Minimalist Car: Fantastic Ways to Reduce Expenses While Still Owning a Car (Part 1 of 2)

I own a car as do most people I know. Is it absolutely necessary? No, I don’t believe so.

In the end, I prefer not to have a car. That would mean my lifestyle, work situation, location of dwelling, and vicinity of available resources (airport, grocery store, library, post office, etc.) must be a good fit in order for me to live car-free.

But until I get to that point, I’ve developed and honed several strategies to reduce expenses of car ownership as much as possible. Which means, I don’t go spending every dollar I earn right back into my car. It’s just not smart, financially speaking.

Obviously, the number one most effective way of reducing expenses of a car is to not own one. Tammy Strobel of talks about it in her ebook, .

BUT, for those of us who need to have a car, or feel that we need it at this stage in our lives, here are some simple tips to utilize in order to reduce the monstrosity of expenses we seemingly incur while owning a vehicle.

Fantastic Ways to Reduce Expenses While Still Owning a Car:

1. Own a fuel-efficient car.

I own a 2007 Honda Fit Sport, a great, small car with excellent mileage. That means I can go farther on a tank of gas than other gas guzzlers out there. If you’re going to buy a car, look into ones that have good gas mileage. Some car models include the Toyota Prius, Toyota Yaris, Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Honda Fit, Mini Cooper, etc. With the gas prices fluctuating as it is, you never know when the price will hit $4/gallon like it did a couple of years back. Do your research and make sure what you do decide to purchase is a wise and efficient choice.

2. Buy unleaded gas and stop it with the brand loyalty!

Unless you own a luxury sports car (which is definitely not a good way to reduce expenses), you needn’t have to purchase premium gasoline for your vehicle. Unleaded gas works just fine for the vast majority of cars out there.

Also, do you really need to only purchase gas from BP, Shell, or Mobil? Even if they are more expensive and further away? It’s like buying the Tylenol aspirin at a higher cost when the less expensive store-brand aspirin is the exact same thing. It’s silly to pay more just for the name brand or more well-known brand. Marketing executives have done their job well. They’ve trained us to go only for those names we have heard of or have seen commercials of. It works, but it doesn’t have to work on you.

In college, the guy I used to date would only purchase gas from BP, even if that meant driving further to a BP gas station when the local Speedway or other station was right at the corner, at a lower price per gallon than the BP was going for. It seemed kind of ridiculous to me, and it still does. Don’t go out of your way if you don’t have to.

3. Get regular oil changes and maintenance.

By the time the little light in your dashboard illuminates or you see the “check engine” icon up, it’s time to go for an oil change (or whatever maintenance you need). In fact, that’s how my car is in tip top condition, looking pretty good and new even for it not being new any longer.

It’s like taking care of your body. Once you start to feel a cold coming on, due to high stress, low nutrition levels, bad eating habits, not enough rest, and/or lack of exercise, it’s time to do something about it. Ignore your body long enough, and you’ll not only get sick, you might get much, much worse. This ends up costing you more money, time, and energy, than if you would’ve just taken care of yourself from the get-go.

Same analogy goes for your car. Maintain it well and it’ll treat you well.

4. Stop speeding!

All the stop and go of traffic can really get unnerving, I understand. I’ve been there, done that, and I believe most of us have. If you’re stuck in traffic everyday, read this for how to make the most of it.

You’re late for a job interview, and for God’s sake, now you’re lost! Zipping through cars, weaving in and out, running yellow/red lights, and gunning it on the gas, won’t help calm your nerves down one bit. You’ll still probably get there late and even if you don’t, the frazzled and crazy driving you just did certainly won’t make it any easier to calm down.

This exact scenario happened to me as I was going for a job interview last year. I had done a good job during the phone interview and the hiring manager now wanted to talk to me in person. Great! I get all my materials ready, prepare myself, do my research, go to bed early, wake up early to have breakfast and coffee, and leave two hours in advance.

In all aspects, I did what I could, right? I was as planned and prepared as much as I could’ve been.

But what do you know, the directions I got from Google Maps totally had me going West instead of East, for 20 some miles. I realized something was terribly wrong when I couldn’t find the street that wasn’t supposed to be far, and then I started seeing familiar suburbs that were out where I lived. Not good!

I started to panic, knowing that even having left early I now would be running late. I somehow made it there, 20 minutes late, completely pissed off that I got turned around so badly on a morning when I couldn’t afford to, and ended up not landing the job. I believe my credentials were on par, if not above. It was my being late that threw everything off.

Why do I tell you this story? Because once I realized I was going to be late, I sped like a maniac down the streets, totally blowing up the speed limit, cutting cars off left and right, and running traffic lights.

People who know me know I am a fairly slow and steady driver, not one to get my nerves all wrangled up. This was definitely out of my element and I know it didn’t help me one bit.

What I should have done was take it easy, realize my error, and get there safe and sound in one piece. I may not land the job, but at least I wouldn’t have endangered all the lives around me. What good is the job if I kill someone or kill myself?

5. Find alternate routes to your destination that will cut costs on gas and tolls or by saving time with a shorter route.

Sometimes we get so used to and comfortable with the same route to work or home that we fail to try out new paths that may shorten our commute or just give us a change of scenery.

Some of the routes we are so used to taking include passing through the tollway, which just keeps on adding up ($0.80 might not seem much at first, but if you go through 1 toll to and 1 toll from work, that’s $1.60/day, $8/week, $32/month, $384/year! With $384, you could buy an awesome netbook/laptop (my Acer netbook cost less than that, so you totally could buy a netbook with that money), use it towards a weekend trip, pay down your car debt, or save it for a special vacation you’ve been planning.).

You never know until you try. Sometimes I stumble upon a new route by accident. I’m trying to get somewhere so I try a different street, and find out it zips right to where I need to be! What a fun surprise. :)

6. Pay down your car debt as fast as possible, even if that means not eating out for 6 months.

Do you really need to eat out 3 times a week? Do you also really need to have your venti Bold coffee from Starbucks every morning? These little expenses can really add up fast and without you realizing it.

Instead, make it a point to pay down your car debt as fast as possible. If you make that your goal and keep that in sight, it won’t be so hard to say no to your daily indulgences.

When I bought my first car, which is currently what I drive (Honda Fit), I paid it all off within 1 year. Yes, it helped that I had a nice-paying corporate job that year and that I still lived at home, thereby reducing my expenses to the bare minimum.

Knowing this, it didn’t mean that I went crazy and would go out every night and weekend with friends. I knew that I would probably be moving out (which I did) and I may not have that nice-paying corporate job (which I didn’t, since I quit). So every paycheck I got went right to paying the car off as fast as possible. It was tough, but certainly manageable once I figured out that I didn’t want to have a car payment for 5 years.


Interested in hearing more? Come back for Part 2 of Minimalist Car: Fantastic Ways to Reduce Expenses While Still Owning a Car.

If this has helped you in any way, please share this post with others. Thanks for reading!

  • tokyin

    1. Yes! Fuel-efficient car is much better than a SUV or a minivan (unless people really need a minivan). On the other hand – for hybrid cars, it really depends: it might not save a lot of money, given that it’s usually at least a few thousand dollars more expensive.

    2. Agreed. Shell, Mobil , Marathon, Sick Si, Yum Liu… all these gas are the same. And regular unleaded is always good enough. Though – one suggestion is if a gas station 2 blocks away is 20 cents cheaper than the one across the street, it might be worth it to drive 2 blocks further.

    3. I am glad that modern cars require less oil change… oldie cars usually need one every 3000 miles. Newer cars only need one every 5000 or even 7500 miles.

    4. Haha. I agreed slow and steady is very good. But as long as we are not speeding like I will hurt others; causing panic on the road; or bay king chak lie… I think it’s okay to speed.

    And as long as doing it in a relax manner, it’s good (and can get to the destination faster).

    I actually feel very relaxed and calm when I speed. =P

    5. I love to find and drive on alternate routes!

    6. Thanks for reminding me to ask myself the question: “Do I really need to buy coffee from Starbucks every morning? These little expenses can really add up fast and without you realizing it.” Hahaha.

    But so true that paying down the debt ASAP is a good practice. However, for people who have multiple debts, it make sense to first pay down the debt with the highest interest rates – which is usually in the order of Credit card, Car Loan, Business loan, Mortgage, Student loan, Jonathan’s loan.

  • Castles in the Air

    HAHA! This is kind of scary what you said of “I actually feel very relaxed and calm when I speed.” :P I better watch out for you on the road then!

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