Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Saving on Car Costs

When it comes to the cost of cars, people pay a lot of attention to the price they pay, their financing costs and the trade-in value they get. But the cost of owning a car can be as much or more than the cost of buying it. Maintenance and repairs can add greatly--or not--to your car budget. Insurance is also another major expense. An important way to reduce the costs of owning a car is to drive gently.

The harder you push a car, the faster it wears out. Charging down city and suburban streets as if you were driving in the Grand Prix puts a lot of wear and tear on the brakes, tires, transmission, and suspension. Drive the car gently, and the same items may last a lot longer. Take brakes. If you push the car hard, the brakes may need repairs every 30,000 miles, or maybe less. Drive the car gently, and the brakes may go 50,000 or 60,000 miles, or more, before needing work. If you put 100,000 miles on the car before you trade it in, hard driving could mean the expense of three brake jobs. Gentle driving may require paying for only one.

Tires offer similar savings. Properly inflated and rotated high quality tires, driven gently, may last 50,000 or 60,000 miles or more. The same tires on a car that's put through the paces every time you go to the grocery store may last only 25,000 or 30,000 miles--especially if you don't keep them properly inflated. If you drive the car for 100,000 miles before trading it in, you may have to buy two or three sets of replacement tires, or just one, depending on how you drive.

Suspension systems are vastly improved over the shock absorbers in the classics from the 1950s and 1960s. The shocks of that era might need replacement every 15,000 miles. Today's cars, with McPherson struts up front and better shocks in back, last much longer. Vehicles with rugged suspensions, like pickup trucks and SUVs with offroad capability, may, if driven gently, go 100,000 miles without needing suspension work.

Gentle driving also reduces the chances of accidents and tickets for moving violations, because you're likely to be going slower. That means a better driving record, which translates into lower insurance premiums.

Exhaust systems also last much longer than those of 40 years ago. Back in the days of the General Lee, a car might need a new exhaust system every 15,000 to 20,000 miles. Today, exhaust systems can have much greater longevity. Perhaps counterintuitively, it's a good idea to drive a car at least once every few days to prevent buildup of water condensation in the exhaust system. That will reduce the potential for rust, and help the exhaust system to last.

As for routine maintenance, do what the manufacturer recommends. This is especially important if the car is under original or extended warranty (which will require compliance with the manufacturer's maintenance recommendations). The manufacturer's maintenance schedule can often be found in the owner's manual; or maintenance work will be indicated when necessary by codes or lights on the instrument panel. However, be skeptical of routine maintenance the dealer recommends. Dealers make much larger profits from their service departments than from sales. They will push service managers to foist all kinds of unnecessary routine maintenance on unsuspecting customers. For example, fluid flushes (e.g., power steering or brake fluid) are frequently recommended when not needed. The time to listen to the dealer is when you have a specific problem you've asked the dealer to diagnose (and even then, be on guard).

When it comes to buying a new car, going through dealers' Internet Departments can be a money saver. See

No comments: