11 Ways to Save Money on Transportation
For many people, transportation is a huge expense — taking a big chunk of the budget. But there are ways to save money on transportation. Sometimes even big money. Here are 11 ways to do so.
1. Save money on transportation in general
Carpool, walk, bike, and use public transportation whenever possible. Combine trips & errands. (You’ll save time this way as well, which is always a bonus.) Relying on public transportation or your own power also forces you to think about the trips more thoroughly — reducing or eliminating quick trips to the store because you’re bored or feeling impulsive. Fewer trips equals less money spent overall, because you’ll also be avoiding a lot of impulse spending.
2. Get deals on public transportation
Save money on bus & train fares by seeing if your employer offers discounts. (They may even pay for your tickets in some areas.) Buy weekly, monthly or even annual passes if you ride frequently, and don’t forget to take advantage of free routes that some towns offer.
Even if you don’t see how you could take public transit on a regular basis, give it a try for special events or when traveling. We take the light rail downtown whenever there’s an event, which means that instead of fighting traffic and paying $20 for a few hours of parking, we pay $6 for a pair of roundtrip tickets that drop us right where we want to go. And we use public transit all the time when traveling. No expensive taxi rides needed.
3. Avoid buying new cars, or do it carefully if you must
Don’t buy new cars in first place. Really, don’t! Buying a new car is like throwing 20% of your money out the window as you drive off the lot. Not to mention that new cars are often financed, and the insurance rates & tags are higher. That new car scent just isn’t worth many thousands of dollars.
If you decide to buy a new car anyway, research the heck out of it first using sites like Edmunds and Kelley Blue Book. Call your insurance company before buying to make sure that it’s not a model that will cause your rates to skyrocket.
Know your bottom line before going in to the dealer, and know ahead of time exactly what you are and are not willing to compromise on. Set up competition between dealers. Be prepared to spend a lot of time at the chosen dealer and then walk out without a car the first time. (Leave your kids at home, bring a snack, and don’t buy a car on your first visit to the dealer.) If you are financing, get your financing first, elsewhere. Refuse to talk “payments”or trades — talk only the total price of the car, tax & fees included. Avoid extended warranties and other extras.
4. If you buy a car, buy used
First, there is nothing wrong with a used car. A good used car can last a long, LONG, time if you take care of it properly. And you can save tens of thousands of dollars by driving them instead of buying new cars. Many of the tips listed under the previous section apply to buying used cars from a dealer as well.
The biggest difference when buying a used car is that you may get a better deal by going through a private party or auction. Just bring someone with you who is knowledgeable about cars, have the car checked out by a trusted mechanic before purchasing, and recognize that it may not be 100% perfect. Also, it’s usually easier (or at least faster) to negotiate with individuals.
If you’re buying at auction, you’ll likely need literal cash in hand to do the deal, and it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to thoroughly inspect the car (or even to turn it on). So be prepared for some additional expenses with those. Still, the deal you can get at an auction might make that worthwhile. For auctions, set a maximum price that you’ll pay and quit bidding the moment the auction goes over that price. There will be other cars. LOTS of other cars.
5. Don’t let car repairs eat you alive
You might be able to do simple car repairs yourself. (Or even complicated ones — the kid down the street put a whole new engine in his car himself.)
But if you’re not mechanically inclined, the best thing is to find a mechanic you can trust. Word of mouth is a great way to do that, or you can use sites like Angie’s List. Once you find a good mechanic, ask questions like “Does it need to be fixed right now?” and “What will happen if it’s not fixed right now?” when problems are discovered. A good mechanic will also do things like point out that your car is leaking oil from the whatsit, but that since it hasn’t lost a measurable amount in the last 6 months, it’s something that doesn’t need to be fixed. Of course, they’ll also fix your car at a fair price when it does need repair.
6. Pay attention to car insurance
If you have a sufficient emergency fund to cover things if there is a loss, increasing your deductibles will save money on your premium. Shop around for car insurance every other year or so to be sure you are still getting the best rate — just make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when you compare. See if you qualify for USAA or Amica, as they often have good rates.
Remember to ask for discounts. (Good driver discounts, student discounts, low mileage discounts, safety & theft-deterrent discounts, discounts for having other coverage with the same company, etc.)
7. Spend less on gas
Use sites like Gas Buddy to find the lowest gas prices in your immediate area or along the route you normally take to work or school. (Driving out of your way to save gas doesn’t usually result in real savings, so don’t look for far-away deals.) Fill up while you are out doing other errands already, or when possible, buy gas during the cooler parts of the day.
Drive slower if you’re normally a speed demon, and avoid accelerating dramatically. Coast part of the way toward red stoplights. Plan your errands and route to avoid stop-and-go traffic. Avoid regularly carrying around a bunch of heavy items with you. (Do you really need all that stuff in your trunk?) Keep your tires inflated to the proper pressure.
8. Change the oil
Changing your car’s oil is important, but that doesn’t mean you need to pop into the local quick-change shop for a standard oil change. Consider switching to a synthetic oil. Synthetic oils can changed MUCH less frequently while still keeping your car’s engine in good shape. They cost a little more upfront, but are cheaper in the end. If you’re even a little bit handy, consider doing your oil changes yourself. It’s really not that hard.
9. Save on tires
Check out Edmunds’ tire buying strategies for a variety of ways to save money on tires. The biggest one is to know what you need and then compare, compare, compare while saying no to extras. If you live in an area with a lot of road work, paying a little bit extra up front for a road hazard warranty can save you money too. I’ve used mine numerous times.
10. Don’t fork out too much for car washes
Wash your car only as often as necessary to keep the paint in good shape, and you’ll save both money and time. Depending on where you live and where your car is parked most of the time, this can be very infrequently. Remember that you can spot clean your car using a bucket & a sponge to remove bird droppings & tree sap. When you do wash your car, use a coin operated car wash and wash as quickly as possible. Vacuum it out yourself at home instead of paying extra to use the vacuum at the car wash.
11. Consider a car rental
Renting cars & trucks can save money if you’re doing so instead of buying and insuring those vehicles. For example, why keep an extra truck around for hauling if you haul things infrequently? Spend $40-$100 a year on a rental instead. Be realistic about your needs.
When renting cars for vacations, check with your credit card company, AAA, and your insurance to see if they offer discounts. Compare rates on the final prices, and don’t always assume that using a discount code will actually give you a lower price than you could find otherwise. Consider waiving the CDL if you have other coverage and are prepared to pay your deductible. Also, sometimes it ends up cheaper to rent for more days than you really need due to strange pricing or specials, so consider multiple options.