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The Backyard Blog

Unique take on popular topics, useful resources and financial advice by renowned writers, specialized experts and experienced bloggers.


April 20th, 2018

101 Ways To Save Money On A Car

After your home, a car is probably the most expensive thing you’ll buy in your lifetime. There’s really no getting around the fact that if you want your own set of wheels, you have to shell out a lot of money. But from your actual car purchase to insuring your ride to keeping your gas budget in check, there are lots of little things you can do to save money on your car, and they can all add up to significant savings. Read on for 101 ways to save some cash on your automotive budget.

Finding The Right Ride:

1. Consider the smallest car you can get away with. Obviously if you have three kids, a compact won’t work for you. But if it’s just you and perhaps a partner, a smaller car may make more sense because they’re less expensive, cost less to maintain, and get better mileage, saving you thousands over the life of the car.

2. Need space? Vans tend to cost less and get better mileage than full-size SUVs.

3. Look into a hybrid or electric car. They may cost a bit more upfront, but their great fuel economy makes them inexpensive to operate.

4. Do your reasearch. Use sites like Kelley Blue Book ( to find out what you should be spending.

5. Find out which cars tend to last the longest and need the least amount of maintenance. Pay attention to the older cars you see on the road, as those are the ones that will be with you for a while.

6. Consider repair costs of different models. Some cars cost more to repair than others. For example, repairs on domestic and Japanese models tend to run less than the same repairs on European cars. Even if nothing goes really wrong with your car, you’ll still need to replace worn out parts from time to time, and you don’t want to spend a fortune doing so.

7. Shop around to find the best price. Don’t just take the first car you see.

8. Get quotes from several dealers in your region on the same car or very comparable cars. See if any of them will match or beat the lowest quote you receive.

Making The Purchase:

9. A car loses a significant portion of its value the moment it’s driven off the lot. Let someone else take that depreciation. A used car will always cost less than a new one. Want something newer? Buy a used late model vehicle.

10. Buy your used car directly from another driver instead of the dealership. It’s often easier to negotiate a lower price, and many car buyers find doing it this way less intimidating as well.

11. Check out a public auction for an inexpensive used car.

12. Repossessed cars (from people who have not paid their loan payments) can often be had at a good price. Ask local banks and credit unions if they have a repo lot. If you’re lucky, you can get a relatively new car for a great deal.

13. Whether you’re buying from an individual or a dealer, ask if they’ll lower the price if you pay with cash. (Not a check — actual cash.)

14. If you’re buying a new car, or even if you’re buying a used car from a dealership, buy at the end of the month. That’s when salespeople are more eager to give you the price you want so they can meet their sales quota.

15. If you’re buying a new car, wait until August, when the following year’s models come out. You may be able to score a good deal on a car from the previous year that’s still on the lot.

16. Check the manufacturer’s website so you’re aware of any potential rebates.

17. Consider a less popular color. If purple sedans didn’t sell as well as a dealer had hoped, you may be able to get a better price on purple than on, say, white.

18. Don’t pay for upgrades on a new car. Aftermarket items will typically be a lot less than what a dealer will charge.

19. Learn to drive a stick. Manual transmissions cost a bit less upfront than automatic ones.

20. Skip the extended warranty.

21. Also skip the weather proofing on the outside and upholstery proofing on the inside. The former is necessary only if you live in an extreme winter climate, and the latter is something you can do yourself for much less money.

22. It may sound awful, but if you’re female, try to do your haggling online. Time and time again, women report unsatisfactory experiences at car dealerships. By avoiding an in-person negotiation, you may find you have more leverage.

Paying For It:

23. Know where you stand with your credit before you fall in love with a car on the lot. Good credit means you’ll pay less interest on a loan. Poor credit means the opposite.

24. Look at your financials, determine what you can reasonably afford, and then stick to it. If you’re pulling down six figures and have minimal expenses, you can drive whatever you want. If you’re making $40,000 a year and have a family to support, you probably can’t afford a new Lexus.

25. Try to save up and pay cash for your car. Not taking out a loan can save you thousands on interest.

26. If you must have a loan, look for one with a very low APR.

27. Shop around for a loan. Don’t just take one with the terms that a dealer offers you.

28. Beware of 0% financing. It’s a great deal on the surface, but if you don’t make your payments on time, that 0% can become a much larger percentage very quickly.

29. Make your loan terms as short as you can realistically afford. You’ll pay much less interest on a 24 month loan as compared to a 48 month loan.

30. Pay off your car loan as soon as you can.

Buying Insurance:

31. Shop around for the best rates

32. Compare rates every six months or so, or every year at most. Rates change, so make sure you’re on top of the best ones.

33. Pay your insurance yearly in one lump sum. If you can’t do that, try for twice a year, or quarterly at most. If you pay monthly, there’s usually a service charge. It may not be much, usually around five bucks, but over the year, that adds up.

34. Raise your deductibles on comprehensive and collision to lower your premiums.

35. Or, if you drive an old beater that isn’t worth much more than $1000, consider dropping comprehensive and collision entirely.

36. Another good reason to buy a smaller and/or older car: they’re a lot cheaper to insure. Think about what insurance will cost before you make your purchase.

37. Take advantage of any discounts, like your good driving record, your excellent credit, and so on.

38. Ask about discounts for any safety features your car might have, like a security alarm, antilock breaks, and high quality airbags.

39. If you’re a student, a good GPA can earn you a discount on your insurance.

40. Take a defensive driver course. Successful completion of one will often get you a savings on your insurance.

41. Find out if any groups you belong to offer bundled rates, which can save you a bundle. Employers, alumni associations, unions, and more are all examples of groups that may offer this.

42. Take care of all of your insurance needs with one carrier. If you have homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance with one company, getting your car insurance through that company can get you a noticeable discount.

43. Similarly, if you have more than one car in your household, insure them on the same policy for more savings.

44. If possible, don’t use your car for commuting. By taking mass transit to and from work, you’ll not only save on gas and wear and tear on your car, but you’ll also have lower insurance premiums.

45. If it’s possible, try to buy your insurance (or change your insurance) in December. Industry numbers indicate that rates tend to go down during the holiday season.

Gas And Mileage:

46. Use the lowest octane that will get your engine running. High octane gasoline may sound great, but you pay a premium for it, and your car may run just fine on the regular stuff.

47. Find a gas station that offers a lower price per gallon to drivers who use their credit card. Get the card, then pay it off each month to avoid finance charges.

48. Do what you can to avoid gas stations at highway rest areas. Their prices tend to be jacked up because they know you have no choice but to fill up there.

49. If you live near a state line, and the next state over has lower gas prices due to lower taxes, make a point to fill up there. For example, New Jersey has some of the lowest gas prices in the country, while surrounding states (especially New York) have some of the highest.

50. Pay attention to when gas stations raise and lower their prices. Many find that prices are lowest mid-week, all other things being equal. Try to gas up when it’s the lowest.

51. Fill up early in the morning or late at night, especially in the summer, to avoid evaporation. This helps you get the most gas for your money.

52. Fill your tank all the way. Getting $10 here and $10 there actually costs you more because of all the extra trips you have to take to get more gas.

53. Whenever possible, buy regular gas instead of gas that has ethanol in it. Many stations now sell gas with 10% ethanol, which will get you worse mileage than regular gas.

54. Carpool to work to reduce your fuel expenses.

55. Use a site (or app) like to find the lowest price on gas in your area.

56. Drive at or below the speed limit to improve your fuel economy.

57. Similarly, avoid jack rabbit starts and braking at the last second to keep your MPG high.

58. If you have a habit of driving with your foot on the brakes, break it. You’ll see your mileage improve.

59. Try to avoid traffic. Not only is it frustrating to just sit there, but you burn a lot of gas. This may mean adjusting your commute around your local rush hour.

60. Keep your windows down and sun roof closed when you’re driving on the highway to reduce drag and improve mileage.

61. When you’re not on the highway, turn off the AC and open windows.

62. Empty the junk in your trunk! Extra weight means lower mileage.

63. Take off the roof rack, storage box, or anything external storage device that you’re not currently using to reduce drag.

64. Check your tires regularly to make sure they are at the right pressure.

65. Change your air filter. Keeping it fresh means better mileage.

66. Don’t allow your car’s engine to idle for too long.

67. Avoid the drive thru, which is basically just one long idle.

68. You also don’t need to warm up your car. It should run just fine, even in cold weather, as soon as you start it up. If you want to be warm in the car, keep your coat on.

69. Have your tires aligned regularly to keep you fuel economy high.

70. Always keep a safe following distance to avoid lots of unnecessary braking.

71. Use cruise control on the highway to avoid unnecessary acceleration (and using more gas).

72. The caveat to the above, however, is if the highway is very hilly. In that case, don’t use the cruise control, since the cruise control’s attempt to keep a constant speed will make it accelerate too late to hit an incline, which will use more gas.

73. If your gas cap is missing, get it replace to prevent gas fumes from evaporating.

74. On a hot day, park in the shade. Some say this will keep gas from evaporating from your tank, though your tank should be air tight. It will, however, keep your car from getting too hot, which will limit how high you’ll need to blast the AC when you get back in it. Lots of AC usage lowers your MPG.

75. Turn off your engine when you’re stopped at a railroad crossing and there’s a long train passing.

76. Ultimately, use the air conditioning as little as possible. It brings down your MPG a lot.

77. Another reason to drive a stick: manual transmissons tend to get better mileage than automatic transmissions.

78. If you’re driving a manual, put it in neutral when you’re stopped at a red light.

79. Combine errands and trips so you’re taking the car out less. Driving less means using less gas.

80. Consider a car with a diesel engine, which will typically get better mileage than a comparable car with a gasoline engine.

Automotive Maintenance:

81. Find a trustworthy, affordable mechanic, and call on him (or her) for your maintenance needs. Repeat business may bring you a discount, and it may also ensure that you get the best service possible, saving you money in the long run.

82. If your engine light comes on or something sounds amiss, get it looked at. Small issues can lead to bigger, more expensive problems if they’re left unchecked.

83. Get your oil changed regularly and have regular maintenance done. This may seem like an added expense, but it helps to avoid bigger problems down the road.

84. However, don’t do unnecessary maintenance. Your car may not need an oil change every 3000 miles, which used to be the standard recommendation. Consult your car’s manual to see if you can go longer.

85. Learn to change your oil yourself.

86. Change your own windshield wipers and replace your own wiper fluid.

87. Keep your transmission fluid topped off. If it gets too low, it can do damage, and a transmission is expensive to replace.

88. Learn to change your own headlights, tail lights, and breaklights. Have a handy friend show you, or check out online video tutorials. With many cars, it’s not much more complicated than changing a household lightbulb.

89. Learn to do more involved maintenance. Remember, anything you can successfully do is something you don’t have to pay someone else to do.

90. Get your own car error code reader so you know exactly what’s wrong when something isn’t right.

91. Wash your car yourself to save on commercial washes.

92. Or, if you have your oil changed at the dealer where you got the car (for free, if you follow Tip 95), ask them to run your car through their carwash when they’re done working under the hood.

93. Get your tires rotated regularly so you don’t have to replace them as often.

94. Don’t be overly vain about scratches, small dings, and other cosmetic mishaps. As long as your car runs well, a few scratches on the door can be overlooked.

Other Tips

95. Buy instead of lease. When you buy, you own a car when it’s paid off. When you lease, you essentially pay for an expensive rental.

96. If you do buy from a dealer, ask if they’ll throw in a service incentive, like a year or two of free oil changes.

97. Know the value of your trade-in to avoid getting ripped off at a dealership.

98. Drive your car for a long time. Aim for ten years. If you can get past the desire to always be riding around in something new, you can save quite a bit.

99. Follow the rules of the road! A speeding ticket or other traffic violation means you get stuck with a big bill to pay and get an increase in your insurance rates.

100. If you know you have a heavy foot and you drive on the highway a lot, look into getting a radar detector. It may save you an expensive ticket in the long run.

101. Pay attention to parking signs. Parking where you’re not supposed to park can incur some hefty fines as well.


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