How to Save Money » Frugal Living

6 ways to slash your car expenses

The average Canadian spends thousands of dollars on their vehicle every year (including insurance, maintenance, gasoline, etc.). Check out this Driving Costs analysis done by CAA in 2011. Are you spending as much on your vehicle as to the average Canadian?

What some people don’t realize when they purchase a new vehicle is that it depreciates the minute you drive away from the dealership. A car can lose up to 20% of its value in the first year of ownership!

The following are 6 ways you can save on your car expenses.

Drive a reliable vehicle.

Stay away from flashy sports cars and SUVs, as those will cost you an arm and a leg to operate. Purchase a vehicle that is safe, has great fuel efficiency, and is easy to maintain.

Shop around, do your research and find the car that’s right for you.

Consider becoming a one-car household.

Many families have more than one vehicle and this can cause havoc on your bank account every month. Two insurance payments, two car payments (in some instances), twice the maintenance and repairs, and of course, twice the gasoline – this could add up to a large amount of money each month. Is it really worth it?

When we decided to become a one-car household over a year ago, I knew that I was going to be giving up a bit of freedom by not having a vehicle during the day. However, making that choice to get rid of one of our cars was the right move for us. We save over $2,000 every year by only having to maintain one vehicle – and you know what? Most of the time, I really don’t even miss having that 2nd vehicle.

Keep up with routine maintenance.

If you want to keep your car for as long as you possibly can, it’s important to keep it in tip-top shape. Don’t neglect to get your vehicle serviced whenever you need to. Take a look through your owner’s manual to determine when you need to change the air filter, replace transmission fluid, and rotate the tires.

Get an oil change every 4 months (or 12,000 kilometers).

Despite what others may tell you, it’s not usually necessary to change your oil every 3 months (or 4,827 kilometers). The only reason you would need to do so that often would be if your vehicle gets a lot of use (for example, if you drove a taxi).

According to Perry Stern, editor at MSN Autos, the average person only needs to change the oil in their car every 12,000 kilometers (or every 4 months). This is what we have been doing for years and we’ve never had an issue with any of the vehicles we’ve owned.

Shop around for insurance.

This is something that you should try to do every year. Right before your insurance policy is about to be renewed, look around at other companies to see if you can get the same coverage for a lower price. Many times, you can! If you mention to competing companies that you are looking for a lower rate than your current insurance provider, they will usually ask how much you are currently paying and will then offer you a lower rate. This has worked for me in the past, so I encourage you to give it a try. You just never know what kind of savings you may come across!

Drive less.

Of course, one of the easiest ways to save money on your car costs is to simply drive less often. Walk to as many places as possible. Take the bus. Car-pool with friends/family.

Combine your errands so that you don’t have to go out as often, saving you time and money! You should only drive if absolutely necessary.

Though it may seem impossible to some, you can save money on car expenses. The key is to do your research, be committed, and stay focused. It is possible to own a vehicle, enjoy the freedom that comes along with it, and still save a decent amount of money on the expenses you will be incurring from operating it.

Owning a vehicle can be an expensive endeavor. Employ some of these money-saving tips and you will be well on your way to enjoying your vehicle for less!

What are some ways that you save money on car expenses? Share your tips in the comments!


  1. Rachel

    For me having my own car is crucial and saving $2000 a year is just not a big enough incentive to give up the convinience of having my own car. I guess how I try to save money is to really decide whether I need something when I buy things. It is tempting to buy all sorts of things that you wouldn’t normally buy just because you have a coupon matched with a sale.
    But if giving up one car works for you, Cassie, then I’m happy for you. And if you get to be home owners sooner then that is really awesome!
    Take care


  2. Lindy

    When we get our oil changed, we wait until after 5:30 pm and drop in to the car dealership. When they have available spots for oil changes in the evening, they put a small sign out front with a drop in special for half off the oil change. We never pay the full amount for the oil change.

  3. amanda

    When it comes to routine, like oil changes we contact our local high school and they do it for the cost of the oil, the students get the experience they need and we get the work done.

  4. Krystal

    Unfortunately having a one car household i snot an option for us. I have a 45 minute drive one way and my boyfriend has a 30 minute drive in the opposite direction. We do save on oil changes though and other car maintenance costs. My father is a mechanic so I’m charged parts only, and he receives deserts for labor :p

  5. Theresa

    My 2010 Honda Civic required oil changes only twice a year. I can’t believe I used to actually believe the 5000 km myth.

  6. Penny

    We are a family of 6 and get by with only using one vehicle. My husband uses public transit and in emergencies will call a cab. My eldest uses public transit to high school and I am able to walk to and from school with the 3 younger kids. I try to plan my driving as much as possible to avoid wasting gas and time. Yes, regular maintenance is also a priority.

  7. Ian

    Hi there, I’m a big fan of this site and I’ve worked on engines; small, automotive and marine for many years… Been a licensed Marine Mechanic for 3 years (So I’m 3 years out of school where they teach all this kinda stuff, so my info’s pretty up to date)

    Unfortunatly, I’d like to post a dissagreement with the oil change tip…. Here’s why;

    Every petro based product, like oil and gasoline has a shelf life as well as a VASTLY different chemical composition from brand to brand (i.e. Castrol, Penzoil, Nu Gold…) What this means is that oils (and more so, gasoline) WILL break down and seperate into it base components over time (Want an easy way to see this?? put about 1 dollars worth of gas in a glass jar. Punch a hole in the lid for vent – you don’t want to make a bomb here — and let it sit on a shelf somewhere safe for about a month. provided it’s not disturbed to much, you should see it seperate — think of oil floating on water, that’s what you’ll see and probably within 2 weeks…. scarey, I know…) With some, higher quality oils (I’ve used Penzoil or Quaker State all my life) that time is not generally a factor…. It could spend years in your (low usage) engine without ever causing a problem. However, cheaper oils (Nu Gold is the only crap brand that I can bring to mind) Will not hold up as well over time and can/will break down causeing pre-mature engine wear… Do-It-Yourself’rs love this crap cause it’s dollars less on the shelf… Trust me you get what you pay for so if you insist on using a 4 mth interval, ensure that you are using a high quality oil. Not whatever cheap brand your local oil change shop uses to keep your oil change at $20….

    Aside from quailty of oil, there’s also your oil filter to consider… It’s about as low-tech as you can get… It’s essentially a tin can with a bunch of paper inside that the oil is forced thru before it goes on to lubricate, clean, and cool your engine (I’ll get back to these points) As oil moves thru your engine, it grabs bits of dirt and deposits, carrys them along where they are/should be stopped and held by your filter… Over time the paper inside can become clogged with this crap and affect the oil pumps ability (oil pressure)to move the oil around inside your engine (even a small resriction is bad!!), limiting it’s ability to clean, cool, and lubricate. This is bad because it creates pre-mature wear in both the ineffectively lubriacted engine, and the oil pump that will be working harder then it is designed to.

    Also to consider is the oils ability to remove moisture (Your oil filter will NOT remove this, it stays in your oil untill it’s changed) Metal parts in engine get hot durring use and then cool down when not in use.. Creates what is known as condinsation (water, sweat) inside your engine. This condinsation, or moisture, gets picked up by the oil and carried along with it, thinning it out, untill you change it. If left too long, can cause corrosion (rust) internally, so get it out of there by changing your oil 🙂

    Motor oils are also designed to “cool” your engine… It’s a realitivly small amount of cooling, but oil does carry heat away from moving parts, so it does to some degree effect the cooling ability of your engine…. as the oil begins to thin out it carrys less and less heat away from moving parts, again can cause pre-mature wear…

    There’s a lot of factors in play here including amount of usage, age of engine, and quality of oil and filter… The people that design your engine (and in many cases, the oil they reccomend for said engine –> Mercury Marine engine designers are so uppity about oil that they have a specific recipe that gets folowed by the company that makes the oil that goes in every bottle marked Mercury and is tested regularly to ensure that recipe is followed) create these service intervals to help consumers properly maintain the engines they’ve created for you… NOT to get your money. You may save money in the short term, but if you plan to own that car/truck/boat/lawnmower/whatever for as long as you can, getting every bit of service out of it you can, change your oil more frequently, not less.

  8. Ian

    I forgot to mention synthetic oils….. These oils are designed to last the extra km’s this tip might give you… However, even when using synth oils, you’d still need to change the oil filter at the regular intervals (3 mth/5k Kms) to preserve the engine and oil quailty, and synth oils are roughly 2x the price of regular, decent conventional oils.

    So as far as synthetic oils go… I think they’re great! They really do work better then conventional oils as far as purpose goes… BUT I still believe that it should be changed at the 3 mth 5k Kms mark to really reap the max benefit of usage… Again, it’s a “you-get-what-you-pay-for situation.

  9. Ian

    God now I feel like i might be rambling but;

    If you’re one of those people that thinks “Oil is Oil” … brands etc don’t matter, they’re all the same…

    Here’s a small experiment… (Warning: this will get you kicked out of the canadian tire, I know, I’ve done this with my wife to prove a point. So put your brave face on, cause it’s gonna piss off that pimply teen behind the parts counter)

    Go into your local Canadian Tire and open a couple different brands 1L bottles of oil
    (go for the bigger ones if you want, but be aware they might make you buy a bottle or 2)

    Smell each one in turn… yup I said smell…

    You’ll notice that every brand is different… sometimes even 2 bottles of the same brand is different!! This is indicative of a different recipe for chemicals and cleaners in each oil and yes some are better then others 🙂

  10. Cassie Howard

    Ian: Thanks for your input! I think it certainly depends on the type of vehicle you drive and how often you drive it. For us, the 4 month “trick” is what we are comfortable with. We do use a high quality oil in our vehicle, so it does cost us a bit more with each oil change.

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