Sssshhhh! Listen! Hear that? It's the sound of your car slowly sucking the life out of your bank account. Sure your sweet ride looked like a good deal on paper; but now that you have her chilling in your parent's garage, the costs of gas, oil changes and maintenance are making your part-time job look like a volunteer position. Don't worry. There are steps you can take to put money back in your pocket. These 10 tips will save you more than $2,000 each year.
1. Pass the Buck
Yes, school is early. Yes, you're already chronically late. Yes, the thought of getting up, even 10 minutes earlier sounds like nails on a chalkboard. Think of it as an investment. Drive a friend to school and you'll be rewarded with half off of your gas expenses. Carpooling, even if it's just with one other person, can save you a couple hundred bucks a year in gas and make your daily commute a little more enjoyable. Singing Katy Perry's hit at full blast is just more fun with someone else. If you don't have a carpool buddy, make some friends already. In the mean time, sites like Divide the Ride and CarPool World can help you find one.
2. Shop Around For Gas
Remember when you high-tailed it to three different towns in search of the perfect prom dress? Well that paid off in spades when you showed up looking like high school royalty. The same is true for gas. Apps like Fuel Finder, Gasbook and iGasUp will locate the cheapest gas in your area or, if you don't have a smartphone, head to Gasbuddy.com before filling up.
3. Get Oiled
This weekend, slithering under your car and getting covered in used motor oil ranks last on your fun list, just under doing your trig homework, changing the cat's litter box and giving your grandma her weekly bunion rub. Instead of dreaming about the movies you're not seeing and the shopping you're not doing while changing your own oil, think about what you're putting in your pocket. Normally you'd have to shell out $30-$40 every 3,000 miles to have your oil changed, but drivers who do it themselves will save about $70 a year. If you're not sure about how to change your oil, don't sweat it. This article will walk you through step by step.
4. Replace the Air Filter
While you're under the hood, get up close and personal with your car's air filter. The air filter on your vehicle should be changed once every year or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first. If you blow it off, it is going to cost you. Carsdirect.com reports that bad air filters and oxygen sensors can lower your gas mileage by up to 20 percent, meaning that a regular air filter change will literally save you thousands over the lifetime of your car. Not bad, thrifty one.
5. Improve Your Grades
Your parents nag you to get good grades. Your teachers nag you. Even your nerdy friends nag you about less-than-impressive chem grade. And now we're going to nag you, too. Studying does pay off, and we mean "pay" in the most literal sense of the word. Raise your grades to the A/B range and you could get a discount of up to 25 percent off of your auto insurance. Since most teen drivers are notoriously wreckless (not you...other teens) and pay more than $600 a year just to get auto insurance, 25 percent off is some serious savings. Think about that the next time you're Niels Bohr-ed out of your mind in class.
6. Drive Slow
You're in a panic to get to school before the last bell. Sweat is dripping off your brow. Red lights keep stacking up like mortal enemies one right after the other after the other. Your stomach is virtually weeping because of the lack of nutritional content you've delivered this morning. Slow it down anyway.
A study by Edmunds shows that drivers who slowed down more gradually when approaching stop lights and signs and sped up more slowly after leaving them got up to 35 percent (!!!!!!!) better fuel economy than drivers who didn't. That's an automatic one-third of your gas money put right back into your pocket. Even Kanye advocates it.
7. Fill Up With Hot Air
Oil: Changed. Air filter: Replaced. Tires: Sagging like there's no tomorrow. Rolling around on pancake-like tires will get you to band practice and back—though your bandmates might question what's up with that—but it will cost you. Every time your tire pressure drops too low, you start wasting gas. Bone up on your car's optimal tire pressure (it should be written in your owner's manual or on the manufacturer's web site), then stick to it to save approximately 11 cents per gallon on gas.
8. Wax On, Wax Off
Spending your sweet Saturday giving your car a good scrub down while sweating your nads off saves money. Washing your own vehicle isn't nearly as sexy as Paris Hilton makes it seem, even if you do it while eating a giant hamburger. The outside of your ride will need some attention too once it starts looking like it has been through a monster truck rally. Sure, it would be cheaper to skip washing entirely, but debris like rust and some animal droppings can corrode paint if left untouched and lower the resale value of your ride. Having your car washed, including tip, tends to fall somewhere in the $15-$25 range. Doing it yourself every three months saves you $80. Sweet!
9. Price Compare
After the previous eight tips, hopefully it's sinking in that owning a car is work, mostly of the not-fun variety. We're just trying to tell it like it is. Even if your car sparkles like new, you're going to have to maintain it. That means setting aside a portion of your paltry paycheck—try saying that five times fast—for new tires, windshield wiper blades, fan belts and anything else that goes kaput. In fact, the average American pays nearly $3,300 per year just to maintain his auto. Finding a reliable mechanic who won't charge you your first born can knock 10 to 15 percent off of your regular maintenance costs.
10. Maintain, Maintain, Maintain
It's every teen's nightmare—you've got the girl/guy of your dreams in your car, you're headed out on your first date, you're about halfway to that kind-of-but-not-too-fancy restaurant (the one with the awesome desserts) and it happens. Coughing. From your car. The kind of coughing your Uncle Charlie with emphysema can't even try to compete with. At first your car is just coughing, then it's slowing down, and then it's not moving at all. Now you're stuck with a dead car, a pissed off date and a future bill so big it reaches into dimensions not yet explored by man. This is what car ownership is really about.
A minor squeak or glitch can easily turn into a major problem if left unchecked. Taking your car in for regular tune-ups and servicing won't put any additional funds in your pocket, but it will prevent major fiscal hiccups down the road.
Extra Credit: Slow your roll there, bud. Car insurance is going to cost you too. Shmoop gives you the skinny on saving there too.