5 Secrets to Cutting the Cost of Driving
by Penny M. Hagerman
Owning and driving a car affords you freedom, independence and flexibility you wouldn’t have by any other means. With keys in hand and gas tank full, you can travel almost anywhere you want on your own timetable.
But driving isn’t cheap. In fact, expenses like maintenance, fuel, taxes, insurance and depreciation can make a severe dent in your wallet.
Ways to Save
When times get tough, some people ditch their ride in favor of other means of transportation.
While an alternative worthy of consideration, catching a city bus, hopping on the local light-rail or peddling your way to work may not be your cup of tea. It may also require rearranging your life, schedule and habits—and you may not be willing or able to make those kinds of concessions.
If you’re determined to continue driving but you need to spend less doing it, consider these secrets to help cut the cost of driving.
- Find a great mechanic—and practice preventive maintenance. Your car needs frequent, light maintenance to keep it in tip-top running shape. But if you’re not handy yourself, don’t take it to just anyone for servicing. Instead, ask around and find out who family and friends use. Then experiment with a recommended mechanic, let him get to know your vehicle, and form a relationship of trust with him. Some procedures you’ll want him to perform on a regular basis include oil changes, air filter replacements, tire balancing and rotation, and overall operations systems checkups. Taking care of these items now will help prevent larger repair bills down the road.
- Shop for auto insurance online. Though it’s one of the most expensive responsibilities of car ownership, auto insurance protects you financially in case of accident—and thus is absolutely essential. When money gets tight, don’t cancel your policy, drive uninsured or pay too much for the right coverage. Shop your rates online and compare policies at a site like InsureMe.com at least once a year. You’ll save money on insurance premiums and keep everyone in your household in case they’re involved in an accident.
- Consider sharing a ride. Live near someone you work or go to school with? OK, so maybe that coworker or annoying classmate isn’t your best friend. But with the savings you can amass by sharing the expense and driving one car, it can be well worth your time to put aside personal feelings and carpool. If you don’t know of anyone who might be interested, try posting a note on your employer’s intranet site, asking friends for recommendations or checking bulletin boards at local schools and churches.
- Don’t just stop at the nearest gas station. Before you head out to fill up your gas tank at whichever gas pump is closest, take a minute to shop for the cheapest fuel online at a site like AAA.com or your local news station. Though this may require you to plan ahead before your tank is actually empty, being prepared can save you a considerable sum of money that really adds up over time.
- Shop locally—and plan ahead. Why spend extra money driving to the supercenter across town when you can save money in gas shopping closer to home? Sure, your local grocer’s prices may be slightly higher than that mega-center’s. But do you really save that much driving miles and miles from one side of the city to the other when gas costs $3 or $4 a gallon? Try shopping locally instead, planning your trips for times of lowest traffic volume and least backtracking. This keeps you from wasting gas by idling in rush hour, waiting in line behind other motorists or driving additional miles to get to your destination.
A Common Sense Approach
In case you haven’t heard, you don’t have to give up your car to counter the high cost of driving these days.
Instead, use common sense, consider alternating driving with other means of transportation occasionally, and put the secrets above to work in your favor on a daily or monthly basis. You might be surprised how much cheaper driving can be!