Car Driving Tips to Save You Money
Nearly all of us could use some car driving tips to help save money. Cars are very common, and so are car expenses.
Even if you only use a car occasionally, I think you'll find these driving tips will come in handy as part of your approach to frugal living.
This discussion focuses on how we operate our cars. I'll stay away from repairs, purchasing and insurance.
Here we just want to focus on the way we operate our car, and how that can influence out of pocket expenses.
Here are the areas of discussion:
- Using the clutch
- Road hazards
- Watch out for others
The idea here is to identify how to reduce the money we spend as a result of operating the car. Let's discuss several key areas that hold promise of saving us some money in operations, maintenance and repair.
We must accelerate in order to get anywhere with the car. This is clear. The way we accelerate either saves us money or costs us money. Here is the first of the car driving tips: driving conservatively saves money.
We're talking about operating our vehicle in a steady, calm, less assertive and non-aggressive manner. It can mean a lot for our bottom line in many ways.
Most certainly we get better gas mileage when driving in a conservative manner, because we avoid rapid acceleration. But, it goes much deeper than that.
Rapid acceleration stresses mechanical parts like our transmission and universal joints. A sharp increase in energy to the wheels has to be transmitted somehow, and that puts undue stress on drive train components that can lead to early failure.
If you want to find out how expensive something like this can be, simply call a transmission shop. Ask them what it would cost to overhaul your transmission or replace it with a reconditioned one. Ouch! The price they give you will be an attention-getter for certain.
If you have to stomp on the gas to get out of trouble, then do so to avoid a problem. But, giving yourself and others a "power show" is just asking for an early major failure that will cost way more money than what you'll be willing to spend.
Also, local law enforcement might pull you over to offer one of their car driving tips as well. Usually it starts with a request for a license and ends in an expensive written "performance award" accompanied by a comment something like: "I'm issuing this citation for reckless driving...." This is an entirely avoidable expense.
Lastly, rapid acceleration puts more wear on your tires that can be unnecessary. Tires have to grip the pavement in order to do their job of getting your vehicle moving. Some wear is unavoidable, but excess wear is created when you ask your tires to push hard against the pavement to get you moving sharply away from a standstill.
Here is more information on tire wear and getting more life out of a set of tires.
Using the Clutch
For those with manual transmission vehicles, learning to engage and disengage the clutch smoothly takes a little time. When you slip the clutch you're causing it to heat up and wear a little. Some slip is necessary as you get to the "friction point" where the clutch can be fully engaged to start the car moving.
Each time you disengage or engage the clutch, there is a little bit of wear. This is normal and can't be avoided. It is the unnecessary slipping that wears out an expensive clutch relatively quickly.
Learn how to smoothly and quickly get your car moving. Learn how to smoothly change gears so that the clutch isn't subjected to unnecessary slipping. This is one of the car driving tips that you can apply in many areas of your life: a change in how something is operated is where you'll find higher risk of failure.
Again, call the transmission shop and ask them what it costs to replace a worn out clutch on your car. You'll say "ouch" once again, I am certain of it.
Slowing down and stopping your car is another area where you can apply conservative car driving tips to help you save money. The focus here is to avoid both rapid and unnecessary deceleration.
Unnecessary deceleration causes normal stress and wear on drive train components, brakes and tires. Rapid deceleration causes more stress and wear on these elements.
Tires must grip the pavement to get you going. They must do the same thing to slow you down. You've seen skid marks on the road and other places where vehicles have driven into curbs and concrete dividers. You see the characteristic black marks left by tires.
This is a small part of the rubber compound that makes up our tires. It is a form of stress and wear on the tires. Just think of it as the color of money left on the road.
Brakes are also worn out quickly by frequent and rapid deceleration. Why speed up just to slow down? In each case you're using energy and converting that to work and heat. Some of the heat is associated with unnecessary application of the brake. Coast when you can instead of braking sharply.
When I replaced the brakes on my car at 130,000 miles, they were original equipment and still had plenty of life left in them. That tells you how much I use my car for highway miles, and how conservatively I apply the brakes.
Brake when you have to, but careful driving can help reduce the need to apply the brakes often and unnecessarily. This saves money in vehicle maintenance and repair.
Again, we are visiting the idea of driving conservatively. This is another of the multiple benefit car driving tips: keep your speed reasonable. That means at or within the speed limit.
Here's why I suggest this approach:
- You shouldn't be in a race. It adds stress to your day, and I just can't imagine anyone who needs that.
- Higher speeds means fewer miles per gallon, so get more better gas mileage with moderate speed.
- There is a safety factor associated with moderate speed that you start to lose as speed increases. Shorter reaction times and longer stopping distances are required at higher speeds, so this cuts your margin of safety.
Unsafe or less safe driving creates greater potential for accidents that cost you money in repairs, deductibles, higher insurance rates, and citations. Drive safely is always one of the best driving tips.
- Let's say you're a perfect driver and you never get into accidents, despite your "need for speed". That won't keep you from getting a speeding ticket and a lecture from local law enforcement. Any book of car driving tips will at least suggest that a $125 speeding ticket and increased insurance rates aren't worth the faster rate of travel from point A to point B.
When you get moving violations, you're likely to pay for that ticket at least a couple times over in terms of higher insurance premiums that last for years. It generally takes 5 years to get a moving violation off of your record and to have your premiums drop.
Accidents, repair bills, insurance premium increases and speeding tickets just don't sound like something that I have in my plan for frugal living. These are things that we can all do without.
Road hazards can damage your vehicle and cost you money. The key to avoiding road hazards is to be aware of them. This leads us to another of the important car driving tips: pay attention to the road.
It sounds simple, but many people just get into the car and "move it" around with hardly a care. It is amazing who gets a drivers license.
Here are road hazards that you need to be aware of long before they get anywhere near you:
- dips in the road
- snow drifts
- construction workers
- lane changes
If you're not paying attention to the road, these and other hazards can cost you money in terms of tire damage, towing charges, damage to your vehicle, hospital bills, citations, increase in insurance premiums, court costs, fines, imprisonment, and the list goes on and on.
To drive home the point of this car driving tip, let me tell you of my own encounters:
- Hit a large piece of sheet metal on the freeway at night because I didn't see it.
- Narrowly avoided hitting a black cow that was strolling across the highway at night as I came around a blind curve.
- Rode my motorcycle around a "jungle gym" that had fallen off of a truck in the middle of the freeway.
- I've encountered blinding rain that forced all vehicles off the road.
- Cement bags fell down onto the flatbed of the truck and burst, sprayed my car with gravel while I was traveling in the other direction just a few feet from the truck.
These all are challenges that you either see coming ahead of time, or you have to deal with them when they occur. In either case, they can result in an unanticipated expense.
A good truism to remember with these type of car driving tips is: accidents can't be blamed on road and weather conditions - they can only be blamed on vehicle operators. Fog never hurt anyone. Careless drivers in foggy conditions have hurt and killed plenty.
Manmade Road Hazards
This set of car driving tips focuses on manmade road hazards - speed bumps, dips, concrete parking lot stops, washboard roads, and calming islands. They are out there. Sometimes placed there deliberately, so we must know how to handle them.
Brake before the bump. Speed bumps should be taken at slow speeds to minimize the impact on your suspension. The best approach is to brake before the bump and then release the brake just before you go over it. Otherwise, your car tends to slam into the speed bump with more force.
Taking speed bumps at a crawl is uncomfortable as it heaves your car up and down. This can also cause your undercarriage to strike the speed bump as your entire car comes down off the top.
Taking a speed bump at normal speed can be stressful on your suspension as it tends to bottom out.
You need to find the speed that is just right to allow your suspension to do its thing without bottoming out. This will allow the car to ride over the speed bump level, while the suspension absorbs the shock of the bump.
Dips in the road. Often in cities with poor curbing, large and deep gutters cross intersections as a way of directing water down the road to the few storm sewers in the area. These dips in the road can take off air deflectors and other parts of your front end if you drive over them with any speed at all.
One of the helpful car driving tips is simply to look at the nature of the edges of the dip as you approach. If you see lots of scrapes and gouges in the pavement, that's a clear indication that others have banged the crap out of the front end of their cars. That's a clue for you to slow down.
Parking lot concrete stops. One of the best all time car driving tips is "Stop when you hear the crunch." At least that's how a lot of people approach the concrete stops associated with parking places. They do this with curbs as well.
You don't have to crumple parts of your front end in order to know that you are close enough to get out and walk to your destination. Learn where the front end of your car is, especially those plastic and rubber pieces of cowling and air deflectors. Either that or be prepared to replace them periodically.
Washboard roads are another pain in the backside. They are caused by rapid acceleration and deceleration on flat roads, and the effects of wheels climbing up steeper inclines.
There are three country road car driving tips that you should be aware of.
- Slow speeds accentuate the effect of washboard roads. High speeds nearly eliminate the effect of washboard roads, but cause your car to "hydro-plane" on the loose road surface. You need to find a moderate speed in between that provides a smooth ride and good control.
- Riding on the opposite side of the road can reduce the effects of washboard, but obviously this practice is hazardous in the face of oncoming traffic. I don't recommend this practice.
- Driving just a bit to the left or right of the washboard tracks will help you find places where there are no washboard ridges to contend with. This is one of the more reasonable car driving tips that allows you to travel at a slower and safer speed, but care must be taken to stay away from the ditch on the right and oncoming cars on the left.
Calming islands can be a pain and a waste of public funds. The idea is to insert road hazards that cause drivers to slow down and take more care when passing through an area.
If you don't, you're liable to ram your front wheels into these concrete islands and cause damage to your vehicle. There really aren't any clever car driving tips to be offered here. You simply stay away from them much like a curb.
The problem arises at night or with snow. Other drivers stay away from the islands because of reduced visibility, and that can cause them to crowd you in your lane, whether you are traveling in the same or opposite direction.
So, heads up, there are mindless drivers out there trying to move into your lane to avoid the calming islands.
Accidents are Avoidable
This bring me to perhaps the most important of all the car driving tips: pay attention to what others are doing.
Almost all accidents are avoidable, even those that aren't your fault. It usually takes two to tangle, one who isn't paying attention and runs the red light, and another who isn't paying attention and moves forward on the green light. Crunch! Sirens. Lots of finger pointing.
If either one was paying attention, the accident doesn't occur. One of the older TV and radio car driving tips used to advise us to: "watch out for the other guy". It's good advice because "the other guy" usually isn't watching out at all.
Here are some examples from my driving experiences:
- Watch behind you when you come to stop at a red light. One day, much to the surprise of my front seat passenger, I looked both ways at an intersection and then floored it right through the red light just as cross traffic was starting up from their green light.
Cross traffic stopped just inside the intersection, and a moment later the car behind me came to a screeching halt just inside the intersection. My passenger turned to me and said: "You just saved our lives." He was right.
I had seen the car approaching from behind at full speed completely unaware that we were stopped at the intersection. If I hadn't blown through the red light, Mr. Day Dreamer and his female passenger would have been parked in my trunk, and we might have been on the way to the hospital or morgue.
- Look everywhere for potential danger. One day I was moving along in the right lane steadily, while the left lane was stopped. Suddenly I brought the car to a stop just before someone entered my lane between cars that were stopped in the left lane.
My passenger was surprised at my stop, but more surprised at the car that suddenly entered our lane. He asked how I knew the guy was coming into the lane since the stopped traffic essentially blocked view of any cross traffic. I told him that I had seen the wheels traveling towards us by looking under the cars in the left lane as we traveled up the gradual incline of the road.
He readily admitted that he would have hit the car broadside as it entered quickly into our lane. Clearly had I not seen the wheels rolling across the pavement underneath the stopped traffic, we would have collided because the driver of the other car couldn't see me either - that's why he entered my lane of traffic.
You'd probably never hear anyone offer a set of car driving tips that included looking for cross traffic by looking under cars that block your view, but it does work well in special situations as shown by my experience.
- Stay awake and keep yourself alive. Once on a trip home from the airport, the driver of the van fell asleep at the wheel. I was monitoring our speed and comparing that with traffic ahead that had come to a standstill. There was a point where I should have sensed the driver letting off of the gas, but didn't.
That caused me to immediately look at the driver to see what he was doing. He was leaned up against his window. He was asleep at the wheel. An odd and dangerous thing to do while traveling at 75 miles per hour on the freeway in heavy traffic.
I yelled out his name just in time for him to wake up, hit the brakes and swerve onto the shoulder to avoid running into the car ahead of us. The guy behind me thanked me for saving our lives.
Pay attention for others, both inside and outside your vehicle, and you can avoid costly accidents and maybe even save a life - perhaps your own.
So, for safety and fewer accidents, this is the most important of all car driving tips: watch out for others, because often they aren't watching out for you or themselves - they're just moving their car.
More car driving tips, this time they are about parking. They rightfully belong here with other car driving tips because parking must be done after each time you operate your car.
First, look carefully where you park. Avoid places where people and animals are likely to damage your vehicle. Consider the following:
- bird droppings from overhanging trees that damage paint
- golf balls from nearby golf courses
- baseballs from nearby ball fields
- careless people and their car doors
- cars backing out of driveways
- tight turns where side-swiping might be possible
- narrow streets where side-swiping is likely
- street parking where snow plows need to clear deep snow
All of these situations hold potential for damage to your car that can be an expense and an inconvenience, and a setback to you plan for frugal living. A little planning and foresight, as suggested by these car driving tips, can help avoid or at least minimize these annoying problems that tend to take money out of your pocket and otherwise spoil your day.
A girlfriend of mine in high school parked out in front of my house, right in front of the driveway across the street. I advised her not to park across from the driveway because the driver across the street was used to backing fully into the street before pulling forward.
She assured me that her car would be fine, and it turned out that she was a bit disappointed. When I walked her to the car, we found a note on the windshield that said: "Greetings, I hit your car." It was nice of the careless driver to leave a note, but the whole expensive mess could have been avoided by parking in the drive or somewhere else on the nearly empty street.
Wrapping Up Car Driving Tips
Cars are expensive to buy and service. They are potentially dangerous and can easily cause damage to property and people. Use good sense and care with your driving, and you'll be glad you did, and your bank account will be happy too.
As I think of new car driving tips, I'll update this section. With motor vehicles being as common as hair on your head, there will likely be many more car driving tips to share in an effort to help you stay consistent with frugal living objectives such as saving money and avoiding unnecessary expenses.
Done with Car Driving Tips, take me back to Frugal Living Tips