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Cut Your Car Costs

Saving money just takes a little creativity — try these clever tricks

Keep It Running

Gone are the days when many drivers felt as if they needed to replace their vehicle every few years: Today's cars are staying in service longer than ever. According to the marketing firm R. L. Polk, the average age of cars and light trucks on the road now is 10.2 years — 21 percent older than it was 14 years ago.

You know the car-survival drill: Change the oil regularly, rotate the tires, and don't ignore weird noises, especially squeaky brakes, says Fort Myers, Florida, technician Pam Oakes, author of Car Care for the Clueless: "Nothing is more important than your brakes. If your car doesn't start, it's frustrating, but it's not going to be dangerous." Get your hands dirty and do easy preventive maintenance yourself — changing wiper blades, topping off fluids, checking belts and hoses for wear. For gas savings and safety, check tire pressure monthly. Clean dust and dirt from the engine's air-filter element by knocking it against a tire. And don't let gas drop below a quarter tank — that can lead to a burned-out fuel pump.

Tune Up Your Insurance

Peter Kaufman, M.D., a 57-year-old Potomac, Maryland, gastroenterologist, isn't exactly a cheap driver: He has five cars, including two classic Porsche 911 Carreras. But he still likes saving money, so he registered both Porsches for historic license plates, which cut his insurance bill for those cars by more than half. Kaufman also insures his cars and his home through the same company; bundling policies can save 10 or 15 percent. Several other cost reductions are available for older drivers, says David Snyder, vice president of the American Insurance Association. Many insurers provide 5 to 10 percent savings for participating in driver-safety programs such as the one AARP offers, paying your annual premium in full, paying via automatic withdrawal, or riding public transit to work. But the biggest savings go to drivers who keep clean driving records, Snyder says.

Despite a penchant for Porsches, Kaufman says, he has managed to do just that. "I don't drive fast on the road," he says. "I drive fast on the racetrack."

Next: Pass by the pump: 5 tips to slash your gas costs. >>

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