Owning a car is expensive. Gas, maintenance, tolls, cleaning -- all of this can add up to a yearly cost of almost $9,000 just to operate your vehicle. But what if there were some things we could do differently that would put some of that cash back into our pockets? As it turns out, we are collectively wasting money on our cars, but making a few simple changes can result in savings without impact our car's performance. Here are five ways we are wasting money on our cars:
Changing the oil every 3,000 miles. This is one of the biggest myths in auto care today. Your father's and grandfather's car may have needed its oil changed every 3,000 miles, but that metric does not ring true with today's vastly improved engine technology. Modern cars can run efficiently having their oil changed every 5,000-7,500 miles, cutting your expense in half. Change the oil yourself in your driveway and save on paying your mechanic. Savings level: Low.
Using premium fuel. Know the difference between "recommended" and "required." The majority of vehicles on the market do not require premium fuel. Those that do are high performance vehicles and will explicitly state in the owner's manual the type of fuel needed. All other vehicles that "recommend" premium fuel will run just as well on regular fuel. There is almost a $0.50 difference nationally between regular and premium fuel right now, offering a savings opportunity of $5-10 per fill up. Savings level: Low.
Recommended tune-ups for engines/air conditioners. This is a typical upsell from a mechanic or auto body shop akin to asking "Do you want fries with that?" -- don't be afraid to say no. Today's automobiles are monitored by on-board computer systems that will let you know when there is an issue with your engine that needs to be addressed. As for your air conditioner, use the feel test -- if the air is cold, it's working. Don't spend money to have your mechanic "tune up" things that aren't in need of a fix. Savings level: Medium.
Ignoring your repair lights. Has your "check engine" light been on for the last 40,000 miles? Don't ignore it. Sure, it could be something as minor as an O2 sensor that needs to be replaced ($50-60), but it could also be warning of more significant problems. No one likes spending time to go to the mechanic, but avoiding doing so could turn a minor issue into a major one. It's better to catch an issue early and only spend hundreds, than to let a problem get worse and have it cost you thousands. Savings level: High.
Built-in navigation packages. Most dealers bundle in-car navigation systems into "premium" or "tech" packages that end up costing thousands of extra dollars. Instead, consider some of the modern options that are available to you, like using navigation tools on your phone. You can buy a mount that sticks to your dashboard and a charging cable for around $30 that works just as well. If you prefer not to use your phone, there are plenty of aftermarket options from brands like Garmin or TomTom that can be purchased for $100-200. Savings level: High.