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What are good ways to save on maintenance/fuel and prolong the life of a car?

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8 Answers 8

up vote 4 down vote accepted

Apparently, if you keep your tires' air filled to the recommended level, your car will burn less gas.

I loved this article at WikiHow, which confirmed what I had heard about air in tires, and had others to suggest, such as removing unnecessary items from inside and on your car (such as bike racks, trailer balls) as they can add to your car's overall weight, causing more drag and using more gas.

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It is almost always cheaper to do regular maintenance then to fix problems because you didn't change the oil or check the transmission fluid.

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Ride a bicycle or walk for short trips (< 5mi–10mi, depending on your level of comfort). Nothing saves as much on car expenses as simply driving less.

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Keep up on routine maintenance. That's the best way to prolong the life of your car, and it'll save you money in the long run because you won't have to replace your car as often.

Accelerate gently. The harder you push the gas pedal, the more gas you use.

Coast to a stop rather than using your brakes. If you can avoid stopping by slowing down well before a red light so that by the time you actually get to the light it is green again, do so.

Avoid high-speed driving. At highway speeds, wind resistance plays a big part in how much gas your car uses. If you can plan your trips to take slower routes, do so. Don't be the guy driving 55 in the left lane on the highway, though.

Avoid stop-and-go traffic. Keeping to a constant speed is the most efficient. Plan your trips to avoid areas with lots of traffic, lots of curb-cuts and intersections, etc. Leave lots of space in front of you so you have time to anticipate other drivers intentions and slow down rather than having to slam on your brakes at the last second.

Avoid short trips. Cars work best when they can get all the way up to operating temperature, and stay there for a while. If you're just going two miles, ride your bike.

Live close to work and a grocery store, so you can walk or ride your bike rather than driving. Use your car for road trips and your quarterly trips to CostCo to restock the larder.

If you can get away with not owning a car, sell it. Ride your bike, use public transit, or walk. If you can share a car with a significant other and only one of you has a long car commute, there's no sense in you both owning a car.

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Do your own oil change!

If you are a hands-on person, you could also avoid the cost of the semi-annual oil change, by doing it yourself. Edmunds.com has a great how-to to help you accomplish this. Be prepared for dirty fingernails! But savings, you will realize, as an oil change will run you anywhere from $20 - $200 (if you drive a European car and require a specialized filtre).

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.. or look for free oil change coupons :-D –  f1StudentInUS Oct 25 '11 at 23:55

Can you tell I'm having fun with this question? Here's another great list, from Finally Frugal, which includes the above items, but also these gems:

Avoid idling. Now, this just annoys me. Walking past a line of idling cars at the transit center waiting for their human 'pickup', makes me crazy! It makes me want to knock on the window, shake my finger, and give 'em a piece of my mind. I don't do it, because I don't have a death wish. Turn the car off when you're not driving it.

Combine trips. I used to be one of those people who would run to Target, go home, remember something I needed at the grocery store and go out for that, come home again, then run out to the library. All of these places are within a two mile radius of my house. Making lists before leaving the house has helped me to group my errands within one trip, meaning fewer back and forth trips.

Slow down. Your parents were right. Slow is better. Not only is it safer to drive the speed limit, you'll be increasing your car's efficiency and reducing the amount of fuel your vehicle uses.

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My understanding was that it takes more gas to turn a car on that to idle it. I don't know at how many minutes that becomes untrue, or if that even applies to newer engines. –  MrChrister Nov 27 '09 at 23:04
That is a myth. Idling consumes a tremendous amount of fuel and it also its the period where the exhaust is the highest. –  treeNinja Sep 30 at 15:52

Manage the fuel consumption price: check the pattern of fuel prices if you can for your area. Some areas have weekly changes which are somewhat predictable and some sites will even predict the minimum price for the next day. Some other areas will have a discount fuel day.

Switch to diesel: fuel consumption by diesel engines are much better than standard combustion engines. Downside is not as many refueling stations.

Switch to a hybrid: fuel consumption is better than comparable combustion engines alone but the downside is that the technology is new and still maturing. Check out this site for more information.

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Don't buy the first model year of a new model unless the fuel economy is much better in the latest model. Buying a car in later years just before the changeover will result in a slightly higher quality vehicle or in some cases dramatically higher quality.

Find the best forum for your make/model/year of car. Join the forum, check the FAQ, sticky threads and post questions when you have trouble. Do NOT rely passively on the dealer or even private mechanics as they do not drive the car every day. You are in the best position to identify problems but only if you have some help. Preventive maintenance is the best if you intend to keep the car for a really long time. Forums are a really good place to find the typical problems of a particular model and potentially head them off.

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