Reduce Living Expenses
Save on Auto and Travel Expenses

(Last updated: June 5, 2017)

This page shows how to save money by reducing your automobile and travel expenses. Automobile and travel expenses are one of the main living expenses for many people. By reducing these expenses, you can have more money for other things.

These suggestions are offered for your consideration. Perhaps they can guide you to a better life style. But the final choices are up to you.

Here are the topics:

Automobile expenses
Buying an automobile
Claiming income tax deductions
Reduce auto finance charges
Reduce auto gasoline costs
Reduce auto insurance costs
Reduce auto repairs and maintenance
Other ways to reduce auto expenses
Selling your automobile
Travel expenses
Air travel
General travel

In order to reduce your automobile and travel expenses, you may have to do some planning and change some of your habits and preferences. Whether the money you can save is worth the effort is up to you.


IMPORTANT

Before using this information to reduce your living expenses be sure to read the following notice: Disclaimer.

Buying an automobile

General guidelines

Instead of buying a new car, you can save a lot of money by buying one that is two or three years old. It is during this initial life of a new auto that it loses value rapidly. In addition, if the new car has a five-year warranty then you can benefit from the last years of this warranty.

Try to buy an auto that does not require premium grade gasoline and that gets good gas mileage. You can compare the gasoline mileage for different autos at the use the Fuel Economy government website.

There is an old saying that the best time to buy an auto is near the end of the month. Supposedly, this is when salespeople have to meet their quotas for the month and they will be willing to give you a better deal.

Desirable features

Certain expensive car features, such as automatic transmission and air conditioning, make driving more convenient and comfortable. However, you should be aware of what these features cost. Then you can decide if the extra cost is worth it.

When buying a new car, don't spend money for accessories or options unless they contribute to your comfort, needs, or safety. Get a list of possible accessories and options and decide which ones are worthwhile. Don't wait until you are in the clutches of a sales person.

How long should you keep your present auto?

If your existing auto still gives you reliable performance and does not have excessive operating or maintenance expenses, maybe you should keep driving it instead of buying another auto.

Modern cars should last for eight or ten years, or 200,000 miles, if they have been properly maintained.

How much can you afford?

You might want to plan a new budget for your living expenses before you purchase an auto. Consider the car payments and any increase in other car expenses, such as insurance and maintenance. You may not be able to afford the purchase or you may find a better use for the funds.

When buying a car, you can save money by buying a smaller model. This gives you both a lower purchase price and it saves money on your insurance, finance charges, and operating expenses.

Inspecting the car before you buy it

Before deciding to buy a particular used car, it is always a good idea to have a mechanic inspect the car. This can save you a lot of trouble and expense if the car needs some immediate repairs. If you still want to buy a car with "problems," you will be in a position to ask for a lower price.

Look at the tires on the car you intend to purchase. Do they have a lot of tread left on them? Are they all-season tires?

If the tires have uneven wear, this may indicate possible problems with the tire or the auto itself.

Be wary of an auto that has been involved in a serious accident, or has flood damage. It may look okay on the outside but can have hidden damage.

It may be worthwhile to review the history of a particular auto at the CarFax® website.

What type of vehicle should you buy?

It's usually better to buy the kind of vehicle you'll be using most of the time. Thus if you only need a pickup for occasional use maybe you can borrow one from a friend or rent one for a day or so.

If you are thinking about buying an SUV, be sure that you really need this type of vehicle. They tend to be more expensive and have poorer gas mileage.

When buying a used car, you might want to seek out a car that had been leased. The previous owner of these leased vehicles probably kept them in good working condition because of the terms of the lease.

The following websites can help you when choosing a new or used car to buy:

Best and worst used cars -- The most reliable models and the ones to avoid, as determined by CosumerReports.org®.

CarAndDriver -- They claim to be the "worldwide leader in providing objective test results and expert vehicle reviews, and it's here that you can get the inside scoop on every vehicle for sale in the US."

CarMax® -- This is a nationwide network of used car dealers. You can search their inventory online. (This is where I bought my last used car.)

Cars.com -- They provide buying guides for new and used cars. They claim these guides provide "expert and consumer reviews, features, photos, and videos."

Edmunds -- They claim to "Save thousands* without haggling. That's Edmunds Price Promise®." They cover new and used cars. (*Average savings off MSRP.)

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Claiming income tax deductions

If you use your auto partly or entirely for business, you may qualify for income tax deductions. You might want to discuss this matter with your accountant or income tax preparer.

If you are going to claim income tax deductions, you need to keep good records on the mileage and purpose of business trips.

When claiming a deduction on US income tax returns, many people have a choice of taking a standard business mileage rate or the business portion of depreciation and actual expenses.

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Reduce auto finance charges

If the used car you plan to trade in for another car is worth less than what is owed on it, it probably is best to keep your current car a while longer. Otherwise, the interest rate on the car you are purchasing will be higher than expected. This is because the new loan probably will exceed the value of the car you are purchasing. Higher interest rates apply when the loan is not fully secured.

Let's say your current credit score isn't very good. Maybe you should wait on your intended car purchase until you can improve your credit rating. You can get an estimate of your credit scores at Credit Report from MSN Money.

After you have decided on a likely car purchase, compare the interest rates on a dealer loan with other loans available. Then you can use whichever loan has the lower interest rate.

If interest rates have come down substantially since you financed your auto, you might want to look into refinancing your auto.

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Reduce auto gasoline costs

Condition of the auto

Keep your car as light as possible. Don't carry around excess baggage in your car. Don't leave items in racks on top of your car. They will increase your gas consumption.

By keeping your car properly tuned, you can save money on gasoline and on future maintenance.

Keeping your tires inflated at the recommended pressure will save on gasoline. If you have a new auto, the recommended tire pressure should be in the owner's manual. If you have an older car, you should use the pressure recommended by the tire manufacturer. You probably can get this information from a local tire store.

Driving habits

Sudden stops and Jackrabbit starts use more gas. This driving style is also apt to wear out your car faster. This would require more frequent maintenance and possibly even major repairs.

Don't speed. This uses a lot more gasoline than traveling at moderate speeds.

Reduce gasoline usage

Don't warm up your car engine by letting your car sit while the engine is running. This uses up a lot of gasoline. It's better to drive at a moderate speed until the engine warms up.

Using your cruise control on long highway trips can save on gasoline.

Reduce travel

Instead of using your car for short trips, consider walking or putting off the trip until you can run several errands at one time. Instead of going to the grocery store several times a week, make up a list of what you need and only go once a week.

There are several ways to reduce your driving. You can use car-pooling. Take a bus if the routes are convenient. When you want to treat yourself to an entertainment or a good meal, you can arrange to do those activities at home.

You might want to consider whether going on a long trip is really worth the expense.

Instead of going on a vacation in some other state or country, maybe you can enjoy yourself just as well in a nearby city.

Other ways to save on gasoline expense

Get a locking gasoline cap if you don't already have one. This can prevent the theft of your gasoline.

Use the cheapest octane rating of gasoline that doesn't make your engine knock. At least, don't pay for an octane rating higher than recommended in your owner's manual.

The following websites can provide the prices of gasoline at various stations in your city:

GasBuddy.com
GasPriceWatch.com

This website lets you download a free program to track your gasoline mileage:

Gas Mileage Tracker

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Reduce auto insurance costs

Types of auto insurance

Note: The insurance company's payout is limited to the coverage provided by the policy, less any deductible amount.

Liability insurance -- This coverage is required by most states. This insurance is to protect other people from being harmed by your vehicle. It consists of two different types of coverage, bodily injury (BI) and property damage (PD).

You have to carry at least the minimum coverage required by your state. You may choose to carry a higher coverage to protect you (up to the policy limits) from lawsuits resulting from a destructive accident.

The bodily injury coverage provides money to other people who are injured or killed.

The property damage coverage provides money to other people for damage done to their vehicle or other property.

Collision insurance -- This coverage reimburses you for damage to your vehicle resulting from a collision with another vehicle or other object.

If you have a lease or loan secured by your vehicle then the lease company or loan company probably will require you to have this coverage on that vehicle. If you own the vehicle outright and it is not worth much, then most people would drop this coverage.

Comprehensive insurance -- This coverage reimburses you for those damages to your vehicle not resulting from collision. This includes theft, glass breakage, and damage by flood, fire, or animals.

If you have a lease or loan secured by your vehicle then the lease company or loan company probably will require you to have this coverage on that vehicle. If you own the vehicle outright and it is not worth much, then most people would drop this coverage.

Uninsured or underinsured bodily injury -- This coverage reimburses you, insured members of your household, and your passengers for bodily injury or death caused by another motorist who is either uninsured or underinsured.

Uninsured or underinsured property damage -- This coverage reimburses you for damage to your vehicle caused by another motorist who is either uninsured or underinsured.

You might opt for this coverage when you don't have collision insurance, or you don't want to be liable for the deductible on your collision insurance.

Personal injury protection -- This coverage, if available in your state, reimburses you, relatives in your household, and your passengers for bodily injury or death.

You might opt for this coverage if you don't have adequate medical insurance or you frequently drive with passengers.

How to save money on insurance premiums

Increasing the amount of your deductibles will lower the insurance premiums.

Consider dropping the comprehensive and collision coverage on your car if you own it free and clear and it isn't worth very much. Also consider dropping add-ons that you rarely use, such as towing coverage.

You can usually save money on insurance by not going through the dealer where you bought the car. The dealer usually gets a commission on this insurance, which increases its cost.

Ask for all the discounts you are entitled to receive.

Relax when you drive. Don't become a victim of road rage, it might lead to an accident and hurt your insurance cost.

You might also save on auto insurance by having your home insurance and your auto insurance with the same company.

When buying insurance for your teenage children, it usually will be less expensive to add them to the parent's insurance policy.

Many insurance companies will give lower rates to teenagers who have taken student driver training in high school. It is also important for both parents and teenagers to have a good driving record.

Insurance companies also may give lower rates to people with good credit ratings.

The AARP® in association with the Hartford insurance Co. offers special rates to older people. Visit their website here.

When not to have high deductibles

You may want low deductibles, which increase your insurance premiums, if you don't have the resources to cover a high deductibles amount in case of an accident.

Another reason you may want low deductibles is if any inexperienced drivers are covered by the policy. They increase the odds of having an accident with your vehicle.

If you have a lease or loan secured by your vehicle then the lease company or loan company may not allow high deductibles on the collision and comprehensive insurance they require.

Where to buy insurance

There are websites that let you compare insurance costs for different companies in just a few minutes. Here are some websites you can use:

AutoInsuranceQuotes.com
CarInsuranceQuotesComparison.com
OnlineAutoInsurance™

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Reduce auto repairs and maintenance

Always follow the recommended maintenance schedule for your auto. Keep a schedule of the maintenance you have had performed. Then you will know when the next service is required. In this way, you won't forget an item. Moreover, you won't pay for a particular service before it's needed.

For routine maintenance, you can probably save money by going to a specialized service chain like Oil Can Henry's.

However, if you have a serious problem with your vehicle, it's probably better to bring it to a dealer's repair shop.

If your auto is under warranty, you need to have certain work done by a certified mechanic. Check out the requirements of your warranty.

When you purchase tires or have any repairs that come with a warranty, keep the receipt and warranty in an envelope in your glove box. Add the date and terms of the warranty to your log of maintenance work done.

When getting an oil change, don't pay for expensive oil unless your car engine needs it.

Some experts recommend getting an oil change every 3,000 miles, regardless of what the owner's manual recommends. This might make sense for a new auto, but it probably doesn't help much for an older car.

Check your fluid levels and tire pressure on a regular basis. Follow the recommendations in your car owner's manual.

Fix problems while they are just starting. Don't wait until you have a big repair bill.

Wash and wax your own car unless that would be impractical.

If you have a Costco membership, this is probably a good place to buy your car tires.

Winterize your car before the rush starts. You don't want to be caught in an unexpected freeze or snow.

Maintenance jobs you can probably do yourself:

  • Check the fluid levels for coolant, oil, power steering fluid, and windshield washer fluid
  • Purchase and change the windshield wiper blades
  • Maintain the proper tire pressure
  • Purchase and replace one of the new high-intensity headlight bulbs

RepairPal -- They give you "independent and unbiased repair estimates, user ratings and reviews, plus advice you can't get anywhere else." They can also provide "The best repair shops near you, with ratings and reviews."

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Other ways to reduce auto expenses

Purchase a car breakdown or survival kit and keep it in your car trunk. It should contain things like flashlights with fully charged batteries, emergency tire inflator, towrope, battery jumper cables, common tools for working on autos, emergency flares, pads for driving over snow or ice, first aid kit, and maybe even a pre-paid cell phone.

Avoid using toll roads when possible and practical.

Go to this website to find where to get your car owner's manual online.

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Selling your automobile

These two choices may seem rather extreme. However, if you really want to save on your auto expenses, they may provide an appropriate solution.

Sell your existing auto and buy a better one

Here's the first alternative. Sell that gas hog and get a fuel-efficient car. You may be losing some comfort and prestige, but it may be worth it. The choice is up to you.

Sell your existing auto and don't replace it

Here's the second alternative. Sell the car and use the bus (or some other public transportation). This presumes that the public transportation where you live provides an acceptable means of getting around. Here again, the choice is up to you.

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Air travel

Here are some websites that claim to save you money on air travel expense.

AirTran -- This is a low-fare airline that offers business class travel to various cities in the United States and surrounding areas.

CheapFlights™.com -- Find cheap flights on their website and then book the tickets through them.

CheapOair® -- They offer cheap air travel on their website. Save up to 65% on flights, all airlines.

KAYAK -- Their slogan is "Search one and done." They search various sites for the best deals available.

SmartFares -- They call themselves "A smarter way to travel." You can choose flights based on round trip, one way, or multi-city.

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General travel

Here are some websites that claim to save you money on general travel expense. Some of these websites let you arrange for your travel while at their website. Other websites let you search for providers of inexpensive travel.

BedandBreakfast.com -- They provide a selection of bed and breakfast accommodations in the United States and elsewhere.

Bing -- Use the search term "cheap travel" to find applicable websites.

CruiseComplete® -- They have information on world wide cruise destinations.

Expedia™ -- They offer discounts on flight, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and activities.

GottaGoDiscount -- They offer discount air, domestic tours, tour packages, home and resort rentals, hotels/car rental/Eurail, international travel, and vacation packages, with personal service and expert advice.

Hotels.com® -- There selections are Hotels, Hotel Deals, Packages + Flights, and Groups.

Hotwire® -- They use a Hot Rate ® Locator to find low rates on hotels, car rentals, flights, cruises, and packages.

KAYAK -- Their slogan is "Search one and done." They search various sites for the best deals available.

Orbitz -- Set your price for flight, hotel, car rental, activities, and cruises. They'll find a match and notify you.

Priceline.com® -- They help you find the best deals on flights, hotels, car rentals, vacation packages, and cruises.

Travelocity -- Save money on vacation packages, flights, hotels, car/rail, cruises, and last minute packages.

tripadvisor® -- They let you "Plan your perfect trip." Their selections are Hotels, Flights, Vacation Rentals, Restaurants, and Destinations.

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