I, like many city dwellers have battled with the idea of getting a car to go away for the weekends, for general convenience or for those lazy days where you need to rush to work. But the fear of huge running costs, from parking tickets to cleaning to insurance has made me become a casual car renter.
Like any savvy consumer I kept track of the costs and over the last year it has cost me over $3,000 in rentals–suddenly my casual car renting didn’t seem so casual anymore. After some quick math and with the help of some online tools I calculated that it would actually be cheaper for me to buy a car, but only if I stick to the following tips:
1. Calculate – The biggest tip I can give you is to do your research before purchasing a car. Obviously new cars depreciate the fastest. Try searching for a total car cost calculator for the cars you are interested in and compare the lifetime costs, to choose the most cost effective vehicle. As not all cars depreciate the same (depreciation accounts for about 50% of the lifetime ownership costs), use the same amount of gas or are as reliable as each other. With today’s gas prices it seems that we all need to be thinking smaller, not bigger. This kind of research is just plain smart;
2. Insurance – Nowadays insurance companies are giving hefty discounts for multiple policies, so a quick tip is to check with your home insurer and see what rate they offer, but always get at least 3 quotes before committing;
3. Reduce fuel costs – I mentioned choosing a smaller car earlier, but there are other interesting ways to save on gas. One of my favorites comes in the form of an App called Gas Buddy, it will help you find the cheapest gas station wherever you happen to be;
4. Do it yourself – Thanks to the internet (and especially video sharing websites) there are a ton of online tutorials on how to perform basic car repairs like changing a headlight or oil. Some of the instructions are so step-by-step fantastic they are almost foolproof. A great way to save on car parts is to look for online coupons to get discounts or to get refurbished parts (roughly half the price);
5. Regular servicing – Unlike the above you will need to go to a mechanic for this one. But a well tuned and smoothly running vehicle can save hundreds of dollars a year on gas and make your engine last years longer, even something as simple as having the correct tire pressure or cleaning the air filter (which you can do yourself) can have a huge impact, so take good care of your vehicle;
6. Take off that roof rack – According to studies an unused roof rack on a car can reduce efficiency by 5%, so unless you use it often, take it off and store it;
7. Control the way you drive – Modern cars don’t need to be warmed up before you drive them. Aggressive breaking and revving the engine puts unnecessary wear on a car and increases fuel consumption;
8. Buy, lease or rent – Investopedia has a great article to help those still debating which option to go for. Buying a car is not right for everyone, and no one likes to waste money;
9. Alternatives – You don’t always have to use a car just because you have one. If there is a train/bus/subway route that does the job it’s nearly always cheaper to take public transport. Cars are especially inefficient for city driving, and you don’t have to pay for parking with public transport;
9½. Car share (only half because it’s similar to the above) – There are car sharing schemes all over the country. But if you’re not a fan, simply offering rides to people on your daily commute may also get you some free rides in return, and hopefully some good conversation too.
Do you have any tips you would like to share? I’m eager to find more ways to save on running my car and helping the environment in the process.
Marc-Andre has a Canadian deals blog where he can be found looking for the latest online coupons and shares his secrets on being frugal.