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How to Save Money on Auto Costs

Cars are an expensive commodity all around.  They are not only a major purchase initially, but you also have to pay interest on a loan (meaning they cost you even more than the sticker price), and you must foot the bill for ongoing associated costs like insurance, registration, maintenance, parking, and of course, fuel.  You might even have to pay for tickets (hey, everybody gets one once in a while, no matter how careful they are).  And you go into it knowing that you’ll never get the value back from your expenditure.  In short, cars will cost you.  But there are ways to save on the expense of owning and operating an automobile.  Here are just a few methods of making your money go a little further when it comes to your car.

  1. Go green.  Just about every automaker these days has a hybrid, electric, or alternative-fuel vehicle in their lineup.  Although these cars may initially be slightly more expensive than comparably sized cars that run on petroleum products, you’re going to save in the long run in a number of ways.  First, electric and plug-in hybrids come with significant government rebates to reduce the up-front cost.  You’ll also save on the cost of fuel; and many of these vehicles are eligible for carpool lane exemptions, so you can save time as well.
  2. Carpool.  If you’re just not ready to give up your gas-guzzler, at least you can save some money (and do a good turn for the environment) by carpooling.  Find people at your work that live nearby and set up a carpool that allows each person to drive only once or twice a week.  Everyone will save a ton on gas (especially if it’s a long commute), there will be less hydrocarbon emissions in the air, and your company may even offer some compensation in the way of carpool rewards (often gas cards or other gift cards).
  3. Ask about insurance rebates.  People are often unaware of the many discounts most insurance companies offer.  You may be able to save money for multiple policies (bundling), low mileage, a clean driving record, good grades (for students on the insurance), safety features on the vehicle (such as LoJack or other anti-theft), and even signing with another company (many will give you a lower rate just to get your business).  But you’ll never know unless you ask.
  4. Do at-home maintenance.  Taking your car into the dealership may be necessary when it’s still under warranty (then again, it might not), but once you no longer have that worry, there’s no reason to continue paying an arm and a leg for basic maintenance.  You can do simple upkeep like fluid changes and tire rotations on your own.  And for more complicated jobs, find a good local mechanic that is honest and gives you a great price.
  5. Improve your credit.  When you have to resort to using a co-signer or leap into the downward spiral of bad credit truck financing, you know there’s a problem.  So before you even consider buying a new car, make sure your credit is in order.  Pay down credit card debt and make sure to send in your bills on time.  And get a copy of your credit report so that you can rectify any black marks against you (even when you make good on collections, they will stay on your report until the company that filed them relays the payment, which they’re usually in no rush to do).  This will ensure that you get the best financing and the lowest interest rate on your auto loan, saving you a ton.
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