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9 Ways to Save on Car Expenses

Cruise on a budget with tips to help you improve mileage, save at the gas pump and more

En español | Master the stick. Cars and trucks with stick shifts typically get two to five more miles per gallon than vehicles with automatic transmissions, according to Consumer Reports. They can cost $800 to $1,200 less in the first place, and they need fewer and less expensive brake and transmission repairs.

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Cruise control. Use it. You'll often get better mileage on the highway than with your right foot in charge.

Best time to buy. Buy a car at the end of the month, when there's a scramble to meet sales quotas. Salespeople often earn bonuses then and may share the wealth with you to close a deal.

Gas app. A website that drivers can use to check local gas prices,, has gone mobile with free apps for Apple, Android, Windows and BlackBerry.

Let's twist again. After filling up, twist the gas cap until it clicks. With older vehicles, check for tightness. One in six cars has an improperly fitting or missing gas cap, which can reduce a car's mileage by as much as 10 percent.

Smoke signals. Before you buy a used car, let its tailpipe tip you to trouble. White smoke often results from water or antifreeze entering cylinders, suggesting the engine could overheat. Blue smoke could be caused by a clogged PCV valve or by engine oil entering cylinders, possibly because gaskets failed. Black could indicate excess fuel in cylinders or problems with the carburetor, fuel pump or computer sensors.

A person washes an antique car 99 ways to save money

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Proper car maintenance now can save you money on repairs later.

Spare me. To ensure tire rotations are performed, place white marker on rear tires; you should find it on front tires before you pay the bill.

Card savers. Choose the right credit card for the pump and cut your costs. Some cash-back credit cards offer particularly high rewards for gas purchases. Check it out at or Also, credit cards issued by gas chains may save you up to 5 percent.

Water works. Keep a full cup in the holder and make a game of avoiding spilling it as you drive. You'll rein in jackrabbit starts, sudden stops and higher speeds that can lower your in-town mileage by 5 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

You may also like: More tips to save money on your car. >>

Contributors: Arthur Dalglish, Sid Kirchheimer, Cathie Gandel, Joan Rattner Heilman, K.C. Summers, Jeff Yeager, Bob Calandra and AARP members like you.