So, you are thinking about getting a car, but you want to make sure it doesn’t sap more money out of your budget than you are willing to part with?

You love your frugal lifestyle and you want to apply your frugality to your new car investment?

Owning a car can feel so liberating. You just jump in and can be anywhere without having to check for bus schedules, train delays or smelling your neighbor sitting next to you on the subway.

For some, the car becomes an extension of the home. We can spend so much time in it that it feels safe and homey. But we may lose sight of all the extra expenses that go into having one.

Below I have listed 11 ways to keep in mind when buying and keeping a car that can save you some money. 

1. Buy a Used Car

When you buy a brand new car, it is a known fact that as soon as you drive off the dealership parking lot the value of the car has decreased and you have already lost money, most likely a few thousand dollars.

So, instead of investing in a brand new car, think about buying a used one that is between 2-5 years old.

It won’t have that new car smell anymore, but it will still be robust enough to get quite a lot of years out of it with proper maintenance and care.

2. Consider Leasing

I know, a lot of people don’t like the idea of signing a contract that binds them to monthly payments plus interest rates.

But here is the thing, sometimes dealerships have decent promotions and if you stick to the regular model without any extra fluff that would look good, but doesn’t really add anything to its performance, it can be worth a consideration.

You will have your leased car for an agreed upon time, between 2-5 years, after the contract is fulfilled you have the option to either extend the agreement, buy the car or trade it in for a different one.

Plus, with a lease agreement maintenance work such as oil change, tire rotation etc might be included. 

If you decided to trade your current leased car for another one, the dealership would take the car back and sell it as a used model.

So, in the interest of the dealership making as much money as possible from the sale of your previously leased car, they want it to stay in good condition.

But before you jump into signing any agreement, do your research thoroughly and take a good look at your finances and what you can afford.

3. Do Your Research

This is an important one.

As with all big investments it is crucial to do your research. I’m going to talk about a handful of topics that require your keen eye for detail.

Firstly, what car model and brand gives you the best bank for your buck? I’m talking about gas mileage, insurance pricing, maintenance, reliability, replacement parts.

Secondly, research the dealership you are considering for your car purchase. What are their current promotions? Have you heard or read good things about them?

The same goes for used car dealerships or even private sellers. Do as much research as you can do beforehand to help you save money and frustrations in the long run.

Thirdly, are there any good mechanics in your general area that you would trust your car with? Have you heard good things about one in particular from your friends or family members?

What do those Yelp and Google reviews say about the mechanic? It’s good to know where you need to go in case something happens before it actually happens. Stress and time pressure can lead to rushed decisions that could cost you dearly in the end.

4. Consider Maintenance Costs

Once you have purchased your car, the maintenance part comes into play.

Maintenance starts with reading your car’s manual. I know, who has time to read technical jargon when one can watch the newest episode of their favourite show or read an interesting book?

 I never used to read any manual and then I would find out the cool stuff this electronic device I have had for years can do. On top of that, the manual would advise me to clean the device every few months.

Well, if I had done that from the beginning, it would have lasted a lot longer and would have been a lot more reliable.

What I’m trying to say here is that the user’s manual is your friend. It tells you how to take care of your car and how to get to know your car.

Once you know what your car is capable of, it becomes a lot easier to tune into any problems it might have that could end up costly when ignored.

5. Be Vigilant

This point goes hand in hand with the previous one, to read your car’s manual.

Now you know what to pay attention to in order to avoid getting stranded in the middle of a country road…during a snowstorm….without cell phone service.

Is this funny smell your car emits whenever you start the AC normal or does it hint to something that could damage your car’s condensing coil is about to go bust.

And who has ever had a transmission belt not only break, but split lengthwise and then coil itself around one of the rotating shafts? I have and for some reason the car still drove, but made a funny noise and took some time getting started.

Get in tune and in touch with your car. Get a feeling and know-how for its inner workings and pay attention to any anomalies.

6. Do it Yourself

Every season, growing up my father would change the tires on his car himself and I would watch and help.

Instead of bringing the car into the shop he did it himself and saved some money. In the process he taught his daughter how to change a tire, if there ever was a need.

If you think you can manage changing the seasonal tires on your car yourself, do it. You may have to dedicate a morning or afternoon of your weekend, but you save money.

The same goes for oil checks, oil change, checking the pressure in the tires, etc. relatively small jobs that can be easily learned and done yourself are a great way to save some money on your car maintenance.

Or perhaps you have a neighbour/friend/family member who would be more than willing to help out in exchange for some quality time spent together.

The important thing to keep in mind is not to be too overconfident, do your research and admit when you need help. You don’t want to cause any problem or damage to your car as you try to do the exact opposite: keep it from breaking down on you.

7. Be Environmentally Friendly

Let’s face it, we haven’t really been that kind to our planet, pumping exhaust fumes into the air for more than 100 years.

Cut down on your carbon footprint by biking to work, if it is not too far from your home. Take public transportation.

Just the other day I heard a story of how all of my husband’s colleagues take the train to work, but drive the ten minutes from their house to the train station in their cars and then complain about not enough parking spaces at the train station.

I don’t get it. Most major cities have a decent public transportation system. And to be honest it really doesn’t matter, if you complain about the lack of parking space or if you complain about not finding a seat on the bus for the ten-minute ride.

The upside of taking the bus is you don’t have to focus on the road; you can read, maybe get some work done already and just stare out the window willing the day to be Friday.

If the above suggested is not an option, then find out if any of your colleagues live near you. You might be able to carpool. With one other person you cut your gas spending getting to work in half and you don’t have to drive every day, if you are swapping back and forth.

With three or more people carpooling together you can save even more.

8. Keep a Good Driving Record

With a good driving record you can save money on your car insurance. Most insurance companies give the first-time “offences” such as an accident or ticket a pass, but it will be noted on your record. If you then get into another accident or get another ticket, your insurance will increase drastically.

With a good driving record and you also save money by not having to pay any repairs. The insurance may cover most of it, but some is left to be paid out of your pocket.

And to be quite honest, it is always imperative to be an attentive and diligent driver. You may not get hurt in an accident, but someone else might.

9. Combine Insurance

Talking a little bit more about insurance, it pays to shop around for insurance and check if the insurance you have for your house offers bundles. 

You have seen the insurance commercials on TV that bundle home, auto and life insurance policies.

If you don’t own a house and only rent an apartment, options might still be available as you would need renter’s insurance.

As the theme of this article is: do your research and see what works best for you and gets you the most bank for your buck.

10. Become a One-Car Family

In the suburbs it is highly common for one family to have two cars. It has been a sort of tradition for as long as I can remember.

Nowadays with working from home having become such a valid option, it makes that second car almost unneeded.

Take stock of how much your family is actually using the second car and figure out a schedule that could work for everyone using only one car.

When a second ride is really needed, the local cab company, Uber and Lyft are some frugal options. A $50-ride may sound like a lot for one trip, but it is still more economical than having to pay for the second car, gas, insurance and maintenance on a regular basis.

11. Make Economical Trips

It is really convenient to jump in your car to pick up some milk from the grocery store that is a 10-minute walk away. It saves time, right.

And it’s also really easy to pop into the store right after work to quickly pick up the moisturizer you are running low on.

But here is the thing: the stop and go of using your car for such small trips and perhaps being stuck in rush hour traffic wastes more gas and emissions than when you make one well-planned out trip during a time when it is not as busy.

Pick a day and time when you can make a big shopping list and get all your errands done. It’ll save you time, money and nerves (you might be more rested when you are not in a hurry right after work). And then you are done for the week and don’t have to worry about your shopping anymore.

Sometimes it is also check out those online deals. With amazon subscription you can save up to 15% on your monthly paper towel and razor blade needs and shipping is usually free. 

If you go through a coupon website such as Rakuten, you get cashback for your online purchases. 

So, you are not only saving on gas, time and maybe that dire stop at the coffee shop halfway through running your errands, but you might also get some money in return for doing your shopping at home…in your pyjamas.

Final Thoughts

Who doesn’t like the convenience of owning a car. It can give you the freedom to go anywhere. Sadly, those options become a lot more limited, if you are stuck paying more for your car needs than you have anticipated.

Your car should be a resource and tool to make your life a bit more organized and manageable, but not add more stress.

The tips listed above are there to help you on your path to keeping your car and embracing your frugal lifestyle, because who of us really has money to waste?

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