I’ve got a thing for Volkswagens. As a child my parents owned a 1984 Volkswagen Vanagon and I thought it was the absolute coolest vehicle ever. I still think it’s pretty awesome.
We drove that Vanagon all across the western U.S., Canada, and Alaska. I have the best memories of being bored out my gourd, along with the excitement of the open road.
My Dad maneuvered that van into a billion precarious positions. No path was off limits; not steep trails usually confined to 4×4’s, and certainly not slippery winter roads encrusted in black ice. Maybe the ice did slow the trusty Vanagon down a bit (it was rear-wheel drive), but Dad always carried a bag of sand in the back and a shovel.
I thought those wild predicaments were the best part of the adventure!
The Vanagon has long since been scrapped (may she rest in peace) but the adventure of car ownership lives on. To keep the excitement of the open road going we’ve got to keep the vehicles in tip-top shape. In order to do that we need to pay the bills, baby.
How to Budget for Automotive Expenses
Here are some ideas to decrease this cost:
- Fill up when you have max grocery awards (check your grocer’s website for gas rewards information, or see information about Kroger fuel points or the Safeway Gas Rewards program. We try to do this, but it’s hard to get the timing right. To get the most benefit out of your rewards you want to try to fill up at your maximum benefit, when the vehicle (or vehicles) are at their emptiest. We haven’t gotten to the point where we caravan our cars to the gas station to fill up at the peak of empty, but some folks do use that trick to save quite a bit on fuel.
- Use discounted gift cards to purchase fuel. Discounted gift cards for many gas stations can be purchased at Raise. The discounts aren’t much, usually just a few percent, but it might be worth your while.
How to save money on car insurance:
- Did you just hear the phrase “…by switching to GEICO” in your brain? Isn’t their marketing department awesome?! But seriously, alternative car insurance programs like GEICO and Progressive really do save people money. I’ve never personally used GEICO, but I was a progressive customer for several years. I was very happy with their customer service. I even got to test their claims department out after being hit by an uninsured driver. That incident paid for my honeymoon. Yep, seriously.
- Use a higher deductible for your collision or comprehensive coverage. A higher deductible plan will cost you less monthly. In the unfortunate event of an accident you can use your savings to cover the cost of repair or replacement.
- Consider dropping comprehensive and collision coverage on older vehicles. You can see the insurance requirements for your state at DMV.org.
- Consider your own situation and needs, experimenting with various levels of insurance. We prefer to carry comprehensive and collision on our Suburban, but not on our commuter car. We’ve also opted for uninsured/uninsured property damage on both vehicles because the increase in cost was minimal and a large percentage of crazies in our state drive without insurance.
This number should include:
- oil changes,
- car washing,
- tune-ups, and
We don’t include car repairs in this category.
For years we’d add an extra amount ($20-$50) in this category for inevitable car repairs. The balance in this budget line kept increasing. Eventually we’d have a repair that would come out of savings anyway.
We finally got smart. Instead of having a rising balance in that category we realized that it was better to plan on paying for repairs out of our savings.
How can you decrease the costs of automotive maintenance?
- Wash your car at home!
- Change your own oil. My husband changes the oil in our suburban but brings his car to the shop. Some vehicles are easier to work on at home. As he says, he’d have to “break his arm in a hundred places” to change the oil in his car. Gotcha hubby, that’s totally worth the price of having Mr. Lube break his arm instead.
- Try YouTube for learning about basic vehicle maintenance. Just like with our human bodies, an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Simple things like filling your own car fluids can make a huge difference in the life of your vehicle. Youtube has a billion and one videos for car maintenance and repair.
There’ll never be a vehicle as trustworthy and adventurous as that old Vanagon. Even so, we’ll be ready to tackle the open road with our budget in ship-shape and our cars maintained, fueled, and insured.
How do you budget for automotive expenses? Do you have any tips for saving money on vehicle expenses?