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Reducing the Costs of Owning a Car

A car’s price tag may say $15,000, but the actual costs of owning a car can be much higher. Avoid getting stuck in debt by taking a few smart actions.

Car Insurance

You’re required to have it, but doesn't it make sense to save a few dollars where possible? Here are some ways to reduce your insurance bill.

  • Perform well in school. Many insurance companies reduce premiums for students with above-average grades or high class rankings.
  • Drive safely. Accidents and tickets make your insurance premium go up, while a good driving record may reduce your premium. Some insurance companies have savings programs that require you to use an app or beacon in your car to monitor safe driving. If you’re comfortable using one, it could save you money each time you renew your insurance.
  • Research discounts. Insurance companies offer discounts for a number of reasons, including good credit history, military service, and bundled insurance (buying more than one type of policy from the same insurer; for instance, auto insurance plus home or renter’s insurance). Shop around and ask if you qualify for any of these savings.

Maintenance

Take care of your car to prevent premature repairs and deterioration.

  • Wash it yourself. Professional car washes may be more convenient, but they make a dent in your wallet. Grab some soap, a pail, and a hose and do it yourself. If you don’t have access to an outdoor faucet, search out a low-cost self-wash place in your area.
  • Get routine maintenance but be cautious about agreeing to larger repairs. Listen to advice from car mechanics, but make smart decisions before giving them the green light. This helps to ensure that you don’t get ripped off. Some services that mechanics offer—like replacing air filters and windshield wipers—can be done yourself. There are plenty of online videos that walk you through the steps of routine maintenance tasks. It may take a little time and effort to do the jobs yourself, but the savings can be worth it. Check your owner’s manual for a schedule of recommended maintenance and to learn the recommended mileage between oil changes. If you’re not mechanically savvy, build a relationship with a mechanic in your area. Finding an auto shop you trust can mean better prices.

Smart Use

Plan your car use to reduce costs.

  • Car pool. Owning a car doesn't have to mean you’re automatically the chauffeur for your family and friends. Trade rides and have everyone chip in for gas.
  • Drive sparingly. Use your car only when necessary. If your destination is a short distance away, walk or bike instead. Many colleges also offer free or reduced passes for public transportation.
  • Buy the least expensive gas. Check your car manual for the recommended gas grade level for your car and stick to it. Research the gas stations in your area to find the best deal. Some offer discounts if you have their customer loyalty card. Typically, these cards are free, and the savings can add up.
  • Find cheap parking. If you can’t find free parking, seek out lowest-cost parking lots or meters. Always pay the required parking fees so you don’t get stuck with fines or tickets. If you frequently park in the same area, check to see if nearby parking lots offer long-term rates or discounted parking passes.

(Any reference to a specific company, commercial product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement or recommendation by CashCourse or the National Endowment for Financial Education. These courses and related resources may be used only for nonprofit, noncommercial educational purposes. CashCourse makes every effort to keep the information in these courses current, but, over time, new developments as well as legislative and regulatory changes may date this material. If you discover inaccurate information, please contact us.)

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