In the second of our New Year's Resolutions series, we'll explore how you can save money in the new year with your car. Unfortunately, new year's resolutions about money often make people think they are forced to make difficult choices: do you pay down your existing debt or finally get that check engine light looked at? These choices are a result of the common dilemma of more money now or more money later. As people, it's typically too difficult to think in the long term, even when long term choices are the better ones; gratification now is usually preferred, even if it means more work later. The good news is that saving money all year can be both a short term and long term resolution, even when it comes to your car.
- Perform regular maintenance: We'll start off with an obvious tip. Regular car maintenance means two very important money saving things: one, that your car will stay in top shape longer, requiring fewer and less expensive repairs over the course of its life, and two you'll catch problems before they turn into expensive repairs. While this does mean spending regular money on your car, perhaps money that you'd rather use for other necessities, there are ways to perform regular car maintenance and also save money. First, read up on your car's manual and know exactly when you need to have services performed, like oil changes and interval services. Most cars do not need an oil change every 3 months or 3,000 miles, but it's up to you to know when your car needs one (and to stop wasting oil and money!). In fact, getting an oil change when your car actually needs it is better in the long run, and it saves you money. Service intervals, such as those tune-ups performed every 30,000 miles, are still an excellent way to keep your car in great condition and learn about any issues you might face down the road. The same goes for things like tires and air filters: a little money now on things your car needs anyway will save you later - and not just money, but stress and time, too.
- Determine your monthly car expenses: Owning a car is no cheap luxury, even if you drive an old jalopy. Between the money you pay for the car itself (though loan or purchase), the interest and down payment, gas, maintenance, and unexpected repairs, you could be spending hundreds of dollars every month on your transportation. Take a realistic look at your expenses this month: factor in your car payment, your monthly gas needs, and break down your expected maintenance costs by month. Then, add 10-20% for unexpected costs, like a hit and run in a parking lot that leaves you with a dented bumper or a rock that spider cracks your windshield, and you'll have a reliable monthly car cost. Knowing exactly how much you're spending on your current car can help you make decisions about it in the future. If you've been contemplating trading up, maybe you'll find that it's worth it in the long run.
- Learn the best times to buy for your car: Take advantage of sales and discounts provided by your dealer and auto repair shop. We have a dedicated page on our website for auto repair monthly specials and on occasion post exclusive car discounts on Yelp and other websites. If you do our first tip and know when you need things like oil changes and new tires you can start looking for sales and coupons ahead of time and save lots of money. Waiting until the last second often means paying full price. You can also take advantage of mailers sent right to your inbox: trading your email for discounts you won't find anywhere else (along with the occasional tip) seems like a fair trade. (Hint: check the Convoy Auto Repair website for this opportunity!)
- Get the best deal: Whether it's buying a car or selling an old one, not getting the best deal can be a major regret. When it's time to sell your old car get an honest appraisal of it before putting it on the market or trading it in. Kelly Blue Book offers the most comprehensive and widely accepted metric, but it's up to you to determine if your car is in fair, good, or new condition. Keep in mind what an honest amount is when you're haggling: if you turn down a low or fair offer because you think you can get more for it, you might get stuck paying for costs associated with the car longer than you want. When buying a car, either new or used, know both your overall budget and what you can comfortably spend on a monthly payment before getting into haggles with salesmen. Knowing these figures before you step onto a sales floor can prevent you from falling in love with more car than you can afford and regretting your purchase later. By using Tip #3 you can also research the best time to buy and sell a car, especially if you're flexible. If you're buying a pre-owned car it's a good idea to take the car to a trusted auto repair shop to make sure it's in the condition you paid for.
Read how take better care of your car in our first New Year's Resolution post, and why you should take a vacation in the rest of our series. Image courtesy of Edmunds.com