Here are some tips submitted from Yahoo readers on how to save money on cars. I've selected my favorites:
- I keep an air compressor in the garage and check the tire pressure on our Dodge Caravan a couple times a month. I know it sounds compulsive, but it only takes five minutes, and it keeps my 20 mile-per-gallon vehicle from becoming a 19 mile-per-gallon vehicle, or worse.
- In 2001, I bought a five-year-old Jeep Grand Cherokee with 40,000 miles. I paid cash for it and decided to invest what would have been a "new car payment" of $400 a month into a mutual fund. Five years later, I have nearly $40,000 in the fund. It was easy and a lot of fun watching my money grow. My Jeep is still running great, and I'm now trying to figure out what that to do with some of that money when I retire!
- Our daughter, who will be graduating from graduate school, hasn't owned a car yet. Luckily, all through high school, college, and grad school I was able to convince her of the benefits of driving the family car. With the money we saved (car cost, maintenance, insurance, etc.) my wife and I are thoroughly convinced that we were able to pay her entire college and grad-school tuition, and all expenses. She worked during the summers, and we even matched her contributions to her Roth IRA. So, she graduates in about a month, debt free, with a nice-size Roth IRA for a 23-year old!
- I drove my wife's 1971 Ford Maverick for 26 years - how people laughed! Boring, but we saved the money that would have been made on car payments. We were able to pay off our 25-year mortgage in 11 years and also put our son through college -- he's debt free too.
- Learn to do your own minor maintenance and inspections. General maintenance and authorized-dealer maintenance books are readily available. Keep a good log book of required inspections and basic work you can do yourself. Preventive maintenance can save you loads on an expensive repair, keep your vehicle running longer, and possibly identify an unsafe condition (poor brakes, shocks, or low brake fluid, for example). Not only will this save significant labor costs, you'll be more aware of your vehicle and know what's normal.
Some good stories here -- especially from the people who bought used and saved the money instead. Amazing!
I've been thinking about the air compressor idea myself. I know that properly inflated tires help increase gas mileage (not to mention making your car safer to handle), but I either forget to check my pressure or it's not convenient (I'm in work clothes and it can be dirty, I'm rushed, it's cold out, etc.). As a result, when I do check my pressure the tires are always lower than what they should be. This is costing me extra in gas money.
So I've thought about buying a compressor and putting it into my garage to make checking and filling my tires more convenient. If the compressor costs $75, how long will it take for me to pay back the cost through gas savings? I'm not sure how our miles per gallon would increase with properly inflated tires (because I don't know when our tires currently lose pressure), but I can do some "what-if" analysis to see where the breakeven is. Here are some options that impact our family (using my car alone -- my wife drives a very fuel-efficient car where the impact is negligible):
- If we save three miles per gallon and gas costs $2.50 per gallon, we pay back the $75 cost of the compressor in 3,500 miles.
- If we save two miles per gallon and gas costs $2.50 per gallon, we pay back the $75 cost of the compressor in 5,300 miles.
- If we save one mile per gallon and gas costs $2.50 per gallon, we pay back the $75 cost of the compressor in 11,250 miles.
Even by only saving one mile per gallon, I will pay for the compressor in less than a year! Plus, I'll get some savings from my wife's car and it will make filling up soccer balls, bike tires, and the like much easier. This seems like a no-brainer to me.