9 Ways to Make Owning a Car More Affordable
Owning a car is expensive no matter what make or model you own. There are many hidden costs beyond just the price of the car – insurance, taxes, inspections, repairs, accessories, and more.
While having a car might never be cheap, following these tips to avoid making car ownership more expensive on yourself.
Research Before Buying
Before you lock yourself into a car and a loan for years, find out what you’re getting yourself into by researching specific models.
Not every car costs the same to maintain. Some models are notorious for having mechanical problems, while others have a great reputation of costing little in upkeep.
Edmunds.com has a guide to finding the true cost to own so you’ll have a better idea of what some of the projected hidden costs might be on cars that otherwise seem similar in design and price.
Prepare To Negotiate
While haggling with a salesman might not be something you’re excited to do, it’s worse to find out later that you paid much more than you should have for a new car.
Instead, go in strong to the negotiation process with the dealer. Arm yourself with research ahead of time. Find out what others are paying for your desired car to help you make a reasonable offer. If you’re uncomfortable with negotiating on your own, bring someone with you that knows what they’re doing. Of course, never sign anything if you’re confused or unsure about the terms.
Stay Within Your Budget
When you’re searching for a car to buy, know your budget ahead of time.
If you’re paying cash, you’ll know you’re limited by what you have available to spend. Just don’t forget about other fees like licensing, registration, taxes, and inspections that you’ll have to pay up-front.
If you’re financing your purchase, look long and hard at your budget to figure out what monthly payment you can really afford. It helps to calculate the true cost of the car including interest, too. You’ll likely be dealing payments for years, so don’t set yourself up for disappointment later by letting a car salesman talk you into more car than you can afford.
Go For High MPG
There are many cars that get over 30 miles per gallon (mpg), and some hybrids even surpass 50 mpg. While the initial cost of these cars might be a little higher, it often helps in the long run to save on the gas.
Use a hybrid car calculator to determine your actual savings as well as compare break-even points for having a hybrid versus non-hybrid. It’s impossible to know what gas prices will be in the future, but the upward trend means owning a car that gets higher mpg will help insulate from the increased costs.
Keep Up With Maintenance
Maintaining your car might be a pain, but it’s helpful for keeping it in good shape as well as preventing breakdowns and major repairs that will be costly.
Follow your car manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. This will give you a good indication of when things need to be replaced. Don’t wait for a lube shop mechanic to claim that you need a new air filter and engine coolant. Oftentimes cars don’t need the frequent maintainence that repair shops claim they need, so do your best to understand when maintenance is needed and when you’re dealing with a sales routine.
Find a Trusted Mechanic
It seems like everyone has a horror story of being ripped off at the car repair shop. While many of us might still be bitter over past experiences, there are honest mechanics out there that will sell you only what you really need.
If you don’t already have a trusted mechanic to rely on, ask around for personal referrals from friends, family, or coworkers. You can also check for reviews online on sites like Yelp or Car Talk’s database to see if others have good or bad things to say about that particular location.
Keep Cheap Insurance
When you first buy a car, you should spend time selecting a policy that fits your needs. While researching and choosing the right plan from the start is great, you need to adjust your coverage later. Don’t just assume you’re going to stay with the same policy forever.
Financing a car may mean that you’re required to maintain certain levels of insurance by your lender, but you might want to lower coverage later. Once your car gets older, there’s less reason to insure against damage to your vehicle since any accident could mean buying a new car anyway.
It’s best to shop around and compare car insurance prices about once a year. These days, it’s easy to get a quote on the internet, and you might be able to save a few hundred dollars by switching companies with just a few minutes of work.
Don’t Drive It Alone
Carpooling whenever possible is a great way to save on gas and save the earth at the same time.
Find someone to share you ride in your office or neighborhood or you can find potential car-mates on Craigslist or Zimride. You might be able to recoup some or all of your gas costs used to travel to and from work.
Learn to Love Older Cars
Buying a new car is expensive, but it makes more financial sense the longer you keep it. Buying a new car and owning it only a few years means you’ll see the greatest amounts on the depreciation on the car. Besides, why stay in the cycle of making car loan payments?
To get good value, you need to keep the car into its later years. Most cars are capable of lasting well over 100,000 miles, meaning the average driver can go at least 8 years before replacing a car. The longer you can go, the more you’ll be able to save and spend on a new car or something else you’ll enjoy.
There are never any guarantees that owning a car will cost what you think it will. But your decisions on how you own your car will always have an impact on how expensive a car is in your life.