We can’t help if you are installing a 42 inch plasma into the back of the car (not recommended) or even spending money on fancy Yosemite Sam mud flaps. However, we can offer a few easy tips with respect to minimizing the cost of car ownership and your driving privilege in 2010 and beyond. In no particular order…
6. Compare insurance rates. There are many ways to do this quickly online. Have your current policy handy (so you make sure you are comparing apples to apples), have your registration in hand and take a couple of minutes for this very worthwhile exercise. Most comparison sites will give you multiple quotes from different companies and will get them to you instantly. The savings can be significant.
7. Review the terms of your current insurance policy. There may be significant savings right under your nose if you just take a look. For example, perhaps you bought your policy ten years ago when your personal financial situation dictated a deductible of $500 and now you are more comfortable raising it to $1000. This is an example of overinsurance–paying for an additional $500 in protection that is no longer needed. A small change like that can greatly reduce your annual premium. Call your agent, review each of the terms, inquire about what it means and what the state requirements are, and see if you are potentially overinsured in any areas. You might also discover you are underinsured in certain areas. Increasing your coverage may not save you money on your premiums but of course being properly insured can be a big money saver down the road should you need it.
8. Keep a camera in your glove compartment. Buy a disposable and throw it in your car. Preferably something with a flash in the event you need it at night. If you are in an accident, this can protect you as you take pictures of the scene. It can protect you if you get a parking or traffic ticket you feel wasn’t deserved. It’s one of those low risk (it doesn’t cost much at all), high reward (you’ll be VERY happy if you need it and it’s there) propositions. Note not to rely completely on a cell phone camera (generally useless in the dark) or an old digital you no longer use (may not be charged/batteries will be dead when you need it).
9. Make sure you are on top of your basic vehicle maintenance. Nothing crazy is necessary–just know the basics. Consult your manual to see what is recommended. Generally the following need to be regularly checked:
- Brakes and brake fluid
- Belts (fan, alternator and A/C)
- Tires and tire pressure
- Engine fluids (oil, transmission, coolant)
10. If you get a parking ticket or traffic ticket, don’t ignore it or simply pay it without doing a little research. As a traffic ticket attorney, I had to include that one. With parking tickets, you may be eligible to get a reduction on the fine simply for asking. Look into that before paying if you aren’t inclined to fight the whole thing. With moving violations, the financial stakes are much greater. Points, higher fines and surcharges and insurance can amount to a significant expense from one single car stop. Traffic tickets can even lead to suspended licenses, more severe misdemeanor charges, issues with your employment, etc. If you get a traffic ticket, do some simple research. You’ll want to know how long you have to respond and what the potential ramifications are. Then, you can make a decision to fight or pay. Most attorneys can easily walk you through the assessment of your situation and save you a lot of research time with a simple consultation.