For many people, their car is their second largest expense after their home. Not only does it take a significant investment upfront in the form of a down payment, but a car is an ongoing expense that will impact your bank balance every month. From monthly payments and insurance to maintenance and the rising cost of gas, your car expenses can start to feel overwhelming. To help save your sanity – and your bank balance – take a look at these eight tips to save money on your car expenses.
When you’re buying a car
- Beware of added costs. If you’ve bought a car before, you know that the grand total on your invoice can come as a bit of a shock. In addition to the cost of the vehicle and taxes, you’ll see a list of other charges you might not have planned for. In Ontario, the Ontario Motor Vehicle Council has regulations in place to protect consumers, requiring car manufacturers to advertise prices that take into account added fees, including freight, administration and pre-delivery inspection, to name a few. Buyers should still beware, though, in an undercover investigation 17 out of 20 dealerships failed to comply with these regulations, with some dealers charging $3000 more than advertised.
- Consider other expenses. Even if you’re leaving the dealership having paid what you expected, your bank account will take a hit if you haven’t budgeted for all the expenses that come with car ownership. Before you decide on your ideal price point, factor in paying for gas, car insurance and regular maintenance. If you’re wondering what that looks like, the average Canadian pays $1000 a year in gas, $1000 a year in maintenance and $930 a year in insurance (although that could be higher or lower depending on where you live). Adding these numbers to your budget will give you a more realistic idea of what you’ll be paying for your car each month.
When You’re Signing Up for Insurance
- Shop Around. All insurance is not created equal! You’ll be surprised to find that the same car will receive different quotes from different auto insurers. To make sure you’re getting the best deal, you’ll want to shop around for a few different quotes, something you can easily do online. This isn’t a one-time deal, either. Repeat your research each year when it’s time to renew, or when you hit another milestone, such as moving, getting married, or adding a teen driver to your policy.
- Ask about discounts. When you’re doing your research on insurance, be sure to ask about discounts – you might find some added areas to save money. For example, if your teen driver gets top grades, you could see a reduction in your rate! In Ontario, you’ll likely qualify for a discount if you install winter tires.
Taking Care of Your Car
- Stick to a regular maintenance schedule. Don’t skip out on your regular oil changes because you want to save money; you’ll just end up paying more in the long run. If your engine is well taken care of, you’ll burn less fuel and you’ll be preventing small problems from becoming bigger and more expensive in the future.Each car is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all schedule. Instead, check out your owner’s manual for a timeline of what needs to be done and when.
- Become your own mechanic. If you have a little bit of confidence and knowledge, you can handle some of that maintenance yourself. Easy jobs you might want to give a try include replacing your air filter, windshield wipers or headlights. Again, your owner’s manual will have details on what materials you’ll need, and a quick YouTube tutorial can walk you through the process.
- Stop idling. According to Natural Resources Canada, ten minutes of idling uses up to half a litre of fuel. And if you think it takes more fuel to start your car than to idle for a few minutes, think again: idling your vehicle for 10 seconds actually uses more gas than restarting the car. So turn off the car while you’re waiting for your spouse to run in the store and save some money on gas.
- Take advantage of loyalty programs. Unless you have a fully electric car, you’re going to be paying for gas. If that’s the case, why not rack up some rewards while you’re paying at the pump? Many gas stations have loyalty programs and while you might not earn enough points to fly to Italy, you might have enough to score a gift card or save the next time you go to fill up.
If you’re feeling the financial squeeze from owning a car, hopefully these tips will help you shave some money off of your monthly expenses and leave some breathing room in your bank account.