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Staying on the road to savings: tips for saving dollars on your vehicle costs.

by:
Alan McQuarrie

To many people, you are what you drive.  In our culture, your vehicle is much more than a means for getting from A to B.  Just watch any car commercial and you get the message that if you are not driving the latest model from any given car company, you are missing out.  As a result, we often purchase bigger more luxurious vehicles than we need and that habit doesn't help Canadians pay off their debts.  We tend to ignore the hidden costs of driving a vehicle such as depreciation, maintenance or real gas mileage.

 
Unfortunately, car costs are the second largest source of debt for many Canadians after their housing costs.  And when you factor in the effects of depreciation of a vehicle as opposed to home appreciation, the long term financial costs of vehicle ownership can be higher than owning a home. If you are spending more on your vehicle than your budget allows, it’s time to make a change.   By creating an automobile budget or seeing a professional credit counsellor, you can determine what is in your best interest.    
 
If you feel that your vehicle is the right value for you, it’s time to take some additional steps to save.  By following the nine car care tips below you can stretch out your savings and get the best value so you're able to pay off debts instead of just making car payments.
 
  1. Regularly maintain your vehicle.  Start by learning the various components and monitoring how often they need maintenance.  Understanding basic car maintenance schedules can help you budget for repairs and avoid unnecessary repairs.
  1. Do minor maintenance yourself: If you are somewhat handy, by checking tire pressure, changing your oil, replacing your own windshield wipers and air filters you are more likely to keep up with maintenance.
  1. Find a mechanic you can trust.  A good mechanic can make a vehicle last many years.  Use your network of friends to select a good mechanic. 
  1. Buy and hold your car; don’t trade for new vehicles unless you have money to burn.
  1. Avoid new car payment periods longer than 5 years.
  1. Drive a car you like...you are more likely to look after it.
  1. Drop unnecessary vehicle insurance coverage on older vehicles.  Check with your broker to see if you really require all the coverages to replace an older vehicle.
  1. Research the vehicle you plan to buy: there is such a thing as a lemon.  Some models of cars can put you in the poor house.  Watch for broken down cars or newer cars with rust problems that are currently on the road. 
  1. Reduce your use of your vehicle; carpooling can be a chance to connect with peers.
Someone once said that “drive-in banks were created so that most cars could see their real owners.”  Don’t let your car run you off the road to financial security. 
 

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