10 Ways To Save on Auto Expenses

From the car wash to the parking lot, these tips will help you save on auto expenses anywhere.

Woman mechanic working on a car in an auto repair shop iStock

The key to saving on auto repair expenses is paying attention to the little things that can lead to big issues. From your driving habits to the type of auto insurance coverage you have, every factor related to your car can impact the amount you spend to keep it running. To help you mitigate the cost of auto ownership, we compiled a list of 10 ways to save on car expenses. 

House with vehicles parked in the garage iStock

1. Your garage might earn you car insurance discounts and more.

Something as simple as parking your car in the garage could lower your auto expenses. For instance, vehicles that are kept in a garage are less prone to rust, an issue that, if not treated, can impact the structural integrity of your ride. And fixing rust damage can be pricey, not to mention hail damage. 

Cars that look well-cared-for may also retain a higher resale value. And you can increase your peace of mind, as keeping your car sheltered can help ward off crime and intrusive pests. 

2. Cracked windshields can be an unexpected inconvenience. 

There are a host of culprits that can crack or damage to your windshield, and flying debris is one of the most common. Additionally, extreme temperatures, dirt, worn-down windshield wiper blades and improper cleaning can also cause problems for windshield glass. 

3. Your gas pedal is key to auto-saving.

When it comes to further delaying a trip to the gas pump, little changes can make a big difference: 

  • Drive the speed limit. On the highway, aerodynamic drag causes fuel economy to drop off significantly as speeds increase above 50 mph. 

  • Avoid “jack rabbit” starts and hard acceleration. These actions greatly increase fuel consumption.

  • Don’t spend extra time idling to warm up the engine, even in winter. It’s unnecessary and wastes fuel. And if your car will be stopped for more than 60 seconds, shut off the engine to save fuel. Many newer cars have automatic engine stop-start systems that do this. 

  • AAA Members can take advantage of the Fuel Rewards Program® at Shell. 

Woman driver using automated parking service to enter a parking garage iStock

4. Save while you store.

If you need to park or store your car for a prolonged amount of time, keep these habits in mind to help save on expenses:

  • Prop up the wiper arms so the blades are off your windshield and won’t get stuck to the glass. 
  • Don’t use the parking brake when storing the vehicle. Depending on the vehicle and storage conditions, the brakes could become frozen, the brake pads could rust to the rotors or the brake shoes could distort the drums. 
  • Even if you’re not using your vehicle, keep your insurance current to protect against damage from unforeseen events.  
Man on cell phone with open-doored vehicle in background iStock

5. Take advantage of car insurance discounts.

AAA has advice for maximizing the savings on your insurance premiums:  

  • Bundle up: Many insurers offer savings when you group your auto and home policies together.
  • Increase your deductible: Raise the deductible on your insurance, and you’ll save on your premiums. 
  • Consider insurance costs before you select a vehicle: Premiums are based partly on the car’s make and model. Some insurers also offer discounts for automotive features that reduce the risk of theft or personal injury.
  • Use low-mileage discounts: Do you have a short commute to work, or do you carpool? Some insurance companies offer discounts to motorists who drive fewer miles than the average. 
Mechanic changes a tire in a repair shop iStock

6. Keep your tires rolling longer.

To gain the maximum life and performance from your tires, it’s essential to rotate them on a regular basis, usually every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. (Refer to your vehicle owner’s manual for specific tire recommendations.)

Tire balance is also important. Properly balanced tires help minimize uneven wear and extend their life, ultimately saving on car expenses.

Vehicle in an automated car wash iStock

7. Be careful at the car wash. 

While keeping your car clean can prevent long-term surface damage to your vehicle, making missteps during the process can ultimately cost you. Here’s advice to help you save: 

  • If at a self-serve car wash, avoid using the car wash’s scrub brush. These are only as clean as the last customer left them, and using them often means you’re rubbing dirt and sand across the paint of your own car. To avoid unnecessary scratches and the need for future touch-ups, bring your own brush. If you don’t bring your own, be sure to rinse both the self-serve car wash’s brush and bucket. 
  • When possible, pay with a credit card, not cash. Using coin meters leaves you little control over the length of time you have to use the equipment, and you often end up overpaying. Many card-optimized readers only run for as long as you use them, so you only pay for exactly what you get. 
  • In applicable regions (North and South Carolina), visit your nearest Fins Car Wash to experience a state-of-the-art, top quality car wash, with exclusive discounts for Members.
Multiple vehicles parallel parked on a street iStock

8. Park smart.

Whether it’s a drive into town or your daily commute, parking expenses add up. But there are ways to save: 

  • Give yourself some breathing room. If you allow enough time, you can circle the block once or twice to find the most affordable parking option.

  • Parallel parking is your friend. Many opt for the ease of a parking garage, which could leave more parallel parking spots on the street.  

  • At the airport, AAA Members save 20% with The Parking Spot, regardless of the length of stay or day of the week.  

De-icing snow covered car by hand. iStock

9. Mind the weather to decrease auto repair costs.

Cold weather also impacts your auto repair budget. For example, while deicing procedures help keep you safe on the street, the salts used to melt the ice and help prevent vehicles from slipping and sliding can cause extensive damage to cars. To mitigate the damage, frequently wash your vehicle, paying particular attention to the undercarriage. Washing will loosen, dissolve and neutralize the road salts. Experts also recommend repairing body damage and painting scratches and chips to keep any exposed metal from rusting.

The warmer months present their own unique problems. 

To cut down on avoidable auto repair expenses, check the coolant and make sure it’s flushed and replaced as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer to prevent long-term engine damage and overheating.

Auto mechanic testing a car battery iStock

10. Take care of your battery to minimize car expenses.

Follow these tips to avoid shortening the life of your vehicle’s power source: 

  • When possible, keep your battery out of the elements. Extreme temperatures, especially the heat, can lessen its effectiveness.
  • Be sure to check for corrosion around your car battery and remove it if you see any (dark soda will loosen it before you scrub with a steel brush). 
  • Keep your key fob in the house. Leaving it in your car can wear out the battery. 
  • When in doubt, test it out. AAA offers mobile battery service as a member benefit. Roadside service techs will come to most locations to test and, if needed, replace your battery.

Keep reading in: