Assignment: Save Cash on Your Ride
Do your homework! You’ve probably been hearing that since grade school, but it also applies when buying and maintaining a new or used car. A little preplanning before you actually hand over your hard-earned cash for your next ride can save you money for as long as you own the vehicle. And, a few simple steps after you’ve bought it can help you avoid costly maintenance problems. Avoid these money-wasting mistakes:
1. Not knowing yourself
Think about why you need a vehicle. How you use it and how long you intend to keep it will make a difference in the type of car or truck you buy and whether to buy an extended service agreement. You may love the power of the big engines, but keep in mind the rising cost of gasoline. The difference in gas costs between a 30-mile-per-gallon economy car and a 20-mile-per-gallon pickup is $525 a year, based on 15,000 miles and $2.10 per gallon.
2. Not knowing your car
This is going to sound even more like homework, but read through your vehicle’s owner manual and warranty information, if it is still in effect, to learn about your rights as a customer and the manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations. Get familiar with your car by washing it yourself and checking the oil level and tire pressure. Build a working knowledge of cars through automotive advice columns and by asking mechanics and auto-savvy friends lots of questions.
3. Not paying attention
Your car’s gas gauge lets you know when you’re low on fuel, but your car has other ways of letting you know it needs attention, such as drips in your driveway, faint smells, squeals and rattles. You will almost always save money by taking care of small problems when they first appear.
4. Not keeping tabs
Keep a notebook and pen in your glove compartment. When you notice something troublesome about the vehicle (leaks, noises, etc.), jot down the symptoms, including date and mileage. Keep a log of service visits and repairs. Records can help diagnose problems, support warranty claims, document expenses and verify your vehicle’s value when you want to sell it.
5. Not being careful
Speeding, jackrabbit acceleration and hard stops can waste up to 49 cents per gallon of your fuel efficiency, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Aggressive driving also strains your tires.