So you’re in the market for a car, but you’ve decided you can’t afford a new one. Cars last longer these days, and with rustproofing often standard, purchasing used can save you a lot of money. However, if you’re not a mechanic or, at least knowledgeable about cars, you may end up wasting your money on a lemon. Here’s some tips to get you started.
- Research. Find out repair ratings for the type of car you’re interested in purchasing. Check online at sites such as J.D. Power (http://autos.jdpower.com/used-cars/index.htm) or Consumer Reports (http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/index.htm). You have to be a member to access the ratings at Consumer Reports, but you can find their magazine at your local library.
- Shop during the day when you can get a clear look at the vehicle.
- Do a thorough inspection inside, outside, under the hood, under the car for any signs of damage or repaired damage.
- Check the paint to see that it all matches.
- Check for any signs of water damage. Is there any mold or corrosion?
- Take it for a drive, preferably with someone who has some expertise if you don’t. Listen for strange noises. Look in your rear view mirror to see if the tailpipe is discharging any black smoke. Test the brakes.
- If you have a favorite mechanic, consider paying them to check the car out for you.
With loan interest rates so low, many people have refinanced their homes, and saved hundreds of dollars. Another way to save could be to refinance your car. It won’t work for everyone, but if you bought a car with a high interest loan, it may be worth your while to look into getting a better rate.
Cars depreciate rapidly, and therefore don’t hold their value as long as homes. However, if your current car is still worth more than the amount owed, check with your lien holder to see if you are a good candidate for refinancing. The fees for refinancing automobiles aren’t nearly as high as those for home mortgages, so you may be pleasantly surprised at the savings to be had.
Cars are expensive to buy and maintain. If you live in a cold weather climate, it’s even more important to keep your vehicle serviced regularly. Nothing’s worse than driving on a freshly salted highway, and finding out that you have no windshield washer fluid or that your windshield wipers are worn out and don’t work properly. These are simple things that anyone can do themselves, and will help to prevent accidents. Preventive maintenance is usually cheaper than having to make expensive repairs later. Here’s the most basic inspections you should do in preparation for winter driving.
- Check your windshield wipers. Save money by changing the blades yourself if needed.
- Check your windshield washer fluid regularly. You can keep a jug of this at home and refill as needed. Just be sure to store it in a safe place where young children and pets can’t get at it as it is poisonous.
- Check the tread on your tires. At the same time, check the tire pressure.
- Have your brakes inspected.
- Check your battery.
Winter driving presents its own set of challenges. Taking the time to clear off the the windows and making sure they’re adequately defrosted keeps you and other drivers safe. Driving slower and watching out for the other guy will save you money and aggravation in the long run.
There are many options to consider when buying a car. Because of the rise in oil prices, the auto companies have come out with well-made small cars, so that there are more choices than ever before.
- If you don’t have a large family, a new small car may cost you less in the long run than a used car. Interest rates on loans for used cars are generally higher than those for new automobiles. In addition, there is more demand for used cars now, particularly since many were disposed of in the Cash for Clunkers program. This has resulted in higher prices.
- Determine how much your car insurance will be. The rates on new cars tend to be higher.
- Compare the gas mileage predictions. Newer cars tend to get better mileage, which will save you money on gas.
- Car maintenance must also be considered when buying a car. If you can do repairs yourself, you can save a lot of money and perhaps be able to buy an older car.
- Check with several banks and credit unions for their best interest rates before you buy. Often, you can become a member of a credit union by opening an account with a deposit as low as $5.00.
- Keep an eye out for dealer incentives. You can find these by going on the automakers’ websites. They can also be found at www.edmunds.com. or www.kbb.com (Kelley Blue Book)
- Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book are also good places to start when researching various cars. At these sites, you can find dealer invoice prices, used car repair histories, recommended cars, and all kinds of other valuable information.
- If you are a recent college grad or in the military, ask the dealer if they have any special discounts.
We’ve been told for decades that our cars need to have the oil changed every 3000 miles, but is that still the rule? It’s a good way to keep your mechanic and oil companies in business, but in most cases, it’s not necessary. Check your owner’s manual, and you may be surprised to find out that you can get by with changing it every 6000 to 7500 miles or even more with no loss in engine efficiency. That puts a lot of extra money in your pocket.
If you do a lot of driving in extreme conditions such as very dirty roads, or in very hot or cold weather, you may need to adjust this down a little, but not by much. Cars are made much better these days, and don’t require as much care.
Of course, if you really want to save money, learn how to change the oil yourself. It’s a little messy, but not that difficult. Just remember to dispose of the old oil responsibly.
If you live in an area that gets a lot of snow and ice in the winter, driving can be a real challenge. Accidents are costly, even if they are minor, and often result in lost work time, missed appointments and expensive repairs. Making a few changes in your driving habits will save you money and time.
- Drive slower. Allow more time to get to your destination, so you’re not in a rush.
- Allow plenty of space between you and the driver in front of you. If you have to brake quickly, slippery pavement may prevent you from stopping in time.
- Watch out for overpasses and bridges. They are often icy.
- Turn on your lights. You may think you can see just fine, but other drivers may have difficulty seeing you.
- Resist the temptation to use cruise control. You may not have enough time to react if a problem arises.
- Always be aware of the cars around you. Even though you may be a great winter driver, others may not be so experienced.
- If you get stuck in the snow, use a gentle rocking motion. Put the car into reverse, and lightly push the gas pedal. Then shift into drive, and use the same light touch on the gas. Check your owner’s manual to make sure there are no warnings against doing this.
- If you are in deep snow, turn the car off and try to clear the snow away from the tires.
- This article gives great information about the need for care in removing your stuck car, and will hopefully keep your vehicle out of the car repair shop. http://wheels.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/03/auto-repair-shops-reap-winters-bounty
Car sharing has been around in Europe for years, but is just beginning to become popular in the United States. It is a form of car rental, but it differs in that you usually use it for just an hour or two. It’s convenient for people in large cities who have access to public transportation, and therefore don’t own a car. Or, it would also be an alternative for college students who only need a car or truck for moving or buying groceries. It might also be a way for a family to dispense with their second car.
For these people, it’s much cheaper and more practical than owning a car, because you don’t have to pay for parking space, car payments, insurance, gas etc. And, it’s less expensive than a traditional rental because you only pay for the short time you need it.
How it works is that you join and pay a membership fee, usually less than $100 a year. You then are charged an hourly rental fee each time you use a car. Vehicles are often parked in convenient places throughout the city. Once you reserve your car, you unlock it with your personal key, take care of your business, and return it to the same location at the end of your rental period. You don’t have to worry about gas, insurance, or filling out a lot of paperwork.
The best known of the car sharing companies is Zipcar, but there are many others in cities throughout the country. These sites list many of them: http://eartheasy.com/move_car_sharing.html, http://www.carsharing.net/where.html
Cars last a lot longer than they used to because, in general, they are better made. In addition, rust proofing is applied when it is manufactured, so you no longer have to worry about your feet going through the floorboard. Notice, too, that warranties are longer which suggests that car companies are confident that their vehicles will hold up.
That being said, it is important that you maintain your car so that it will provide you good service for many years and save you money in the long run. First, keep it clean. Ground in dirt is hard on the interior and causes it to wear faster. Bugs and road salt splattered on the exterior can eat at the paint if you don’t wash them off.
If you’re capable of doing basic maintenance, you can save money by changing your oil and filters on a regular basis. If not, it’s still important that you read your car manual and follow its guidelines for scheduled check-ups. The advantage of taking it to a qualified trusted mechanic is that he or she can alert you to potential problems before they become major expensive repair jobs.
Checking your tire pressure and wear is also something that most people can do themselves. Tires inflated correctly help you to get better gas mileage and make driving safer. Worn out tires cause accidents.
Maintaining your car will make it last longer and save you money in car payments and insurance. Here are more great ideas to keep you motoring along. http://www.bukisa.com/articles/540_64-mechanics-ways-to-make-your-car-last-longer
Your car payment is made up of two components – principal and interest. Principal is how much you are borrowing, and one way to lower the principal is to shop for the best deal on the car of your choice. You can also make a large down payment which lowers the amount you borrow. Can you get a low interest car loan? Shop around to find the lowest rate before getting the car.
It’s possible to even get a zero interest car loan when the car companies need your business bad enough. But be careful, you may have to give up other incentives such as rebates in order to get the zero interest loan. Or you may have to agree to a shorter time period. Add up the total cost of the car including all principal and interest and see if you are really saving anything.
There can be no harm is buying the additional insurance offered by the rental car company, but it may not be necessary, and it is costly. The best idea is to call your insurance agent and ask if your regular car insurance covers you. Also, rental insurance may be included for free if you rent the car with your credit card. Once you get to the car rental booth at the airport, it’s too late to ask these people, so the smart thing to do is to make a few phone calls ahead of time to find out if you’re already covered. You should have at least the same coverage for a rental car that you have on your regular car.
The rules governing rental car insurance vary from state to state and nation to nation. Before renting a car in a foreign country make double sure you are insured. Getting in an accident in a foreign country without insurance can cause you untold grief. It’s best to make sure you are covered.
Just to protect yourself, take some pictures of your rental car when you get it, making note of any dents, etc.