How to Save on Car Costs

A car is typically a family's second biggest investment, after mortgage or rent. And if you're a two-vehicle household, the outlay is twice as substantial. Here's some expert advice to help you get the most for your money.

Improve Your MPG

the road to savings

The days of $1.50-per-gallon gas are long gone. Still, you can get the most out of every drop you put in the tank:

  • Tighten your gas cap. Each year in the United States, 147 million gallons of gas evaporate due to loose caps. Don't let any of it be yours. "Twist your cap until you hear three or four clicks," advises Lauren Fix, spokesperson for the Car Care Council, a consumer education organization.
  • Fill your tires frequently. Driving on poorly inflated tires can waste two or three miles per gallon because it takes more energy for the tires to rotate. On the other hand, driving on overinflated tires is dangerous because it reduces traction. Buy a digital tire gauge ($13 to $30 at Amazon.com), and check your pressure every couple of weeks (digital gauges are accurate and easy to read). "While you're waiting for the tank to fill, check each tire to make sure it's properly inflated," Fix says. The proper pressure is listed on a sticker on the inside of the driver's door.
  • Change your air filter every six months. "A dirty filter makes the engine work harder, which wastes gas," Fix says. If you don't feel comfortable changing the filter yourself, head to an auto specialty store like Pep Boys. Buy a filter, and a technician will install it for free. "This typically costs less than having a new one installed at the dealer or the place where you have your oil changed."

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