Sometimes I wished I lived in a major metropolitan city like New York, Chicago or San Francisco. It's not for the pizza, sausage or seafood...and it's not because they all have great skylines. No, each of these cities have pretty good public transportation systems. If I lived in one of these cities, I would not have to own a car.

But, I live in a suburb of Oklahoma City which does not have its own public transportation system. Oklahoma City has a bus system, but it doesn't travel out to my 'burb. Hence, every time I need to run an errand which requires me to go to Oklahoma City, I have to drive.

It is said that most people who own cars travel less than 40 miles a day with them. That's not really a whole lot of driving. My car payments are $340 per month. That means it costs me about 28 cents per mile to drive my car, assuming I drive 40 miles per day, which I don't. I actually drive a lot less than that, so it really costs me more than 28 cents a mile to drive my car, and that's just taking into account the car payment, not the gas, oil, maintenance, etc.

That means that my car is the most expensive thing that I own. Each month, it costs me money just to own it, drive it and maintain it. Sure, I get transportation out of it, but when you get right down to it...it's a money pit. Even if I owned the car free and clear, it would still cost me money to use it. It's enough to make me long for the trains and buses in NYC.

In the past, before adopting a life of Savvy Frugality, when I had an emergency expense, it usually involved my car. It either broke down, needed new tires or just plain died by the side of the road. So, how do we minimize our pain of owning and operating a motor vehicle? I'm glad you asked!

1. How often should you change your oil? Opinions on this vary, but you can never change your oil too often. However, it is possible to not change it often enough. The manufacturer says to change your oil every 3,000 miles. My mechanic says every 7,000. I say a happy medium is every 5,000 miles. Do make sure that you follow the manufacturer's recommendations about what KIND of oil to use.

2. Yes, you do need to check your tire pressure. That advice about maintaining proper tire pressure isn't just a suggestion. You really should make sure your tires are properly inflated. Sure, there's the whole "you get better gas mileage" thing, but if your tires aren't properly inflated, they won't last as long. A new set of tires is more than a couple of hundred dollars. You don't want to change those more often than you need to, now do you?

3. Ditch the additives. Those bottles of additives at the automotive store promise they will clean your engine of oil sludge, remove water from your gas tank, etc. They aren't necessary, and if used improperly will actually cause more problems for your car than they will solve. I damaged the oxygen sensor on my Saturn by adding gasoline additive to the tank. The mechanic never could figure out how to fix it.

4. Streamline your car. Want better gas mileage? Get rid of all the junk in your car. That's added weight that you don't need. Also, if you have a luggage rack on your car and you don't use if for luggage, that adds more drag to your vehicle. I've read about some people who remove their side view mirrors to reduce drag on their car. That's stupid. However, the luggage or bike rack isn't an absolute necessity.

5. Heed the lights. I'm not talking about the traffic lights at the intersection, but the warning lights in your car. Have you been driving the past 2,000 miles with the "check engine" light lit up on your dashboard? That's bad news. Time to take the car to a mechanic.

I designate a percentage of my emergency fund to regular auto maintenance. I suppose you could also just open a savings account specifically for your car maintenance, and deposit $25 to $50 in it every month. When it's time to get something fixed, you have the money for it. The car repair doesn't become a dire emergency.

Happy motoring!

2 comments

  1. Car Rental Barbados // October 10, 2008 at 2:06 AM  

    hi,

    nice blogs good idea to saving your cars.cool cool keep up it.

  2. car auction // November 14, 2008 at 2:09 AM  

    When there was this issue with the increasing fuel price problems, I made use a lot of of the public transportation system almost on the daily basis and it has saved me a lot, but that got my car stuck in my garage for a long long while.

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