How to Save Money When Buying a Car

An oil change and tires by kevindooley on Flickr!Many car-buying guides tell you how to save money beforehand – how to research the right car for you, how to negotiate, how to get the best car loan deal – and then they leave you right as you sign your name on the dotted line and walk off the lot, keys in hand.

The methods of saving money don’t stop when you drive off the lot. In fact, as soon as you leave the lot, there are several things you can do right away to save significantly on the money you’ll invest in maintaining this vehicle.

8 Ways to Save Money When Buying a Car

1. Read the manual in its entirety

This should be the next book that you read. Cuddle up with it, read through it, and know your new automobile. You’ll almost always learn a large handful of important things during the read-through, most of which will save you surprising amounts of cash – and can also save you a lot of time later on, as well, when you really need it.

2. Follow the manual’s recommendations for gas purchases

Many people think “new car, better put premium gas in it.” Don’t. Instead, before you ever visit a gas pump, flip through your manual and find out what gasoline is recommended. Almost all cars recommend the low-grade gasoline – the high-grade doesn’t do anything at all, and buying it is purely a waste of money.

3. Establish a maintenance schedule

Another key piece of information that’s provided by the manual is a maintenance schedule. It tells you explicitly when you should get your car maintained in various ways – oil changes, brake pad replacements, air filter replacements, and so on. Follow this schedule. Doing the maintenance when suggested will save you significantly on repairs over the lifetime of the automobile. Getting proper oil changes now can make the difference between engine problems and a smooth ride years down the line. Even better – learn how to do the maintenance yourself.

4. Photograph the car thoroughly

This is a useful move that many people fail to do. Detailed photography of your car can be useful as evidence if you’re ever in an accident or have damage done to your car as you can provide clear visual “before and after” images to make the damage of the accident clear. This can save significant time and effort with the insurance company and with repair work.

5. Keep necessary/useful supplies in your car

While an AAA membership can be useful, it’s much more useful to have supplies on hand to handle most small roadside emergencies yourself. A deflating or blown tire and a dead car battery are things that anyone should be able to handle themselves without calling for expensive help – and in the winter, a few extra supplies can really make all the difference.

Here are the things I keep in my own car – they save money and time over and over again

Car kit checklist
+ A tire pressure gauge
+ A felt chalkboard eraser (it takes off window fog with ease)
+ A tire iron that fits your tire
+ A windshield scraper (when winter approaches)
+ Sidewalk salt (in winter – the weight of the bag plus the ice-melt ability are useful)
+ Blankets and warm clothes (again, in winter)
+ Car jack
+ Utility knife
+ Emergency flares
+ Can of tire sealer/inflator
+ Jumper cables

6. Air up your tires

Since you’ve already got that tire gauge in your car, put it to good use. Flip through your car manual to find out what the maximum recommended tire pressure is for your car, then drive up to that free air pump at your local gas station. Use the gauge and the free air to fill up your tire to the recommended level. Keeping your tires inflated can easily shave 5% off of your gas bill – I do this re-airing process every month.

7. Shop around for car insurance

The best time to shop around for insurance is when you get a new car, as that’s when the rates will diverge the most from company to company. Call around, get some auto insurance quotes, and sign up with the best company. It’s useful to do this every few years, as new insurers appear and the level of competition between insurers changes, adjusting the rates you may pay.

8. Establish a carpool

Again, the best time to form a carpool is when your car is new, because the fewer miles you put on it now, the longer it’ll be between maintenance and repairs and the longer your vehicle will last overall. Plus, with a newer car, you don’t have to feel as though you’ll be driving the “bad” car in the carpool. Ask around the office and find some people who are willing to ride together – it’ll do nothing but save you cash.

Trent Hamm

Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.