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A car is one of the biggest purchases you can make. Here are a few ways to get your money’s worth over time.

5 minute read

Your shiny new car loses 10 percent of its value in the first month after you drive it off the lot, according to Carfax. [1] And after that, you’ll have to pay for expensive maintenance and other costs.

If you aren’t careful, you could be spending way more than you should for a simple oil change. One of the biggest ways to save money on cars is to use the resources you have first, before paying someone else to help. Yet car owners overlook the simplest tricks to save on gas money, repairs, and insurance.

Here are some easy, yet effective ways to save money on cars.

How to save money on car maintenance

Some of the most common car repairs happen to be some of the easiest to do yourself, which can save you the steep bill from the auto repair shop.

Here are the most common repairs needed, how much they cost, and how to do them at home…

1. Change your air filter

A clogged air filter affects your car’s gas mileage, slows it down, and may cause strange noises when your car is idling. Fortunately, changing the filter yourself is easy to do. Experts recommend changing the filter every 10,000 to 15,000 miles.

Level of difficulty: Easy

Time required: 10 minutes

Cost: $15-$20 for a new air filter

Instructions: Open up the black plastic case with metal clips on the sides underneath your car’s hood. Flip the clips downward. Pop out the filter, which is a rubber ring surrounding a bunch of folded-up paper. Make sure you take note of how the filter is sitting in the housing and put the new, clean one in its place.

2. Fill up your windshield wiper fluid

Everyone hates that annoying moment when you’re driving through a dust cloud and reach for the windshield wipers to clear the dirt away, only to find that your fluid is either low or gone.

Level of difficulty: Easy

Time required: 5-10 minutes

Cost: Less than $5

Instructions: Lift the hood of your car and look for a cap that displays a windshield wiper near the front of the engine. Take the cap off and pour the windshield fluid into the container, using a funnel if need be. Fill the container to the line and you’re all done.

123AutoParts.com

3. Change your oil

One of the most fundamental car service checkups is changing your car’s motor oil. Check if your oil is low by pulling out the dipstick, wiping it clean, dipping it back into the container, and checking whether it’s between the two markers on the dipstick, which may or may not be labeled.

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Time required: 1 hour

Cost: $13-$30 for a 5-quart container of motor oil, $5-$15 for a new oil filter

Instructions: First, apply your car’s emergency brake. Then, open the hood and pull out the dipstick. This helps the oil drain better. Crawl underneath your car. Locate the engine’s oil pan and the oil drain plug, which is a long bolt head at the bottom of the pan. Get a container large enough to hold the old oil and place it under the drain plug. Loosen the drain plug using a wrench (remember: lefty-loosey, righty-tighty), making sure the container is placed directly underneath the plug. Let it drain for an hour or until you’re confident most of the oil has drained out.

Once the oil has finished draining, fasten the drain plug back on. Then locate the oil filter (check your owner’s manual if you aren’t sure what it looks like, since the location varies with the make and model of the car.) Remove the oil filter, carefully draining out any old oil still there in the process. Take out your new oil filter, and lubricate the rubber seal with fresh oil before screwing it on by hand. Then pour in the new oil, making sure you don’t overfill it. Run the engine when you’re finished to make sure everything is running smoothly.

4. Add coolant

This can be easy to overlook, but it’s important — your car can drastically overheat and cause a mechanical breakdown or engine failure if your coolant levels are low.

Level of difficulty: Easy

Time required: 10 minutes or less

Cost: Anywhere from $10 to $30 for one gallon, depending on which brand you buy

Instructions: Raise the hood and locate the radiator overflow tank. It will be right next to the radiator with a cap labeled “coolant” at the top. Pour in the coolant until it reaches the “line,” indicating it’s full enough.

How to save money on car insurance

When it comes to car insurance, like most things, Americans are signing the dotted line without fully knowing what they’re getting into.

More than half (53 percent) say they don’t read their policy in its entirety, says Enterprise Holdings. [2] And even though almost a third say they pay too much for car insurance, 38 percent haven’t tried to compare prices or shop around in the last three or more years. [3]

Here are some easy ways to save on your car insurance.

1. Shop around

One reason so many Americans are overlooking car insurance savings could be that they don’t know they can shop around whenever they feel.

In a study from car insurance listing site insuranceQuotes, 46 percent of Americans said they didn’t know they could change their insurance plan at any time. [4]

But if you shop around for different car insurance rates, you may find one that’s better than your current coverage.

2. Ask the car insurance company for discounts

Only 16 percent of Americans ask their car insurance company about common discounts on their policy, says another study from insurance quotes. [5]

The survey focused on discounts that customers would have to report themselves. They surveyed car insurance holders on whether they’ve asked their insurance provider about marriage, occupational, low mileage, defensive driver, and good student discounts.

3. Consider insurance costs before buying the car

Most people fall in love with a car and decide to purchase it without thinking about the cost of insurance beforehand.

Make sure you love the car you’re buying — because it’ll be an investment — but also be sure to ask an insurance agent about the different rates for different models. The track record of your kind of car is just as important to insurers as the track record of the person driving.

A lot of factors are taken into account such as the likelihood of your car being stolen, how far the car’s being driven and where the car’s being kept at night. The cost of the car alone won’t raise your insurance — comparatively priced cars can vary greatly in insurance rates.

How to save money on gas

Avoid left turns, brake as little as possible, turn off the AC, and roll up your windows — these are just some ridiculously impractical tips on how to save at the pump.

Here are the real ways to save on gas…

1. Go lighter on the gas pedal

Automotive research site Edmunds.com tested a series of supposed gas-saving tips, such as driving with luggage on the roof and driving with windows down. [6] Those ideas weren’t worth the effort, but this one was: You can save up to 35 percent on gas simply by accelerating and braking slower. And when you’re on the highway, set the cruise control to a max of 65 mph.

2. Check your tire pressure

The same study from Edmunds.com showed that tires that lost only a quarter of their pressure can cost up to 4 percent of fuel efficiency.

3. Get a gas app

There’s no shortage of apps that’ll compare prices of nearby gas stations. Some cost, some are free. GasBuddy is the latter. [7] It shows you which gas stations are nearby and organizes them by price. How do they get this data? It’s crowdsourced among their users. How do you know the prices are accurate? Because GasBuddy holds daily drawings for $100 gas gift cards among its members.

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About the Author

Cameren Boatner

Cameren Boatner

Cameren Boatner is a contributing editor of Debt.com. She is currently working toward her bachelor's degree in multimedia journalism from FAU, where she serves as editor of the student-run newspaper.

Published by Debt.com, LLC