Summer provides the perfect time for road trips and vacation getaways with family and friends. But with the price of gasoline fluctuating, as well as the price of car maintenance, the cost of keeping your car on the road can really add up. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) recommends several preventative automotive care measures to keep your credit and your car tuned up:
- Be smart about buying gasoline. There are many Web sites (like GasBuddy.com) and local media that track gas station prices, but don’t drive the extra miles to get the lower price – that’s like throwing money out the window. Also, don’t waste your money buying premium fuel if your engine calls for regular.
- Follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule. Maintaining your car will help keep repair costs down, prolong the life of the automobile and allow the vehicle to continue to use fuel efficiently.
- Analyze your current auto expenses. Gather monthly operating and ownership costs including gas, repairs and other auto maintenance as well as the amount for the car loan, insurance, taxes and finance charges, respectively. Also calculate your average daily mileage for the week and weekends. Auto Web sites such as www.AAA.com have worksheets for assistance. How does your car stack up?
- Buy smart, save later. Not everyone can afford a hybrid vehicle, but with proper research and planning, everyone does have the potential to save big bucks. Check out a car’s city and highway miles per gallon. Does the car get good gas mileage? Can you use regular unleaded gasoline or does it need premium fuel? Read all the fine print and check the seller’s reputation. If you’re buying a used car, verify the car’s history.
- Finance the right way. Even if you have bad credit, shop around for the lowest interest rate. Places that appeal to buyers “regardless of credit” often will saddle you with a vehicle a more reputable dealer would have scrapped. Be sure to negotiate based on the price of the vehicle, not the monthly payment. As a general rule, don’t sign up for a car loan longer than four to five years.