and other corrosive buildup. You feel good when your car is clean. : )

    • Necoras says:

      You must live in the north. Here in Texas we only bring out salt if it’s Super Bowl weekend. And even then it’s unlikely.

    • jvanbrecht says:

      Car washes are known as swirly machines.. they damage your paint with harsh cleaners, and the high power jets of water grind whatever dirt is on the car into the paint (causing the swirls).

      Even the touchless laser car washes are not safe, although convenient during the winter months when hand washing is not an option in the north east.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Just hosing off the undercarriage can go a long way in the rust belt.

    • who? says:

      What is this salt you speak of?

      Seriously, I get my car professionally washed/detailed (whatever it needs) every 6-8 weeks. I realized some time ago that I would ignore the interior of each car I had until it got unpleasant, then I’d *have* to have a brand new car. This usually happened when the old car was only 5-6 years old. Since I’ve been getting it properly cleaned, it still looks and feels new at 5-6 years, and I keep the car a lot longer. Which ultimately for me, saves money. YMMV. Car detailing isn’t cheap, of course.

    • El_Red says:

      Depends where you live. Places with harsh winters it’s more like every 2 weeks. The amount of salt on the roads can kill the car quickly, if left for extended periods of time.

  2. RipCanO'Flarp. says:

    Here’s one…. Don’t drive a 9 year old e39 touring. It may cost more than the average Camry to maintain but totally worth it.

    • DariusC says:

      I’m confused?

    • jvanbrecht says:

      While your statement makes no sense.. I understand what you are saying.. I drive a 3 year old AMG C63.. not exactly cost effective.. but a hell of alot of fun to drive :)

    • sspeedracer says:

      12 year old e36 here with 340K miles and still getting 33mpg.
      Want to save money? DIY!

      My other car runs on natural gas ….. $1.45 per gallon

  3. Cat says:

    If you plan on re-selling your car, don’t get it in one of the hideous colors that is all the rage these days – unless you get it at a huge discount because it has a hideous color.

    Neon pink and pus slime green may be your dream car colors, but not many people will agree with your taste, or lack thereof.

    • BobOki says:

      If you do want to get a Key Lime or Breast Cancer Pink paint job, remeber the cheapest way to substancially increase the sell price of the car is to throw a large 3″ Magnaflow muffler on it, a park bench as a spolier, paint the calipers red (caliper paint is like $6), add a large rpm/shift gauge on the dash, and a mini fire extinguisher on the passengers side. That ALONE should raise the sell value by at least $1500-2000.
      If you have a little electrical knowledge, go to Discount Auto and buy a few neon lights, mount them under the car and wire them up…. theres another $500.
      If you are not scared of under the hood you can remove your box intake filter, and replace it with a Spectere filter ($20) and some fake aluminum piping ($15 with coupler) for a cold air intake and add another $250 to the value.

      Remember, the same people that like a hideious radiation puke green car with a fart can, park bench spoiler, etcetc has no clue how to do it themselves and will happily pay for your time.

      • Jane_Gage says:

        Also truck balls, furry steering wheel grip, dolla sign licence plate frame, and stripper air freshener for final, low-cost touches.

      • hansolo247 says:

        Magnaflows are actually a little higher-end than what you’re describing. Most of the mufflers you rant about are $29 IPCs.

        My car (a honda, but the fastest one sold, rear drive, factory ported head, 9K redline, forged internals, and a god-like light chassis) has a custom cat-back system with Magnaflows on it. Muscle car guys quite often will pull up and say something along the likes of “I usually don’t like rice-burners, but yours sounds awesome!”

      • who? says:

        You live in my neighborhood, don’t you?

    • who? says:

      Years ago in Consumer Reports, I read that you should get the same color that’s on the cover of the brochure for the car, because they’ll always use the best looking color on the cover, and it’ll have the best resale value. True or not? I have no idea.

      I apparently like blue. Every car I’ve ever owned has been blue. Powder blue, navy blue, Caribbean blue, all….blue. Every last one.

      • hoi-polloi says:

        That’s pretty funny. There are certain colors I might like, but we tend to buy used. Color is less important than other criteria, so we’ve had beige, a couple black, a couple red, and green. When we bought a new car the stock was low enough that we just went with the package we wanted regardless of the color. Actually, we complained even though we didn’t care, and they knocked a bit more off.

  4. PSUSkier says:

    I think the biggest one is to do your own basic maintenance. Oil changes and coolant swaps can all be done quite easily on most cars. I think last I checked, the local place charged me ~$40 for a dino oil change. I can usually swing a fully synthetic for about $35 or less.

    • deathbecomesme says:

      Ditto. Google oil changes and coolant flushes/top offs and watch a few how to videos

      • little stripes says:

        Why is it even worth doing it myself? It takes a lot of time, and I can find someone else to do it for $20-30, as Cat said. Plus, I live in an apartment and it’s not fun trying to do that sort of stuff on the street. My time is valuable and, well, saving $5 or $10 on an oil change isn’t worth it, not when I live a block from a Firestone and they’ll do it for $20. I can even walk to my apartment and get things done while I wait, if they are busy.

        Sometimes “doing it yourself” is just not worth it.

        • deathbecomesme says:

          Because then you write a letter to the consumerist complaining that the local jiffy lube screwed up the bolt on your oil pan and wont cover the damage to your engine. Doing it yourself saves you headache and money$. You want to leave your car care to a teenager who could care less about vehicle specs and requirements go right ahead. Some of those shops dont even change out your oil filter if they can get away with it.

          • little stripes says:

            Um, I’ve never had a teenager do my oil change, and I’ve never had a problem when they do my oil changes, either. I always ask questions, and tell them I only want an oil change. The guys at Firestone are pretty cool, too.

            I would probably mess it up far more easily than anyone else, because I’m clumsy and not always confident.

            Plus, where am I supposed to change my oil? On the street? Pretty sure that’s not allowed.

          • sponica says:

            last I checked my mechanics were all 30+…granted I go to a local shop, so my mechanic is usually doing something big the same day he does the oil change. the next visit will probably involve replacing my timing belt.

            and he usually gives me a much nicer car to drive when he’s working on my car.

            I choose to spend time doing things I like to do (like baking cookies from scratch) and pay to have things done I don’t want to do. also I don’t understand how a car works….I understand how the starship enterprise works though. so if I ever needed to create a stable warp field, I could probably do that.

            • deathbecomesme says:

              Well most folks don’t take their car to the “mechanic” for oil changes. They stop in the oil change shops who employee JoeBlow off the street and put a uniform on him. I wouldn’t have any second thoughts about taking my car to a certified mechanic that I trust for major repairs. but I do all my own maintenance

              • sponica says:

                it’s how I was taught….you bring your car to the mechanic to do everything. our first mechanic actually ran a full service gas station, so the fluids would get checked at every fill up

                • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

                  I’m guessing we’re a similar age because we both grew up with full service gas stations.

                  Even when the gas attendant checked fluids, he wasn’t checking coolant on a hot engine nor was he actually checking transmission fluid appropriately.

                  • sponica says:

                    that full service station was the last one I knew of in the area….they were definitely not the norm. I think that guy sold the business once his kids were out of college.

          • who? says:

            I’m pretty sure the ex-con that works at the oil change place, who does 15 oil changes per day, is more competent to change the oil in my car than I am, and I feel good that I’m giving him a job. The couple of times that there were problems, I took the car back and they fixed it right away.

            And besides, if I did it myself, I’d get dirty. We can’t have that now, can we?

    • Cat says:

      * “on most cars” – at least the ones that you don’t have to unbolt the engine mounts to do simple maintenance.

      I can always find a place to change my oil for around $20-$30. I could do it, but I take longer, make a mess, and I have to get rid of the oil. Why bother?

      • little stripes says:

        Agreed. Especially with having to get rid of the oil, and cleaning up the mess … my time is far more valuable than a coupla bucks saved.

        • jvanbrecht says:

          Considering the oil change for my car runs around $350 at MB (I drive a C63), I find that the money saved by doing it myself is significant.. (costs me around $70 for 10 quarts of Mobile 1 from my dealer [I have a good relationship with the parts dep], and $20 for the filter).

          I can even change the oil in my work clothes, filter is on top of the engine, and every other oil change I do from above, not via the drain plug using a marine vacuum pump to suck out the oil from the top (same way MB does it anyways).

          • hansolo247 says:

            Yea, $350 for that is a total rip. I think most just pay it because they have no idea how to do it and figure since it’s an AMG Benz it needs some kind of special, mystical care.

            I think the regular price for Mobil1 at Walmart is $26/5Qt.

            I have to do mine myself, as Honda rarely sees S2000s (most owners do their own work) and it is the only Honda with a unique filter part number, and uses regular 10W30 whereas all others use 5W30. Honda will just put whatever they have on hand on or in the car…so I don’t trust them.

          • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

            What do they possibly do to justify that much of a cost? Is it the funky, hard to get, Euro-spec oil that’s so expensive?

          • little stripes says:

            Wow. You are a sucker.

            • jvanbrecht says:

              How am I a sucker.. since I do the work myself.. If I went to MB and had them do it.. then yes..

              The oil change in my car is called a Service A, includes the usual inspections, belts, hoses, fluids, etc, but the only real work is the oil change. I can, and do, all of that myself..

              Also, at $4.50 or so a quart of Mobil 1 0w40, which retails at Autozone for about $9, the dealer parts dep has given me a good price.

              • little stripes says:

                $350. THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DOLLARS. Yeah, you’re a sucker.

                • Jack Doe says:

                  Please, shut up before you make us all ill with your stupid. Jvanbrecht is saying he does his own oil changes at home because he gets the supply for cheap, has the tools to do it, and it would otherwise cost $350.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        “Why bother?”

        Because it’s a chance to get a look under your car and also use significantly higher quality oil and filter than a $20 lube special.

        • little stripes says:

          Pretty sure my 2000 Mazda doesn’t care if I put fancy-shmancy oil in it. Also, if I look under the hood I have no idea what I’m looking at. And is that really a big deal in this day and age? I know a few mechanics, and I have friends that know far more than I do, and I have a really great mechanic for the bigger stuff. I don’t think it’s vital that everyone know how to fix a car, not in 2012 when there are plenty of people who are very good at their job and who are far less likely to get frustrated and do something stupid.

          Also, if your car is under warranty and you try to fix something and fuck up? Good luck getting it covered!

          • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

            You never check your fluids or belts, on a 12 year old car?

            • little stripes says:

              Actually, it’s a “new” car (to me) so no, not yet. It was all checked by a mechanic right after I bought it, less than a year ago. My other car was a 2005 and destroyed in a drunk driving accident. But even then I generally go to a mechanic and have them do it because I just don’t have the room (or the time). I can’t do this sort of stuff on the street where I live, and the area where I park is super, super dark and very, very cramped. The joys of city living!

              • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

                Even so, it’s generally a good idea to check your fluid levels, especially on an older car — A car can burn 1 quart for every 1,000 miles and still be within a manufacturer’s specs. Hoses and plastic can get brittle and leaks can crop up when you don’t expect it. In many instances, mechanics don’t check coolant levels because they don’t want to let the vehicle cool down long enough in the bay.

                I’ve lived my entire life in the city and while putting a car up on a ramp isn’t possible, there’s no reason not to pop the hood and check fluid levels on a regular basis and especially before a trip.

        • Cat says:

          “significantly higher quality oil and filter”?

          Oil and filters have to meet specs.

          • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

            A no name “white box” oil filter is vastly different than an OEM or even a quality aftermarket one (I’m partial to NAPA Gold). In terms of oil, you can generally get 5 quarts of synthetic for what a quick lube would charge you for bulk conventional.

      • bendee says:

        I just dump it in the neighbors yard when they’re asleep.

    • lotussix says:

      i pay $49 for a full synthetic and get a $15 rebate card in the mail for the next one. it’s valvoline and done by the same shop i have taken all my cars to. i know the service manager pretty well and he always fixes small things he notices on my car for free.

      anyway, the oil change is done in 30 minutes and i don’t get dirty. i know how to do this myself, but it’s a lot easier to just take it in.

    • BobOki says:

      It is VERY hard to argue with anyone who feels their time is more valuable than anyone elses, thats per person. Now, what can be argued is “cheap oil is a good as fancy smancy oil” and no it is not. I could wax on for a good while about viscosities, how quickly it breaks down, the amount of detergents in the oil, and lifecycle times of oil, but let me just surmize it. No they are not. Synthetic, in the correct enviroment which is not snow, is VASTLY superior to standard oil. One might argue which synthetics, PAO vs Hydro-cracked carbon vs standard ghetto and then brands as well….. but lets just say that synth oil more than doubles the lifecycle of standard oil. The saying of changing it every 3000 miles applies to standard oil. It does not apply to synthetic. Of course it varies per brand and car but I see synth oil last 5k-7k easy on most cars. Hell, the oil filter needs changing before the oil half the time. Worth noting that unlike standard oil, you should not change synth until it has had some time to break down, that is when the detergents get used and do their job.
      As for myself, I use Rotella T synth. It is a nice 10-40 so I have no real issues with startup in the cold mornings, and more than enough to handle southern blazing heat. I run it in my sportscar which we dub the engine Mordor and it seems to have better tollerance than any of the other oils we have tried (Valvoline, Royal Purple, etcetc) but is still a little thick so my oil pressure stays at a nice level (Valvoline is much thinner and I dislike that).

      Sorry for wall-o-text but you “oil is oil” people should google that, as I think you will be surprised how wrong that statement really is.

      • denros says:

        Just curious why you say “Synthetic, in the correct enviroment which is not snow, is VASTLY superior to standard oil.” – I’ve been using synthetic for close to 10 years now here in WI, as our winters get pretty cold. I was under the impression that synthetic flowed better at lower temperatures (I typically use 0w-30 in the winter, 5w-30 in the summer). I’m not a mechanic (I’m certainly capable under the hood) but this seems to be an oft-cited benefit of synthetic.

      • BurtReynolds says:

        Outside of BITOG, this information is probably wasted on most people. I’m just guessing you frequent BITOG though.

      • iopsyc says:

        There’s at least one exception to your statement. Wankel rotary engines do better with conventional oil because the deposits they leave behind as they are consumed during the engine cycle build up on the apex seals and help create a better seal.

  5. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I think the most important thing is to follow the recommended maintenance intervals for your vehicle.

    The exception is for those with an automatic transmission — Dropping the pan and changing the fluid/filter every 30,000 or 40,000 can go a long way towards increasing the transmission’s longevity. When I worked at a garage, even for vehicles that had lifetime fluids or long change intervals, they always showed signs of burning, or sludging by 100,000 miles.

  6. cspschofield says:

    Keep your car for more than three friggin’ years. my GOD the amount of money people apparently put out to have a ‘new’ car. I just inherited my Father’s last car, a 25 year old Volvo station wagon. You know, the kind that was obviously intended to be quickly and easily converted into a light tank in the event of a Soviet invasion.

    I have a Subaru Forrester that we bought reconditioned, and which I figure will run for another five years at least.

    And in the meanwhile, I get to spend the money other people are wasting on new cars on things I really like

    • little stripes says:

      Bet that car gets awful, awful, awful gas mileage. I agree that you should keep cars more than a coupla years, but after a certain point, it’s sometimes more economical to get a new car (or a new-to-you-car). Just depends on various factors.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        A lack of a car payment can pay for many tanks of gas.

        • little stripes says:

          That’s true. Like I said, it depends. If you start having to put a lot of money into repairs, it’s probably not worth it any longer, but if it’s still goin’ tough, then awesome.

      • hansolo247 says:

        If it’s a Volvo 240 or any other #40, they actually do decent on mileage…in the 20s.

        And that 4-banger will run literally forever.

        This applies to Volvos…Fordvos not so much.

      • AustinTXProgrammer says:

        Your car has to be falling apart or you have to have the commute from hell. At 50 miles round trip at 15mpg with 22 commuted days you would spend under $300/mo at $4/gallon. Most car payments are at least that much.

        A well maintained car’s gas mileage shouldn’t really drop that much either and gas mileage hasn’t changed that much over the years. In many cases the mileage is worse as safety concerns drive us to heavier cars.

      • ElBobulo says:

        I have a 1987 Honda Accord, and I inherited a 2003 Honda Civic. The Civic does not seem to get appreciably better mileage than the Accord. Add in the fact that the Civic has a 12-gallon tank, and the Accord has a 14-gallon tank, and I get an extra day’s commute out of the Accord for every tankful.

    • borgia says:

      SHHHH.. The people buying new cars and selling them in three years are how I save money by buying “new” used cars.

    • kosmo @ The Soap Boxers says:

      We finally sold our 1998 Contour last fall. Replaced it with a new car.

      And by “new”, I mean a 2007 Hyundai Elantra.

      The Contour did OK for mileage, but had been slipping a bit in recent years. The Hyundai is better, though – gets 30-35 on a regular basis. (Yeah, tons of highway driving – 70 mile round-trip commute ever day).

    • huadpe says:

      One thing I did to make my car be “nice” while lasting longer is to put in an aftermarket stereo which has iphone connectivity. Now I get all my fancy features, and it cost me about $120 to buy the stereo (would have been another $100 or so to have it installed I figure if my boss weren’t an electrical engineer who was happy to help me out).

      You can get a super fancy stereo with in-dash navigation and all the bells and whistles for about $1000 installed. It’s a little pricey, but way cheaper than a new car.

    • Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

      I buy new and sell right before the warranty runs out. I never have to pay for repairs and I’m always driving something I know I can count on to get me there and to be tuned to run efficiently.

      If you can afford the initial investment and always keep your vehicles in good condition you can buy new every three years for about the same price as paying for used car repairs for the same amount of time.

  7. outkastz says:

    +1 for using the Hulk VW Touran from the Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift movie. This car can be seen at Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios Orlando Resort :-)

  8. outkastz says:

    +1 for using the Hulk VW Touran from the Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift movie. This car can be seen at Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios Orlando Resort :-)

  9. Jimmy60 says:

    They missed the most obvious one – slow down.

    For many people slowing down simply means observe the posted speed limit. This will not only save fuel but keep you out of speeding tickets. You’ll probably only give up a few minutes on your trip.

  10. rockelscorcho says:

    Why is this list not made of 10 ways to save money..I don’t like odd numbers!!!

  11. pentium4borg says:

    Nobody has mentioned “reducing driving” yet. There are lots of people in places with good public transit/pedestrian/cycling infrastructure (such as Seattle) and still choose to drive to work. It boggles my mind.

  12. holocron says:

    Ask about switching your insurance status to “storage.”

    My wife is working overseas. We have two cars. I only drive one of them. Putting the unused one into “storage” saved me form have to pay for the bulk of the insurance on it. If I need to switch vehicles, then I call my local insurance agent and let them know. Takes a little planning, but saves hundreds of dollars.

    Even if you are single and have two vehicles, then I would look at doing this.

  13. shthar says:

    Don’t carry around a bunch of heavy junk.

  14. JMH says:

    An even better way: live someplace that you don’t have to own a car.

  15. Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

    I buy new and sell right before the warranty runs out. I never have to pay for repairs and I’m always driving something I know I can count on to get me there and to be tuned to run efficiently.

    If you can afford the initial investment and always keep your vehicles in good condition you can buy new every three years for about the same price as paying for used car repairs for the same amount of time.

    • hoi-polloi says:

      Could you run your logic by me? I have trouble believing that you can come out anywhere near even if you buy a new car every three years versus paying for repairs for an older car. If you’re buying outright, what’s that running you once everything is factored in? If you have a car payment, what’s that per month?

      If someone has a perpetual monthly car payment of $350 a month, that’s equal to $4,200 of annual repairs. I’d have to check receipts, but I’m relatively certain I put less than a grand into my 1996 Jeep in 2011. That was a relatively expensive year. When I look at fuel efficiency, a new 6-cylinder Jeep isn’t getting much better mileage over my old beast. Given how little I drive, it’s definitely not worth replacing.