A Simple Guide to Saving Money on Your Car

Young man working on his car.

Buying a new, or ‘new to you’ car is very exciting, though it can also be very expensive. To help, we've assembled a few tips to save money, from driving at the speed limit to using the manufacturer’s recommended fuel type. There are several simple steps you can take to help keep your car running smoothly and to reduce your overall costs.

Budget for more than just a car

Before you buy a car, it’s important to be aware of all the expenses you’ll need to budget for. Your monthly car payment is just the start—you’ll also need to budget for things like insurance, gas, and routine maintenance. If you’re not prepared for these additional costs, you could find yourself struggling to make ends meet.

That’s why it’s so important to do your research before you buy a car. By understanding all the types of expenses you may incur, you can make sure you’re choosing a car that fits within your budget. A credit counselor at can help you determine if there is room in your budget for a new car and help you identify the types of expenses you will need to account for.

Get the right financing

When you shop for a car at various dealerships, you should also inquire with several lenders to find the best financing option.  You can get financing from large national banks, small community banks, credit unions, and online-only banks.  The car dealers don’t lend money themselves, generally, instead they act as a separate party for the other financial lenders.  The car dealerships are compensated by the lenders for placing the loan with them.  Sometimes the dealer’s proposals may offer them a higher return, giving them the best deal, not you. 

When borrowing money for your car, you need to know the interest rate you qualify for, how long the term will be for the loan and how much your payment would be, besides other costs involved with the loan. Getting pre-approved before you step into a car dealership will prevent the stress of not knowing what the dealer will tell you when applying for the car loan with them. Here are some key tips to remember when financing a car:

  • Do your homework on the vehicle you want and know what you can expect the total cost of the car to be.
  • Don’t shop the vehicle payment. Make sure you are getting the best deal on the total cost of the car, not just the lowest monthly payment you can find.
  • Have a plan in place to finance and get pre-approved outside of the car dealership. The pre-approval should be for a dollar amount that fits your budget, your ideal term, and a monthly payment you can afford.

With your financing in place, you can enjoy the car shopping process without the stress of the unknown.

Explore extended warranties

Many people do not see the value in extended warranties. However, if used correctly, extended warranties can be a helpful way to offset the cost of unexpected auto repairs. Here are a few things to keep in mind when considering an extended warranty for your vehicle:

First, it’s important to understand what is covered by the warranty. Many extended warranties will cover major components such as the engine, transmission, and drivetrain. However, be sure to read the fine print to understand what is NOT covered. Additionally, many extended warranties will only cover repairs if they are considered “normal wear and tear.”

Second, extended warranties typically have a deductible that must be paid before the coverage kicks in. This can range from $0 to several hundred dollars. Be sure to factor this into your decision-making process and your budget.

Finally, don’t wait until your car is on its last legs to purchase an extended warranty. In most cases, you must purchase the warranty within a certain number of miles or years of buying the car. If you wait too long, you may not be eligible for coverage.

Score a good deal on car insurance

Shopping for car insurance can be overwhelming, but there are some simple ways to make sure you’re getting a good deal.

The first step is to shop around. Don’t just go with the first company you find, or the one that offers the cheapest rate. Get quotes from several companies so you can compare coverage and prices.

It’s also important to read the fine print, just like with extended warranties. Insurance policies can be complicated, and it’s important to understand what you’re covered for. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask an agent or customer service representative.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to negotiate. If you feel like you’re being charged too much, talk to your agent about it. They may be able to give you a discount or adjust your coverage to meet your needs.

Keep your car tuned up

It’s a best practice to get a tune-up and oil change for your car at least every six months, more frequently if you have a long commute or use your car extensively. This may seem like a lot, but it’s quite helpful in terms of saving money in the long run. A tune-up can help to improve your gas mileage, which will save you money at the pump. It can also help to extend the life of your engine, which can save you thousands of dollars in repairs down the line. An oil change can also help to prevent dirt and grime from building up in your engine, which can lead to costly repairs.

Though regular tune-ups and oil changes may seem like an additional cost to your already-tight budget, they say “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The same is true when it comes to car maintenance.

Change your air filter regularly

Your car’s air filter is responsible for keeping the air inside your vehicle clean and free of dirt, dust, and other particles. A dirty air filter can reduce the airflow to your engine, making it less efficient and causing your car to use more fuel. As a result, changing your air filter regularly is an important part of maintaining your vehicle.

Most carmakers recommend changing the air filter every 12,000 miles or so, but in some cases, it may need to be changed more frequently. If you live in a dusty area or do a lot of driving on unpaved roads, you may need to change your filter more often. Check your owner’s manual for specific recommendations.

Check your tire pressure

Tire pressure affects several factors, including fuel economy and tire wear. Underinflated tires can lead to decreased fuel economy as well as increased wear and tear. Overinflated tires, on the other hand, can make for a rough ride and may also lead to premature wear.

Checking your tire pressure at least once a month is a good way to ensure that your tires are properly inflated and can help you save money on avoidable repairs in the future.

Use the correct grade of oil

Most carmakers recommend a specific motor oil viscosity, or thickness, and using the wrong motor oil can lead to expensive repairs. For example, using a thinner motor oil in a car that requires a thicker viscosity can cause the engine to overheat, while using a thicker motor oil in a car that requires a thinner viscosity can result in increased fuel consumption.

In either case, it’s important to consult your car’s owner’s manual to determine the recommended motor oil viscosity for your vehicle. Once you’ve determined the correct grade of motor oil for your car, be sure to check the labels carefully when you’re making your purchase to ensure that you’re getting the right product.

Drive the speed limit

One easy way to save on auto expenses is to adhere to the posted speed limit. Many people don’t realize that speeding can have a significant impact on your gas mileage. In fact, driving the speed limit can improve your fuel economy by 7%-14%.  Additionally, using cruise control on the highway can also improve your fuel economy by 15%-30%. That adds up to great savings and it’s not just the cost of gas to consider. Speeding also increases the wear and tear on your vehicle, which can lead to costly repairs down the road. So next time you’re tempted to floor it, remember that driving at the speed limit can save you money in the long run.

Avoid rush hour

If you’re looking to save on auto expenses, one of the best things you can do is avoid rush hour traffic. Not only will you save on gas, but you’ll also avoid wear and tear on your car. Rush hour traffic can be a nightmare, and it’s not worth putting yourself through it if you don’t have to. If possible, try to plan your trips around rush hour so that you can avoid the worst of the traffic.

Regularly check your tires

It is very important to inspect your tires and rotate them regularly. Rotating your tires helps to ensure that they wear evenly, which prolongs their life and provides better traction on the road. This money-saving activity is relatively easy to do at home with the right tools.

Use the manufacturer’s recommended fuel type

Another way to save money is to be mindful of the type of fuel you use. Always use the manufacturer’s recommended fuel type for maximum efficiency and to help your car run more smoothly.

Use cruise control

Cruise control helps you avoid accelerating too quickly, which can help save on fuel costs. Cruise control can also help you maintain a consistent speed, which can help reduce wear and tear on your vehicle.

Use a trusted mechanic

When it comes to something as important as your car, you want to make sure you’re working with a qualified and trustworthy professional. That’s why it’s always best to use a trusted mechanic when getting auto repairs. Not only will they be able to do the job right, but they’ll also be able to give you honest advice about what needs to be done – and what can wait. As a result, you’ll save money by avoiding unnecessary repairs.

DIY your auto maintenance and repairs

One way to save on auto expenses is to learn how to do basic repairs yourself. While more complicated repairs are best left to the professionals, there are several simple tasks that even a novice can learn to do with a little practice. For instance, changing a tire is a straightforward process that only requires a few tools and some patience. Similarly, replacing a headlight or taillight is a relatively easy task that can be completed in just a few minutes.

Additionally, there are several helpful YouTube videos available that can provide step-by-step instructions on how to complete various repairs. By taking advantage of these resources, it is possible to learn the basics of auto repair without spending a lot of money.

Making sure you stay up on any necessary repairs or replacements, inspecting and rotating your tires, and using cruise control can help you save even more on auto expenses. By following these tips and building car expenses into your budget, you can make owning a car a little less of a financial burden. If you feel overwhelmed by your current car loan and related expenses, call a credit counselor today. They can help get you on a plan that relieves your financial stress so you can enjoy your car!

Guest Blogger: Jake Gamble

Tagged in Cars and car loans

On October 31, 2023, CCCSMD merged with Money Management International (MMI).
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