Transportation is one of the top five expenses of the average American household. In fact, you likely spend about 14 percent of your income on car expenses.
If you rely on a car, truck or other personal vehicle to commute to and from work, school or other important places, a large chunk of that money likely goes to a car payment, insurance, fuel and maintenance. However, you might be spending more than necessary on your ride.
Learning about everyday car expenses that are totally avoidable can help you hang on to more of your hard earned cash every month.
Everyone from an auto parts salesperson to your mechanic to a pump at the gas station may try to sell you additives for your fuel, oil or coolant. However, experts say that these additions are just a waste of money. Proper maintenance is more effective at keeping your vehicle running in top condition.
Car Wash Extras
Regularly washing your car keeps it looking clean and can even keep it in good condition longer. If you are up for a little physical exertion, you can scrub your ride in your own driveway for just pennies. However, if you prefer the drive-through car wash, you can still save by skipping the upgrades and sticking with the basic option.
If you financed your vehicle, then there’s a good chance the dealership talked you into adding on some sort of warranty or maintenance package. Consumer Reports says that most people never even use these warranties and that those who do rarely save more than they spend on the upgrade. You may be able to cancel an existing warranty or package and recoup some of your money or lower your car payment.
Frequent Oil Changes
A mechanic or dealership may recommend that you have your oil changed every three months or every 3,000 miles, whichever comes first. However, you can likely go much longer between oil changes with no problems whatsoever. Most modern vehicles are designed to go at least 7,500 miles between oil changes. Check your owner’s manual to find your car’s recommendations. This change can lower your car expenses and keep more money in your pocket.
When you purchase a vehicle, the dealer might offer to etch your VIN number onto your windows as an added security measure — for a few hundred bucks. Not only is it rare for an insurance company to offer a discount for this feature (which is what the salesperson may tell you), but you can purchase a kit online for around $20 and do it yourself.
If you commute in a busy city, you can rack up a hefty bill every month driving on toll roads. Google Maps has an option that allows you to avoid tolls during navigation. If toll roads are unavoidable, look into a toll pass to save on the expense.
If you haven’t shopped around for car insurance for a while, perhaps you should. Comparing prices at least once a year can result in notable savings. Even if your current policy offers the best rate, you may still be able to lower your payments by raising deductibles, dropping unneeded coverage or asking your agent about discounts.
The difference between regular and premium gasoline can be 20 cents per gallon, which adds up quickly. The good news is your vehicle probably doesn’t need this expensive upgrade. If you have a car that only requires regular-grade fuel, using premium will not improve its efficiency. Again, check your owner’s manual to be certain.
Subscription Satellite Radio
Satellite radio can cost close to $20.00 per month. Skip the subscription and find free ways to entertain yourself while you drive. Along with AM/FM radio or CDs, you can stream music or podcasts from your mobile device via Bluetooth, USB or AUX connection. Another option is to download free audiobooks. Why not save money and engage your brain while you commute?