Gas and finance charges dropped between 2014 and 2015, according to AAA, and with them, your cost of car ownership. On average, it costs $8,698 annually to cover gas, maintenance, insurance and other common car expenses. But with good driving habits and a bit of DIY maintenance, you can reduce your annual costs. Here's how.
1. Drive Safely — No, Really
Stay calm and drive on. Sounds easy, but wait until you're running late for an appointment. Avoid aggressive driving tactics like hard braking, speeding and rapid acceleration to improve your gas mileage by up to 33 percent and save up to $477 yearly, according to calculations from Time.
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2. Change Your Oil Less Frequently
No, you don't need to change your oil every 3,000 miles. That rule of thumb no longer applies to most cars on the road, according to CalRecycle. In fact, certain models can go up to 15,000 miles without needing an oil change. Check manufacturer recommendations and adjust your oil change schedule.
3. Buy Gas From the Little Guys
Don’t pass up off-brand gas stations. Just because the logo doesn’t look familiar doesn’t mean the savings aren’t legit. Many indie gas stations buy gas from name-brand oil companies, so you’re often getting the same gas for less money.
4. Get Pay-As-You-Drive Insurance
If you're not often on the road, pay-as-you-drive insurance could be a boon to your annual budget. It’s not for everyone, but some low-mileage drivers save in excess of 30 percent annually.
5. Ditch the Premium Gas, If You Can
You might be overpaying for gas. Check your owner's manual to see if your car runs just fine on regular-grade fuel. If it does, skip the premium octane and save up to 20 cents per gallon.
6. Buy the Right Motor Oil
Spring for the right motor oil. While you can usually go regular on gas, always abide by your car manufacturer’s oil grade recommendations. The wrong oil can lead to more friction, which leads to lower gas mileage.
7. Write Off Your Car Expenses
If you use your car for business, don't forget to file a tax deduction for car costs next year.
8. Comparison Shop Gas Prices
Whether you’re on iOS or Android, free apps like Gas Buddy, Gas Guru and Waze can help you find the best gas prices around. Just don’t comparison shop while you drive.
9. Don’t Buy Additives
Skip the snake oil. Fuel line magnets and magical liquid “enhancers” typically don’t work as advertised. Those that do provide insignificant benefits. Those that don’t can even harm your engine.
10. Pick Up Teen Driver Discounts
Insuring teenagers is terribly expensive. When your kid is ready to take the wheel, don’t hesitate to ask your insurer about available discounts. Good report cards, low annual mileage and driver safety education courses can lower rates.
11. And Ask About Other Discounts
Teens aren’t the only ones qualifying for driver discounts. Ask your insurer about potential discounts, such as for anti-theft devices, customer loyalty and clean driving records.
12. Kick It Into Overdrive
Overdrive is the highest gear on your transmission, and it can improve fuel economy when you're on the road. If you're on a road trip, or traffic is flowing especially well from work, switch on your cruise control to save gas.
13. Wax On, Wax Off
Ask yourself: Would you rather pay $5 to $10 on car wax or upwards of $1,000 to repaint your car? Keep the elements from damaging your paint by waxing every two to three months.
14. Behave and Prosper
Reap rewards for good behavior. Ask your insurer if they offer devices that monitor your driving habits. If you’re a consistently safe driver, you can save hundreds annually.
15. Dial Back the Air Conditioner
If it's a cool day out, keep your air conditioner off to cut fuel costs by 13 to 21 percent, reported the California Energy Commission.
16. Roll Down Your Windows
If you have the air conditioner off, roll down your windows. If you're worried about wind drag reducing your fuel economy — fear not. Even at 65 mph, rolling down your windows won’t suck up your gas, according to Consumer Reports.
17. Do Your Own Maintenance
Rotate those tires yourself. In addition to potential savings of hundreds of dollars per year, you’ll get the perks of better gas mileage and the confidence-boosting satisfaction of DIY maintenance.
18. Explore Insurance Options
Start the year off with fresh car insurance quotes. Changing insurance can be a hassle, but it can save you $388 per year — the average amount people saved when they switched providers in 2015, according to J.D. Power.
19. Clean Up Your Credit Report
Believe it or not, your credit report can affect your car insurance rates. Insurers pick through your credit history to determine whether you're more liable to file a claim. So, check in with your report and make sure any errors are swiped from the record.
20. Don’t Let Your Car Idle
If you have a habit of chilling in your car, you might want to find another place to sit. A study by the Argonne National Laboratory found that idling uses up to a half-gallon of gas per hour, and Americans waste approximately six billion gallons of fuel each year. That amounts to annual losses of $21 billion.
21. Inflate Your Tires
Stay pumped. By keeping your tires inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure, you reap the combined benefits of improved gas mileage and less tire wear.
22. Bundle Your Insurance
Time to bundle up. Save an average of 8 percent annually by picking up home and auto insurance with the same provider. That amounts to savings of about $97, according to Consumer Reports.
23. Take It Slow
Cruise into savings — to the tune of about $200 a year — by capping your cruise control at 50 mph. As you go over that magic number, your fuel efficiency starts to tank rapidly.
24. Wiper Blades Need Love, Too
Clean your wiper blades with a wet paper towel regularly. Wiper blades have a short shelf life, but keeping them clean keeps them wiping longer.
25. Skip the Transmission Flush
Don’t flush. That’s not advice you hear often, but in this case, dodging the upsell could save you between $125 and $250.
26. Estimate Repair Costs
When you need a new timing belt, or your automatic windows stop being so automatic, use sites like Repair Pal to find fair pricing on repairs.
27. Reap Credit Card Rewards
Swipe for savings at the pump. Find the best rewards credit cards to get cash back every time you fill up.
28. Don’t File a Claim
If you’re looking at a minor fender bender, do a little math before you file a claim. InsuranceQuotes.com found that, on average, one at-fault claim of $2,000 or more can lead to a premium spike of 41 percent. You might be able to repair his and your car for less.
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29. Cut Back on Clutter
Lighten your load and steer clear of storing things on your roof rack — a habit that encourages efficiency-reducing wind drag. Emptying your trunk or hatch of unnecessary heavy loads can also boost your fuel economy.
30. Reduce Your Coverage
It’s hard to let your car go after you’ve spent 10 years in the driver’s seat and named her “Lucy,” but once your baby is worth less than the cost to repair it after an accident, it's time to say goodbye.