By Brad Pareso
In early 2004, car maker Porsche launched the $440,000 Carrera GT. A young business tycoon in California purchased one in black. While being shown the car’s carbon-fiber clutch by a salesman, the businessman stalled out at a traffic light.
An 18-wheeler behind him, unaware the exotic car up ahead hadn’t moved, hit the gas, crushing the rear of the car. Sadly, the Carrera GT had to be shipped back to Germany and undergo $35,000 in repairs.
Okay, so this isn't a problem that most people our age will have to deal with. But that doesn’t mean we can’t waste money on cars.
You've heard it before; a new car's value depreciates the instant you drive it off the dealer's lot. There isn’t much you can do about that.
But you can avoid wasting precious cash on your vehicle by paying attention to standard maintenance and taking care of it as you drive.
what can you do?
Here are 10 ways to waste money on a vehicle and how to avoid each one:
- Not Knowing Your Needs - Be sure you know what type of vehicle you need. If you're just commuting to work a smaller car will meet your needs nicely. If you have to get around in 3-feet of snow, an SUV may be best. Knowing your needs will help prevent you from buying more vehicle than you need.
Also, consider your need for fuel efficiency. The difference between a gas guzzler and a gas sipper is huge: buying a 30 mpg car instead of a 20 mpg vehicle, you can save $742.50 in a year, assuming you drive 15,000 miles and pay around $3.00 for a gallon of gas.
- Not Knowing Your Car - Take a peek at the owner's manual, there's lots of useful info in there. It will tell you how often to change the oil, what the recommended tire pressure is and what octane gas it takes.
The internet is another great source for better understanding your vehicle. Frequent web sites like Edmunds.com for info about your car and Recall.gov to check for important recall information.
- Not Being Attentive - Ever notice that "funny noise" when you make left turns? It isn’t going to be funny when your front axel breaks and you need to shell out some serious dough to fix it. Take your vehicle to a reliable mechanic when you begin to notice something isn't right, even if it's not time for regular maintanence. The longer you wait, the more damage may occur.
Take a quick look around your vehicle when you fill up your gas. Check to make sure your tires are properly inflated and look for any suspicious leaks. These are simple ways to pay attention to your car, and nip a problem in the bud.
- Throwing Papers Out - Save the receipt and/or paperwork from your mechanic anytime you get your car serviced. This includes regular maintanence and other repairs like replacing your tires or getting a new muffler.
Why? The paperwork is proof that you've been maintaining your car. This may be important information to a mechanic making future repairs, and is solid evidence you can show prospective buyers if you choose to sell your car.
- Having A Lead Foot - Ever throw your transmission into neutral and coast down a hill to save gas? Unfortunately, this has the potential to damage your transmission and most states have made it illegal. But that isn't an excuse for brake-gas-brake bad driving.
Driving at a steady speed not only can save you almost 50 cents per gallon of gas, according the US Environmental Protection Agency, but the tickets you avoid will keep money in your wallet.
- Not Bargain Hunting - Be a savvy shopper when it's time to get a new set of wheels, or fill up your tank. Research potential vehicles on the internet using sites like Edmunds.com. Visit multiple dealerships and negotiate the price. Used and new car dealerships will compete to get your business. Get an offer from a dealer and take it to others and see if they can beat it.
Keep an eye on gas prices and remember which gas station has the lower price even if you don't need gas right away. You'll know where to go when it's time to fill up the tank. You can also check the Web for sites that list the cheapest gas in your area.
- Not performing regular maintanence - There are three avenues to choose from here - do it yourself, a dealer service center, or an independent service shop. Dealers have the advantage of certified technicians who specialize on similar vehicle makes and models. But dealers typically charge more for their services.
On the other hand, independent shops typically charge less for their services, but technicians may or may not be certified or experienced with your make and model. The ultimate factor in deciding where to get work done should be word-of-mouth - talk to friends, co-workers and car-savvy people to see what shops carry a good reputation.
- Skimping - Some people avoid getting their car checked because they think it'll cost them an arm and a leg. But it doesn't have to, since you are the one paying, you decide what gets inspected.
When getting your car serviced, ask the shop to examine items that concern you - that funny noise and the blinking light on the dashboard are good places to start. Ask them to show you what they see, or don't see.
- Splurging - ...but don't be stupid about car care. If your car doesn't explicitly say it needs premium octane gas, don't waste the extra 25 cents per gallon. Stick to the recommendations in the owner's manual.
- Not Taking Advantage of Freebies - My native Long Island, NY, recently spent almost $900 million adding a carpool-only lane to our major highway. Not only does carpooling cut back on your gas costs, it will let you zip through traffic.
Other freebies include free car washes with regular maintanence, free air for your tires at gas stations, and of course the free coffee service shops have in their waiting rooms.
Reviewed and edited for content 08/13/2009