By Julie E. Lee, Vice President, AARP Driver Safety Program
There's no getting around the price of getting around.
Considering the cost of buying a vehicle, insurance, maintenance, and fuel, owning a car is a significant investment--even if you only use it few times each week. While the most obvious way to avoid the costs associated with being a car owner is to forego it entirely and utilize your community's public transportation, some people simply don't have this option.
Luckily, there are many ways to drive down the cost of driving. Use these tips from the AARP Driver Safety Program to keep your car running smoothly (for less!).
1. Use the right gas: Are you sure that you're using the best gasoline for your vehicle's engine? Check your owner's manual to find the right octane level for your car. Using a higher octane gas than recommended not only damages your engine, but also hurts your wallet.
2. Avoid driving on "E:" Driving on low gas levels causes sediment from gasoline to settle at the bottom of your tank. This makes your car run on the dirtiest gas in the tank, harms the fuel intake valve, and forces your engine to work harder.
3. Fill up in cooler temperatures: With older pumps that don't have a temperature-compensating flow meter, fuel is denser when it's cool, so you actually get more for your money. Try filling up in the morning when it's cooler, instead of on your way home from work.
4. Follow the speed limit: Driving at speeds over 60 miles per hour significantly decreases your gas mileage. Stay safe (and save money) by sticking to the speed limit.
5. Be kind to your car when driving: Use cruise control when possible. Try to avoid abrupt starts and sudden stops. By driving "gently," you put less wear and tear on your tires, engine, and brakes, and you also improve your gas mileage. And turn off the engine if you're waiting; unnecessary idling wastes gas, costs money, and pollutes the air.
6. Lighten up: Remove extra material from the trunk. According to the Federal Trade Commission, removing an extra 100 pounds can reduce your fuel consumption by 2%.
7. Check your air: When was the last time you checked your tire inflation? Having the right amount of air in your tires is absolutely essential for car performance and tire life. Keeping your tire pressure at the recommended level actually increases fuel efficiency by one mile per gallon of gas, so check your tire pressure once a month and especially before embarking on a long road trip.
8. Rotate your tires: Remember to rotate your tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles. It will help extend your tire life.
9. Stay aligned: Proper alignment of your wheels will help increase the life and performance of your tires. And if you want to keep your tires perfectly inflated, rotated, and properly aligned, remember to watch out for potholes!
10. Don't slack on maintenance: Remember that performing regular car maintenance may save you from having to make a costly repair down the road. Have your engine tuned, change your oil often, and replace your vehicle's cabin air filters at least once a year or every 15,000 miles. Check online to see if you can find coupons for discounts on auto maintenance services.
To learn more money-saving and safety tips, consider registering for a driver-improvement course, such as the classroom or online courses offered by the AARP Driver Safety Program. For more information, visit www.aarp.org/driving45 or call 1-888-227-7669 (AARP-NOW).
Julie Lee, Vice President of the AARP Driver Safety Program, has more than 30 years experience in management, strategic planning, transportation and safety. With AARP for over eight years, Lee directs the largest driver improvement course designed for drivers age 50 and older.