5 Tips for Money-Smart Car Care

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Money Saving Tips for Careful Car Care

So you got a fantastic deal on that car.  You made the tough choices: new or used? Lease or buy? You’ve been careful about your credit, so you found a car loan that fits your budget. You’re off to a great start. Here are some tips for keeping your wheels on the smart-money highway:

1. Find a good mechanic and become a loyal customer. Ask around. Or check out resources like Car Talk’s The Mechanics Files, with a database of thousands of local mechanics with reviews. When you find a good service technician, be faithful about routine maintenance like oil changes, tire rotations, 30,000-mile maintenance, and so on. Routine maintenance costs, but it will help you avoid bigger expenses “down the road.”

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2.  Get better gas mileage. You can do this in dozens of ways. Consumer Reports has studied what works and what doesn’t.  Some examples of easy things you can do to reduce what you spend at the pump:  keep your tires properly inflated and drive at moderate speeds. Avoid jackrabbit starts and stops. And don’t let your engine idle for long periods. When you do, you’re burning gas at zero miles per gallon!

3. Do it yourself.  Up to a point. Today’s vehicles aren’t easy for owners to maintain, but you can still trim some costs. Your owner’s manual will tell you what you can do yourself to keep your car in top running order. It’s easy to check tire pressure and monitor fluid levels under the hood. Replenish tire air and brake, coolant, steering, and transmission fluids yourself at low cost to keep your car running smoothly.

4.  Pay attention to what your car is trying to tell you. Is it making strange noises?  Is the “check engine” light on?  Does the steering feel different? Resist the temptation to ignore symptoms. Fixing problems early is usually cheaper than waiting until the car dies on the highway. When in doubt, ask that trustworthy mechanic you found, who will tell you what can wait and what needs to be fixed right now.

5.  Don’t drive…as much. Even if you live in suburbia, where sliding behind the wheel is a way of life, you can reduce the number of miles you drive. Bundling errands together, planning efficient routes, walking or biking when reasonable, car-pooling, using public transportation—all of these can reduce wear and tear on your car, extend the time between routine maintenance visits to the shop, and cut your fuel bill.

Your automotive budget is only part of the picture.  Being budget-savvy means getting the most for your money in the big things like home loans as well as paying attention to your credit reports and using credit wisely. Check out great consumer sites like Quizzle.com that give you a free credit report and score, and help you keep your financial health running as smoothly as your car.

[Check Your Credit: Don’t Guess. Know.® Get your free credit report and score. No credit card required.

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