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11 Ways to Save on Car Costs

From buying to maintenance, here's how to save

99 ways to save, Jack Gillis car safety tires

John Loomis

Follow expert Jack Gillis' directions, and you'll be arriving at great car deals in no time flat.

Jack Gillis, Author of The Car Book

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1. Keep car transactions separate.

There are three negotiations when buying a car: settling on a price for the new car, selling your trade-in and arranging financing. Keep them completely separate. This simplifies the transaction and gives you flexibility if the terms of one aren't satisfactory. 

Get money savings tips in the AARP Money Newsletter

2. Negotiate up from the invoice price rather than down from the sticker price.

Simply make an offer close to or at the invoice price. If the salesperson says that your offer is too low to make a profit, ask to see the factory invoice.

3. Avoid extras when buying a new car.

As the car buyer, you drive the decisions on extras. You can buy floor mats at an auto store or online for less than a dealer charges. Fabric and paint treatments provide little protection for a lot of money. And vehicles come from the manufacturer with corrosion protection, making rust-proofing unnecessary. 

4. Base tire purchases on the government's tire-rating system.

Grades based on tread wear, traction and heat resistance must be printed on the sidewall and attached to the tire on a paper label. Ask the dealer for the grades of the tires they sell, and buy the highest grades for the lowest price.

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5. Check your air filter.

A clean air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent. Nearly 1 in 4 cars need a new air filter. 

6. Check your alignment.

Poor alignment can cause your tires to wear out faster and result in poor handling — plus, it can reduce fuel efficiency by 10 percent.

7. Check your cap.

An estimated 17 percent of the cars on the road have a broken, loose or missing gasoline cap. This hurts your mileage and can harm the environment by allowing your gasoline to vaporize. 

8. Avoid service contracts or extended warranties.

Today's car warranties are pretty good, and the chance that you'll need the extra coverage is very low. You'd do better putting the money into a savings account.

Phillip Reed, Auto Expert

9. Time your shopping.

It's not true that shopping for a car on a rainy day gets you a better deal. Instead, get the lowest price toward the end of the month: Dealers will offer discounts to hit their monthly quotas.

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10. Skip the expensive badge, and save.

Why pay for a prestigious brand like Lexus, Infiniti or Acura when you can often buy nearly the same car for $10,000 less from the same company (Toyota, Nissan or Honda)?

11. Don't change good oil.

Forget about 3,000-mile oil changes unless you are driving an older car. Instead, wait until your maintenance light comes on, since many new cars use sensors to detect when the oil needs changing.

Jack Gillis is the author of The Car Book. Phillip Reed is an auto expert at NerdWallet.com.


See what you can save with AARP's Auto Buying Program

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