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4 Savvy Strategies to Save Money on Car Expenses

Aug. 10, 2018
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Driving your car can bring you joy — and the freedom to go on road trips or see friends whenever you like — but paying for its upkeep can be a pain.

Cars are pricey to maintain: The average annual ownership costs are more than $8,400 for vehicles driven 15,000 miles a year.

To reduce the strain of car ownership on your finances, try these lesser-known ways to save on your car.

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1. Consult your owner’s manual

If you rarely look under the hood of your car, you might blindly follow every recommendation that the dealership’s mechanic makes. But that could be a mistake.

Your owner’s manual spells out everything you need to know, including your maintenance schedule, which tells you how often you should change your oil. Repair shops often recommend a more frequent maintenance schedule that will cost you more, so it’s generally best to stick to the schedule in your owner’s manual. (You can often find an online version of your car’s manual for free.)

» MORE: What’s wrong with my car? Diagnosing common problems

2. Look into mobile technicians

For straightforward car repairs, there are budget-friendly alternatives to auto repair shops. The next time you scratch your car or need replacement brake pads, look into a mobile mechanic who can come to you and fix your problem for less. For example, a paintless dent repair technician can fix a door ding for about a third of the cost of a body shop. Check out online reviews to make sure you’re working with someone reputable.

» MORE: 5 no-sweat solutions to save money on car fixes

3. Pick the right color (and finish)

Before you default to picking a car in your favorite color, consider how colors can influence the initial price and resale value of your vehicle. Cars in neutral colors (e.g., silver, white, black and gray) tend to retain more value than polarizing colors like purple and gold — by hundreds or even thousands of dollars. And brighter colors might be likelier to attract the attention of a traffic officer.

Additionally, what it takes to maintain or repair your car’s paint color and finish will vary depending on what you choose. Matte finish is notoriously expensive to fix, for example, as a small ding could require you to fix an entire panel.

4. Pay only for the miles you drive

If you tend to use your car only for the occasional errand or weekend trip, switching to a pay-per-mile auto insurance policy could help you save on monthly payments.

With Metromile, a San Francisco-based car insurance startup that offers policies in Arizona, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, you’d pay a base rate and a per-mile rate (a few cents per mile). Drivers in New Jersey, Oregon and Texas are eligible for MileWise, a pay-per-mile program from Allstate.

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