Car Ownership: Don’t Let Your Car Run Over Your Finances

  • December 7, 2018

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Car Ownership: Don't Let Your Car Run Over Your Finances

Let's face it:

Car ownership is rarely inexpensive.

It’s one of the priciest assets you will ever own -- and the second most common reason for taking out a loan, just behind buying a home.

However, that doesn’t mean you have to submit to the notion that it’s an all-consuming financial black hole.

There is plenty you can do to make sure you’re getting a good deal on the car, not just when you buy it but long after.

Today's contributed post highlights a few tips to make your auto a little lighter on your budget and limit the negative effects of car ownership.

Related articles on car ownership and money:

Make sure you get a good deal

The first step is to ensure that your credit is in as best shape as possible. Your credit score determines what financing options are available to you, among other factors. If you had bad credit, then you need to look at steps you can take for credit repair. Looking at your report and challenging any erroneous entries comes first. You may be penalized for things like defaulting on a loan that was never yours. From there, it’s all about taking the steps to responsibly use credit, such as using a credit card in a structured, thoughtful manner. It builds your reputation as a borrower, which can help you get better deals on your car.

Understand your priorities when it comes to car ownership

When you’re buying a car, what are you looking for? A drive that feels good and a car that can safely get you from A to B should be big factors in your choice. However, the running costs shouldn’t be too far behind those considerations, either. Check out Lifehacker.com for an example of running cost calculators you can use to see how much you can expect the car to cost you in the long-run. Running costs include not only fuel costs, but also the average cost of maintenance and repair for a car. For that reason, you want to look for vehicles that are not only fuel efficient in the environment you plan on driving them, but also reliable so they don’t require you to spend quite as often on fixes.

Buy used (with a difference)

Buying a used car is an easy way to ensure that you’re paying less for the vehicle than you would if it was brand new. However, some people are rightfully skeptical of the used car market and want to make sure they’re not driving home with a lemon. Certified pre-owned cars might be just the middle ground you’re looking for. You can look at sites like WCVolvoCars.com for more specific examples of what this is, but in general, it means that the car has gone through a series of inspections and checks to ensure it meets a certain standard. You should know what those standards are before you buy any certified pre-owned car but it’s a way of buying used that ensures that you’re not buying something that’s low quality.

Fueling your savings

Keeping your car well-fed, when it comes to fuel, means paying out on a regular basis. The fuel efficiency of the car can play a big role in determining how much exactly you can expect to spend on fuel, but it’s not the only factor. Your own driving habits play a role, too. For instance, accelerating and decelerating too quickly drains your fuel more quickly, too. Idling also wastes fuel. Apps like Fuel.io can help you measure your fuel use, so you can start implementing new driving habits and see just how much they’re saving you in gallons.

Do maintenance the right way

No level of maintenance beats the occasional visit to the mechanic, which you definitely need, especially to keep up with that logbook. However, that doesn’t mean you should leave it all to them. You can save a lot of money by learning how to do a little more DIY car maintenance. This includes relatively simple tasks like changing the oil, changing the brake pads, and changing the spark plugs. You still have to pay for the replacements, but you save yourself the service charges that the mechanic is likely to add on. The more willing you are to learn about maintaining or even making minor fixes to your own car, the more you can save.

Find a good mechanic

Of course, you still need a mechanic. But you shouldn’t simply choose whichever one happens to be the closest one to you. There are a few checks you should do on your mechanic to make sure they’re a trustworthy professional. It’s a good idea to start by looking at whether they’re certified and qualified. Then, check Google for reviews. If they have the right clientele, that can be a good sign, too. For instance, mechanics that service fleets are likely to not overcharge because, if they did, they would have a hard time holding onto those clients. Lastly, when you get quoted for a service, make sure that the quote is detailed and breaks down individual costs so you can always see when something extra has been added on.

Ensure the right insurance deal

The last major running cost beyond fuel, maintenance, and repair is your insurance and it can be a big one. Whenever your insurance policy runs out, it rarely pays to stay loyal to a provider, so look at others and see if their new customer bonuses match whatever incentive to stay your current provider offers. Make sure you’re not buying too much insurance, too. You don’t want to be underinsured, but you also don’t want a comprehensive policy that covers theft if, for instance, your car isn’t the most attractive or is regularly kept in a highly secure area. Take your time before you make any insurance commitments, the internet is making it easier and easier to find a good deal with sites like Finder.com.

Conclusion: Dealing with the financial effects of car ownership

Beyond making sure that you handle all the costs of car ownership as effectively and wisely as possible, do what you can to ensure it keeps as much of its value as possible. Thorough proactive maintenance is crucial, as is keeping up with the logbook. After all, you want it to offer you more value when it comes time to sell it, as well.

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