Don’t Get Caught Doing These Things With Your Car (If You Want To Save)

Have you ever considered how much cars cost you during your lifetime? If you’re doing any of these things, you could be wasting money.

by Andrea Norris-McKnight

Don't Do These Things With Cars photo

Woah! We said with your car, not in your car. We’re not talking about anything that involves a parking lot or steamy windows!

Instead, we’re exploring the things many of us car owners do that waste money. From car buying to maintenance, there are so many ways you may be overspending on your vehicle.

Are you guilty of any of these costly car owner faux pas?

Driving On Improperly Inflated Tires

If your tires are over or under-inflated, it could be increasing your gas mileage or causing unnecessary wear and tear on your tires and vehicle.

If your car has a sensor that alerts you when a tire is low, add air as necessary. It can help to keep an air pressure gauge in your car, especially if your car does not let you know when the air is low.

Driving More Than Necessary

Do you hop in the car whenever you need something from the store? Plan ahead and consolidate errands to make fewer trips and use less gas.

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Skipping Oil Changes and Other Preventive Maintenance

Putting off oil changes and other preventive maintenance can cost you far more in repairs if you aren’t careful. If a lack of maintenance leads to a breakdown, it also might cost you a tow.

Find a trustworthy mechanic to maintain your car who will be honest about what preventive tasks you should have done per your owner’s manual and which you can have done as needed.

Taking Your Car to the Auto Shop for Small Tasks

You may not be able to do your own engine repairs, but you can probably do things like replacing your windshield wipers, air filter or battery. See if performing DIY auto maintenance tasks can help you save.

Ignoring the Check Engine Light

Whenever your check engine light comes on, and you’re not sure why, find out. Sometimes, taking care of the problem later rather than sooner can cost you more.

Many auto parts stores will run a free diagnostic and tell you what triggered the light. Then you’ll know if you should get your car to your mechanic or if it is something you can fix yourself.

Not Setting Aside Money for Auto Repairs

If you’re putting those unexpected car repairs on a credit card that takes several months to pay off, they become even more costly.

If you don’t have an emergency fund that can cover surprise repairs, use these tips to start one, even if you’re struggling financially.

Purchasing Auto Insurance Online Without Understanding Your Coverage Needs

Do you rely on online quotes and your own insurance knowledge to determine if you have the right amount of coverage? You could be over-insured or even under.

The more you learn about your coverage and how it works, the better you can determine if you have the right coverages and amounts. Or talk directly with an insurance agent or broker if you’re unsure.

Never Shopping for Cheaper Auto Insurance

You may be pleased with the service you receive from your insurance company, but that doesn’t mean you’re getting the best rates.

Periodically shop around and see if your current carrier can match another company’s better rate. Otherwise, consider switching carriers.

Getting an Auto Loan Longer Than Five Years

Some lenders will now allow you to take out an auto loan with an 84-month term. This may help you keep payments affordable, but it also might mean you’ll be upside down on that auto loan for a long time.

Getting out of an upside loan can be difficult if you want to sell or trade your car.

If you must finance a car purchase, try to keep your loan term to 60 months or shorter. And make sure you carry gap insurance if you do end up upside down on your loan so you’ll be covered financially if your car is totaled in an accident.


Speeding tickets aren’t cheap; too many will impact your insurance rates. Also, you may not get the best gas mileage at higher speeds.

Stick to the speed limit and save money.

Driving Distractedly

Distracted driving is a factor in many car accidents. Even if your distracted driving doesn’t cause an accident, it could be why you don’t avoid an accident caused by another driver.

Regardless of who is at fault, your insurance premiums will likely increase, and you could lose resale value of your car.

Impatient Driving

If you tend to ride the bumper of the car in front of you because you’re always late to wherever you’re going, you may frequently have to slam on the breaks. This may cause undue wear and tear on your brakes, shortening your brake life.

It also increases the chance that you’ll rear-end someone.

Stop Making These Money-Wasting Car Owner Faux Pas

If you’re doing any of these things that are costing you money, take steps to change your habits. You may be a car owner for most of your life, so cutting back on auto expenses however you can could save you thousands.

Reviewed June 2024

About the Author

Andrea Norris-McKnight took over as the editor of The Dollar Stretcher and After 50 Finances after working under the site founder and previous editor for almost 15 years. She has also written for,, and The Sacramento Bee.

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