Make Owning a Car a Little Less Expensive With These Tips

A mother buckles her son in his booster seat.
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When it comes to wants and needs, having a car falls solidly in the needs category for most people.

You need to get to work. You need to go to the grocery store. You need to chauffeur your kids everywhere.

But just because your car’s a necessity doesn’t mean you have to accept high monthly payments that bust your budget. It doesn’t mean you have to fall deeper into debt each time you take it to the shop.

Here are several ways to save on cars so you’re not broke — or broke down.

FROM THE SAVE MONEY FORUM

Save on Cars — New or Used

According to the valuation analysts at Kelley Blue Book, the average cost of a new car was $38,393 in November 2019. Talk about sticker shock!

That doesn’t mean you can’t save money if your heart is stuck on something new. These tips on cutting costs on a model-year vehicle will have you basking in that new-car smell. Or if you choose to lease instead of buy, here are 12 tips to help you negotiate your car lease.

But you’ll almost always snag a better deal if you  purchase a used car instead of a brand new one. Our guide to buying a used car runs down the best time to buy and where you should shop — as well as what you should look out for when deciding which car is right for you.

When shopping around, don’t just check traditional dealerships. You might be able to snag a good deal from a car-buying website like Carvana or Vroom or at an auto auction.

Save on Cars by Saving Up

Give yourself time to save up for a car before your current vehicle is on its last legs. Figure out what you can comfortably afford, and put aside money each month in order to have a solid down payment — or enough to pay for the vehicle in full.

Pro Tip

Set up a sinking fund, a pool of money you contribute to over time, specifically to save up for your car purchase.

If you’re financing your car, limit your auto loan debt by taking steps like improving your credit score and getting an auto loan preapproval. 

Slash Regular Auto-Related Expenses

Owning a car involves a bunch of expenses aside from the purchase price. There’s gas, insurance, repairs and maintenance just to name a few. Finding ways to reduce these costs will give you more money to spend on the stuff you actually want to buy.

Joining a fuel rewards program, using a rewards credit card and filling up early in the week are just three of our 20 ways to save money on gas. Read the entire list to find out how changes to your driving habits and your car’s condition can lower how much you spend on fuel.

Having adequate car insurance is a must. Learn how to shop around for the best deal in this guide to buying car insurance.

If you plan to have your car for more than a year or two, chances are you’ll run into the need for repairs. At the very least, your car requires regular maintenance, like oil changes, to keep it running in good shape. 

Do minor auto maintenance jobs yourself to avoid paying a mechanic’s labor costs. If you lack vehicle know-how, DIY auto repair videos and a repair manual specific to your car’s make and model can help.

Of course, there will still be work you’ll want to leave up to the professionals. Budgeting and saving up for future maintenance and repairs will keep you from swiping your credit card at the auto shop — and paying more in interest over time. 

Nicole Dow is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.