On the Road Savings

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On the Road Savings

By Lisa Scarbrough

It’s that time of year again: running around crazy to get the best shopping deals, hands worn out from wrapping gifts, and families anxious about road travel. So it’s probably not the best time to be worrying about spending money on your car.

As of this writing, my truck has over 235,000 miles. I bought it used from a dealership in late 2003 with around 30,000 miles. It’s just a simple 2000 Mitsubishi Montero Sport. It was originally purchased to be a puppy-mobile for my animal rescue, but it’s turned out to be quite the versatile family SUV in recent years. Thanks to a few simple tips like the following, it might even see 300,000 miles.

1. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preventative maintenance makes all the difference, particularly on engine wear. I’m religious about my oil changes and anything else my mechanic recommends. When my truck hits the 3,000 miles mark, we’re headed for date with the shop.

2. You can just drive 55. We all want to save some money on gas. If you drive the speed limit, you use less than when you go over. If you find you always need to speed to get to work on time, make an alarm clock change; don’t make your car (or your wallet) pay the price for your tardiness. And that little “cruise control,” he can be your best friend on long drives.

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3. Keep an eye on your tires. Check the tire pressure regularly, particularly before and after a long trip. If they are under-inflated, your gas bill might be a bit higher. If you’re not sure, let your mechanic help you; most do it as a routine part of an oil change.

4. Go for the fresh air. If you’re not driving on the interstate, take a cue from dogs everywhere and let the fresh air blow on through. You’ll save some gas over using air conditioning. However, at high speeds, rolled down windows create drag, so you use more gas either way.

5. Pack light. So many of us use our vehicles as mobile offices and storage units. Reduce the load in your vehicle and you’ll reduce fuel consumption. The same goes for roof rack loads - carrying luggage or other items on your roof can dramatically increase your gas consumption.

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6. Plan your route. Have a bunch of errands to run? Make a list, stopping at the furthest point first and working your way back home. This gives your vehicle the chance to warm up, making it perform better and more efficiently after each stop.

7. Carpool. Carpooling is not only good for the environment, but it’s good for your car. Take turns reducing mileage wear and tear on your vehicles by riding together to work or running errands with friends.

8. Join your auto shop’s loyalty rewards program (if you’re lucky enough to have a mechanic with one). For every visit, I earn points towards gift certificates for future services. So far this year, I’ve been able to get a free alignment, a few free oil changes, and one free tire.

It may seem like you only save a few cents here and there, but those pennies really add up, particularly around Christmastime. Here’s hoping you and your family have a safe and happy holiday, whether you’re traveling to be with family or enjoying the season at home.

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