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How to save money on car expenses

Tips to save thousands on owning a car.

Updated

Fact checked

Owning a car can get expensive if you don’t treat your car right. If you don’t regularly take care of your vehicle or go with the asking price from the dealer, you could end up paying more than necessary for a car with little value. Follow these tips to save on insurance, maintenance and repayments.

4 ways to save on car repayments

Car payments can be where owning a vehicle has the biggest impact on your wallet. But there are a few ways you can reduce how much you pay each month.

1. Compare and negotiate offers.

Before you buy your car, don’t just go with what the dealership offers. Look at all of your financing options — including auto loans and leases. You might want to consider prequalifying with an auto lender so you have a number to bring to the dealership to negotiate down your APR. If you don’t get a better deal, you can always go with the lender.

2. Refinance your car loan.

If your credit or income has improved since you took out your car loan, you could save by refinancing. To do that, you might contact several lenders to find out what interest rate they offer. Ideally, you would refinance the balance of your current loan at a lower interest rate to save money.

3. Lengthen your term.

Lengthening the time to repay your loan lowers monthly payments in the short term. This option works best if you need wiggle room in your budget but can’t save money using other methods. However, extending the term does increase how much you pay in interest over time.

4. Swap your lease.

If you get into a lease with high payments, you could opt to swap out your contract with someone else. The other person would take over the lease, leaving you to buy or lease another car within your budget. You can find people who want to swap on sites like Leasetrader, LeaseQuit or Swapalease.

Save on car loans

Data indicated here is updated regularly
Name Product Filter Values Minimum credit score APR Loan term Requirements
PenFed Auto Loans
Varies
2.99% (Starting at)
Up to 10 years
Active membership with PenFed
Low APR car loans from a well-known credit union.
LendingClub Auto Refinancing
Fair or better credit
7% to 24.99%
From 2 years
Car must be less than 10 years old with fewer than 120,000 miles. Current loan must have a balance between $5,000 and $55,000 and at least 24 months left in its term.
Lower your monthly car payments and save on interest through a fast and easy online application process.
Ally Clearlane
640
4.49% to 8.24%
3 to 7 years
Monthly income of $2,000+, live in an eligible US state, ages 18+
SuperMoney Auto Loan Refinancing
600
Varies by lender
Varies by lender
Car must be less than 10 years old with fewer than 150,000 miles. Fair to excellent credit, an income source, US Citizen or Permanent Resident, 18+ years old
Find an offer and get rates from competing lenders without affecting your credit score.
LendingTree
Good to excellent credit
Starting at 3.09%
Varies by lender
18+ years old, good to excellent credit, US citizen
Compare multiple financing options for auto refinance, new car purchase, used car purchase and lease buy out.
MotoRefi Car Loan Refinancing
525
2.99% (as low as)
1 to 6 years
Must have an income of at least $2,000/month and have a vehicle with less than 100,000 miles.
A car loan connection service for borrowers looking to refinance.
RateGenius Auto Loan Refinance
510
2.99% (as low as)
Varies
Income of $2,000+/month, vehicle has less than 150,000 miles and is no older than 8 years, loan balance is between $10,000 and $100,000, debt-to-income ratio is less than 50%
Connect with a network of over 150 lenders to refinance your car loan.
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Compare up to 4 providers

9 ways to save on insurance

Just like paying for fuel, your insurance is a recurring cost that’s worth finding savings for. It’s a good thing that you can find multiple, easy ways to save on your premium.

1. Compare several companies.

Because many different factors go into your insurance rate, you might receive different quotes from different companies. While you’re weighing pros and cons of each, consider the value of the coverage you get along with a provider’s low rates.

2. Evaluate your coverage needs.

Take a good look at your policy and find if you have overlapping coverage or add-ons you can live without. Outside of dropping coverage types, you can also adjust your deductible — a higher deductible means lower premiums. Just be sure you’re willing to pay up to that deductible for repairs.

3. Research cheapest cars to insure.

Size aside, your car’s insurance rate varies by its make and model too. By researching that information before you buy, you can make sure your rates stay low compared to other cars.

4. Keep an eye out for discounts.

Most providers offer multiple discounts you might qualify for. Those might include automatic payments, paid in full, safety course completion, accident free, student away, good student and car safety features.

5. Try an online provider.

If you’re comfortable navigating online accounts, customer service chats and online claims, you could stick with an online provider. These may have less overhead than using companies with local agents, decreasing your rates overall.

6. Avoid accidents and traffic violations.

Your driving record weighs heavily into your insurance rate. By driving safely and keeping accidents off your record, you avoid insurance surcharges that can last several years.

7. Use telematics.

This type of policy or program uses an app or device installed in your car to track your driving habits and mileage. Many programs make suggestions to help you improve your safety on the road, leading to steep discounts and fewer accidents.

8. Pay as you go.

Pay-as-you-go insurance works best for low mileage drivers because this policy charges drivers by the mile. In addition, pay-as-you-go may use telematics to track how safe a driver you are.

9. Add teens to your policy.

Teen drivers can increase your premium by a steep amount. That’s because teens statistically get into more accidents than older, more experienced drivers. By combining policies, your teen can typically get the best rates.

Save on car insurance

Name Product Roadside assistance New car protection Accident forgiveness Safe driver discount Available states
Progressive
Optional
30%
All 50 states
Discover coverage that’s broader than competitors, valuable discounts up to 30% off and perks like shrinking deductibles that reward no claims.
USAA
Optional
Yes
All 50 states
Affordable car insurance with highly rated customer service. Only available to military members and veterans and their family.
Allstate
13%
All 50 states
Your dedicated agent can help you find the best savings with multiple discounts and rewards programs.
EverQuote
EverQuote
Optional
Yes
All 50 states
Roll in a variety of car insurance quotes from top insurers despite a high-risk driving profile, and view possible discounts while you’re at it.
The AARP Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford
Optional
Yes
All 50 states & DC
Drivers over age 50 can enjoy low rates and perks designed for mature drivers, plus freebies and AARP member perks like free replacement cost coverage.
Liberty Mutual
Optional
30%
All 50 states
Earn free accident forgiveness after five years claims-free and customize your policy anytime online at the tap of a button.
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Compare up to 4 providers

6 ways to save on maintenance costs

Maintenance might be a necessary cost of car ownership, but you don’t have to pay through the roof for it. Save money and keep you car in good condition using a few tips.

1. Follow your car’s maintenance schedule.

Reduce repairs by keeping up with your car’s recommended maintenance, including flushing brake or transmission fluid, replacing spark plugs, replacing brake pads, balancing wheels and checking your tires. In addition, stick to the recommended type of oil to extend the life of your engine.

2. Do small repairs yourself.

Taking care of easy maintenance and repairs can save a lot on mechanic costs. Simple items might include replacing your own tires, changing your oil filter, replacing headlights or even a damaged bumper.

3. Top off your fluids.

Driving with low fluids could make your engine work harder, leading to faster wear or unnecessary repairs. Keep your coolant, antifreeze, oil and power steering fluids topped up to avoid that scenario.

4. Consider a mobile mechanic.

If you’re not so savvy when it comes to cars, look into mechanics that will come to you when you need small repairs and quick maintenance work. It’ll likely cost a fraction of what you’d pay to take it to a full-fledged shop. Just make sure you do the research and find a reputable technician.

5. Take it in for an independent tune-up.

Along with simple maintenance, getting your car tuned up at the recommended mileage makes sure it stays in top working condition. Consider going with an independent repair shop if it charges less than your car’s manufacturer.

6. Get estimates for repairs.

It pays to do your homework on repair costs in advance if you have an idea of the problem. In addition, you can ask for a repair estimate before consenting to the work. That way you can check prices with multiple trusted repair shops or negotiate a fair price if you feel the estimate is high.

6 ways to save on fuel

Americans pay an average 10 cents per mile for gasoline after including factors like the cost of fuel and driving habits, according to AAA. But a few simple changes can get the most out of your car’s mileage.

1. Buy a car with good fuel economy.

If you’re looking for a new car, consider one with high fuel economy. In general, smaller cars get the best mileage, but fuel economy also varies by make and model.

2. Keep your tires inflated.

Low tire pressure causes extra drag as you drive, not to mention that it can damage your wheels. Keep tires fully aired up at the pressure recommended for your vehicle and type of tires. Many vehicles require pressure to stay around 32 or 35 PSI for best results, but trucks might need more.

3. Stay wary of extra weight.

Heavy cargo makes your car work harder to haul everything around, so you might keep only what’s necessary in your car. Try removing extra equipment, bike racks or cargo carriers when you’re not using them.

4. Use cruise control.

This simple feature keeps your speed consistent on the highway or interstate, which means you won’t press the gas to speed up as often.

5. Drive gently.

Likewise, hitting the brakes or gas pedal hard can drive up your fuel costs significantly. According to the Department of Energy, doing so could add an extra 25 cents to $1 per gallon.

6. Avoid idling.

Running your car at a standstill wastes gas and can be hard on your engine. If you come to a stop due to traffic or picking up a passenger, consider turning off the engine for long waits.

4 ways to save on depreciation

Saving the most on your car’s depreciation involves a little upfront work before purchasing. However, your efforts can pay off down the road when you resell or trade in your car.

1. Consider a less pricey car.

Depreciation involves losing money on your car’s value over time because of its age and wear. However, the less valuable your car is upfront, the less you stand to lose as your car ages.

2. Buy a car that’s a few years old.

Cars depreciate the most within its first few years. By buying a used or leased car that’s one or two years old, you avoid paying for that depreciation yourself.

3. Research cars that hold their value.

Every car depreciates at a different rate, and cars with top safety ratings and few mechanical problems might hold their value over time. Buying one of these cars ensures you get the most back after reselling.

4. Keep your car longer.

Switching out new cars often means you’re paying the high cost of new car depreciation over and over again. You can decrease that amount by keeping your car longer because you’ll end up purchasing fewer new cars over your lifetime.

Bottom line

Owning a car can get pricey when you factor in your car loan or lease, its value over time, maintenance and insurance costs. On the other hand, a few smart choices in each of these areas can ease the strain on your wallet, helping you free up some cash.

Frequently asked questions about saving on car expenses

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