The average cost of owning and driving a car 15,000 miles a year is $8,121 according to the American Automobile Association (AAA). SUVs are even more costly at $10,448 per year. That includes all costs of ownership, such as gas, insurance, maintenance, registration, taxes depreciation, financing and more. And those estimates were made in the spring of 2008—before gas prices spiked in the summer. Yikes.
Buy a used car
Because cars lose most of their value in the first few years, buying used allows you to drive a vehicle you probably couldn't afford brand new.
Recent used models—those that are less than five years old—can be a real value because you get an almost-new car still in fine working order for a fraction of the new car price. And you'll pay less for collision insurance and taxes, too.
Buy a sipper, not a guzzler
You don't need a hybrid vehicle to save money on gas— higher purchase prices can cancel out any savings. But a regular car with good gas mileage could save you hundreds of dollars a year on fuel.
Drive 1,200 miles per month in a car that averages 18 miles per gallon, and you'll spend $233 per month (at $3.50 per gallon). Drive a car that averages 25 miles per gallon, and you'll spend $168 per month—a savings of $65 per month, or $780 per year.
Re-shop your car insurance
Rates vary widely from insurer to insurer. Your savings could equal hundreds of dollars.
Shopping around is especially important for young adults because their rates could drop as they approach age 25 or older, build a credit rating, start a career and get married. Insurers reward customers who are responsible.
Drop collision and comprehensive coverage
If you drive a beater—say, one worth less than $2,000 —you may pay more to insure it than you could ever collect on a claim. Dropping collision and comprehensive coverage can reduce your premium by one-third.
Raise your deductible
Upping your out-of-pocket outlay from $250 to $1,000 on any car can save you 15 percent or more on your car insurance.
But make sure you have enough cash in an emergency savings account to cover your deductible so you won't have to rely on costly credit cards to bail you out.
When shopping around for auto insurance, check first with the company that provides your renter or homeowner insurance. You could snag up to 15 percent off for a multiple-line policy.
Shop around for gas
Gas prices can vary as much as 20 percent within only a few blocks. So hop online to find the best deal in your neighborhood or along your commute route. A 20-cent difference on 60 gallons of gas per month adds up to $12 per month or $144 per year.
Use a gas rebate credit card
One good thing that can be said about high gasoline prices is they boost the value of rebate cards that soften the financial sting by giving you cash back for filling up.
Hop on the bus, Gus
Public transportation can save you a bundle on commuting costs because you won't have to spend money on a parking space, gas and auto maintenance. Plus, you can probably get a lower insurance rate for driving less.
Ask if your employer will pick up part of the tab for your public transportation costs. If not, suggest the company look into the matter—it could qualify for a tax break.
Two heads are better than one when it comes to commuting. Sharing the ride—and expense—with another person heading your way can cut your gas costs in half.