Check out these 5+ tips to save money buying or maintaining your car

·5 min read

With inflation rising, we’re all looking for ways to save a little money and keep our budgets in check.

The News & Observer’s service journalism team is putting together a free Money-Saving Series with tips to cut costs across several categories. In this installment, we’re offering up tips for saving money when purchasing and maintaining a car.

If you have some tips that we missed, you can email us at ask@newsobserver.com or fill out the form below. We’ll update this story with good tips we get from readers.

1/ Look for low interest rates when buying a car

Pay attention to more than just the price of the car — know the interest rate for financing the car, too.

Research incentives at car dealerships in your area before you go to the car lot, and find the best low-interest deal possible. That will not only make your monthly payment lower, it will lower the overall cost of the car over time.

2/ Ask for a student or military discounts when buying a car

You may save hundreds of dollars as a college graduate or military member with some dealerships.

When shopping for your car, ask your dealership if there are any military, student or other discounts you may be able to take advantage of.

At the time of publication of this article, Honda, Toyota, Chevrolet, Nissan and Volkswagen, for example, offer $500 off the price of your car as a recent college graduate or military member. BMW and Lexus, for example, offer $1,000 student and recent graduate discounts.

3/ Save with Costco / Sam’s Club auto buying programs

You can use your warehouse club membership to save on automobile purchasing. The Costco Auto Program and Sam’s Club Auto Buying Program are popular ones.

Costco Auto Program:

  • Go to pre-approved dealers to save on the purchase of new and used vehicles. Be sure to locate approved dealers online, as not all dealerships are a part of this program. To locate, visit costcoauto.com.

  • The Costco Auto Program also saves you 15% on select parts, service and accessories at up to $500 per visit at participating service centers.

  • For frequently asked questions, visit costcoauto.com/faq.aspx.

Sam’s Club Auto Buying Program:

  • Use the Sam’s Club Auto Buying Program to get instant offers when selling your car and when shopping for a new or used car. For more information, visit samsclub.truecar.com/samsclub-landing.

  • Sam’s Club members can get up to $2,000 in post-sale benefits when they report purchases from a Certified Dealer. Visit samsclub.truecar.com/report-purchase to learn more.

New cars on the lot wait for buyers at the Capital Chevrolet car dealership, formerly Bobby Murray Chevrolet, on August 17, 2016.
New cars on the lot wait for buyers at the Capital Chevrolet car dealership, formerly Bobby Murray Chevrolet, on August 17, 2016.

4/ Create a car maintenance plan (and do as much as you can on your own)

Maintain your car regularly. This will save you big bucks in the long run.

Oil changes and tire rotations can even be done from home — invite a gearhead friend over for lunch and spend an afternoon in your driveway, or do it yourself with the help of some trusted YouTube videos!

(The Home Depot and O’Reilly Auto Parts, for example, have videos YouTube demonstrating how to change your oil and rotate your tires from home.)

5/ Get the most miles per gallon

You can start off by seeking vehicles with better fuel efficiency. That way you’re not paying extra at the pump on top of your monthly car payment.

The News & Observer previously reported tips to save money on gas:

Stay under 50 mph (or as close to the speed limit as you can): AAA says that on the highway, “aerodynamic drag causes fuel economy to drop off significantly” once you start going over 50 miles per hour. (We know, most speed limits on major interstates are over 50 mph. But you can still drive as close to the posted limit as possible to avoid excess gas use.) Try slowing down and driving the speed limit next time you’re looking to save on gas. Your wallet will thank you, and you’ll be a safer driver, too.

Keep your parked car cool: If you’re keeping your car parked out in the open, instead of under a shady spot, your car will be hotter when you get in, and you’ll likely blast the A/C more to cool it down. Try parking your car in a shady spot, like under a tree, to keep it cool when you’re not driving. Or, use a windshield screen to block some sunlight from getting in. “This reduces the need for air conditioning (and thus fuel) to cool down the car,” AAA says.

Use less air conditioning: “Even at highway speeds, open windows have less effect on fuel economy than the engine power required to operate the air conditioning compressor,” AAA says. Whether you choose to drive with your windows down or just choose to bump up your car’s A/C settings a few degrees, limiting your A/C usage might be worth it to some people to save on gas — as long as you can stand a little heat.

Use cruise control: Cruise control helps you maintain a constant and consistent speed, helping you save fuel — which means fewer trips to the gas station and less money spent filling up. (Pro tip: Remember the tip above about driving the speed limit? That also applies when using cruise control. Setting your cruise control well above the speed limit will defeat the purpose of using it at all.)

Avoid prolonged idling: If you find yourself in a situation where you’ll need to be stopped in your car for more than 60 seconds, AAA recommends shutting off your car’s engine to save gas.

Reporter Korie Dean contributed to this report.