How to Recession-Proof Your Car

Here are tips to help you save money on your car if you're worried about a recession.
Whitney Vandiver
By Whitney Vandiver 
Edited by Julie Myhre-Nunes

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Nothing spurs a closer look at your budget like fear of a recession — and for many Americans, cars eat up a big chunk of their funds. According to AAA, the average American will pay $1,062 more in 2022 to own and operate a new car than they did in 2021. These expenses include gas, maintenance, insurance and tire costs.

But just because the cost of owning a car is rising doesn’t mean you have to pay more out of pocket. Here are some tips to recession-proof your car to save on every drive.

Pay less for auto insurance

Combine your auto and home insurance coverage. Bundling insurance policies often saves you money on your premiums. While the discount varies from one provider to the next, you could save as much as 20%, according to a 2022 Progressive survey.

Ask about discounts. Some insurance providers offer discounts, and not all of them relate to driving. Examples include being claims-free, low annual mileage and even good grades for younger drivers. Talk with your provider to see if you qualify for any discounts.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Some insurers will work with you to allow different forms of proof of qualification for a discount. For example, you might be able to show standardized test scores for home-schooled dependents to receive a discount for good grades.

Consider a higher deductible. It’s common for monthly premiums to go down as the deductible goes up. Do the math to see if raising your deductible by $250 or $500 would save you money each month. Remember that you’ll need to pay toward your deductible if your car is damaged and your insurer is covering the repairs.

Get quotes from other insurers. A different company might be able to provide you with the same coverage for less money. Shop around for auto insurance to see what rates you qualify for, especially if your current insurer has raised your rates over the past few years.

Save money on car maintenance

Know what’s covered by your warranty. If your vehicle is under warranty, educate yourself on what’s covered to avoid paying out of pocket for maintenance or work that should be free.

🤓Nerdy Tip

You're legally allowed to have non-dealership auto shops perform maintenance on your vehicle without endangering your warranty coverage. But you’ll need to use an authorized shop — ask your dealership for a list — to have the warranty cover the cost.

Get quotes on any maintenance or repair work. Don’t go with the first quote from the closest auto shop if you’re not certain it’s a good deal. Shop around to see if a different auto shop can do good work at a better price. And ask to see an itemized estimate before letting an auto shop begin work.

Do simpler maintenance yourself. If you’re up for it, consider doing some car maintenance on your own. A quick search of YouTube or TikTok can turn up videos to explain how to safely do things like change the oil, change a tire or swap out air filters.

Buy approved aftermarket parts. Aftermarket parts are made and sold by a company other than the manufacturer of your car. They're often cheaper than original manufacturer equipment. If they're approved replacement parts, they usually won’t affect your warranty. However, if they're not approved, aftermarket parts could void your warranty, which can cost you more later on. So do your research first to find approved parts.

Buy your own parts. Some auto shops will let you purchase your own replacement parts to save on the markup you'd pay if purchasing straight from them. However, not all shops allow this, and providing your own parts usually means the auto shop won't warranty the replacement parts.

Reduce the cost of driving

Obey the law. Tickets are one of the fastest ways to increase the cost of driving a car. And traffic violations can cause your insurance provider to raise your rates. Watch your speed, use your blinkers and avoid parking in loading zones to minimize your chances of having to pay a fine.

Watch your fuel usage. Driving habits like revving your engine, slamming on the brakes and idling for extended periods of time will burn up gas more quickly. Look for ways to reduce your gas consumption, such as using cruise control, to save money.

Find ways to save on gas. You can employ several strategies to save money on gasoline, including searching for the lowest prices in your area with an app, using rewards credit cards and paying with cash to get a discounted price.

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