By Alex Perdikis
Everyone knows †the cost of owning a car or several cars doesnít stop when you buy. Cars require fuel, maintenance and insurance to run efficiently and legally, none of which is cheap. Did you know you can save and still have an insured, well-maintained vehicle? Hereís how.
Maintain Your Way to Savings
Itís easy to get caught up in life and forget that in order to run well your car needs attention. Not only does a well-maintained car run more efficiently, it runs more economically as well. In fact, keeping up with routine maintenance can save you hundreds of dollars every year.
Follow these rules for optimal car maintenance:
- Keep your car tuned up. A tuned up car uses approximately 25 percent less gas than a poorly tuned vehicle. Poorly tuned cars are also more likely to require costly repairs down the road. Paying for a tuneup saves big time in the long run.
- Change your oil, but check your manual first. The old recommended standard was a 3,000 mile oil change, but newer vehicles are often built to go longer. Follow the instructions in your ownerís manual.
- Check the oil filter every month. Clean or replace the filter to optimize gas mileage.
- Only use premium gas only if your car requires it. If your car requires premium, by all means use it. Again, check the ownerís manual for your carís specific needs.
- Check fluid levels when you change the oil, including automatic transmission, power steering and brake fluid levels. Maintaining required fluid levels is an inexpensive way to avoid a costly repair later on.
- Make sure your tires are inflated to the proper pressure. Properly inflated tires are safer, improve gas mileage and last longer. And, speaking of tires, have them rotated and balanced once a year. Theyíll last longer.
How to Save Big on Gas
Gas prices are lower now than they were a few years ago. Thatís a welcome relief, but who knows how long lower prices will last? Even with lower prices, you canít say that gas is cheap. How can you cut down on your gas and save? Here are a few suggestions.
- Drive less. Youíre probably wondering how you can possibly drive less. You have to go to work, get groceries, transport the kids around and run errands, right? Yes, you do. But, have you considered running all of your errands in one trip instead of two or three? How about running your errands on your way home from work one evening? Is it possible for you to carpool with co-workers? Donít forget public transportation. If your city has a good system, perhaps you could use it a day or two a week to save. If you have kids who have to be taken to sporting or educational events, can you work with other parents and divide transportation duties? Driving less is not only great for the pocket book, itís also good for the environment.
- Donít warm your car up in the mornings longer than a minute. Todayís cars donít need long warm up times. You waste fuel if you idle your car longer.
- Buy your gas early or late in the day and early in the week. Believe it or not, you get more gas in the early morning or evening than you do midday because higher temps reduce gas density. Gas prices tend to moderate early in the week and rise midweek, so buy gas Monday or Tuesday and save.
- Keep your car adequately maintained. Routine maintenance keeps the engine running efficiently.
How to Save on Car Insurance
Car insurance is a necessity, but there are ways to lower costs. Your first step is to speak with your agent. If youíre a good driver, consider raising your deductible. Sure, youíll be responsible for a larger amount if an accident occurs, but could come out ahead if your record stays clean.
Go over your policy with your agent. Does your car have safety features that your agent isnít aware of? Ask about additional discounts for which you may be eligible. Some insurers offer discounts for non-smokers and non-drinkers and people with multiple accounts, such as a homeownerís policy.
Tip: ďIf your car is older and paid for, drop collision and comprehensive coverage for additional savings. Keep liability, however. Itís a legal requirement.Ē Ė Alex Perdikis
Drive safely and maintain your good driving record to keep your rates to a minimum.
You can cut down on insurance costs even if you have teenage drivers in the house. Many insurers offer discounts for kids who get good grades or who have taken safe driving courses. Also notify your insurer if your child goes to college and doesnít have the car. Premiums typically go down but the child is still covered during breaks at home.
Shop around and find the best auto insurance value for your money.
Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.