By Rebecca Webber
Did you know that you spend about $1,719 a year on gas alone for a small sedan? Yep, keeping a car can get pricey. Although it's a worthy investment (assuming you drive often), who wouldn't want to save cash where they can? Thankfully, there are several ways to maintain your vehicle without flushing out your bank account. Read on for smart money-saving strategies. Photo by Getty Images
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Spend Less on Insurance
Pit insurers against one another
Don't auto-renew. Instead, spend 20 minutes comparing quotes (EInsurance.com is a good place to start). Then use competitor prices to renegotiate your rate. Say to the rep: "If I switch to State Farm, I can save $500. What can you do for me?"
Tailor your plan
Some insurers offer a better rate if you've stopped commuting or have an honor roll student on the policy. A tailored plan could save you between $460 and $1,100 a year, according to a study by CarInsurance.com.
Spend Less on Maintenance
If the check-engine light is on, have the car looked at immediately. Something like a bad oxygen sensor could rob you of fuel mileage.
Consider a specialist
For targeted fixes, a specialist might cost less than a general mechanic. A transmission expert, for instance, may be able to spot problems and make minor repairs for about a quarter of the cost of replacing the entire transmission.
Look for good tire deals on the Internet. TireRack.com has user reviews, independent testing and good prices. Also check warehouse clubs like BJ's, Sam's Club and Costco. (They install tires too!) And call your local dealers-managers are happy to price-match, and share upcoming sales or coupons to snare your business.
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Spend Less on Gas
Don't be a hot rodder
Racing red lights, going from 0 mph to 60 mph as fast as you can, and stopping abruptly all waste gas by making your car work harder (plus it's dangerous!). Instead, coast to a stop, and accelerate gently when the light turns green.
Use cruise control
Cars get better mileage at a steady speed (say, 60 mph) rather than fluctuating between 55 mph and 65 mph. What's more, going too fast increases wind resistance, which adds to fuel costs (every 5 mph over 50 mph is like paying an additional 25¢ per gallon). Bottom line: Drive the speed limit in cruise control.
An extra 100 pounds in or on your vehicle could reduce your miles per gallon by up to 2%. Drop some cargo and save 4¢ to 8¢ per gallon. If you need to travel with a lot of stuff, pack the trunk instead of using a roof rack, which can decrease fuel economy by 5%.
Baby your ride
Follow your car's maintenance schedule, and use the correct type and grade of motor oil, which can improve gas mileage by 1% to 2%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. And check your air: Properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage by up to 3.3% (that's about $80 per year for a minivan compared to driving with tires that are very low on air). Find the correct maximum load on a decal on the driver's-side doorjamb orin the owner's manual-don't use the number on the tire.
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Spend Less on Parking
Stop driving in circles
A parking ticket or (worse) a towed car can wipe out any savings you were hoping for when you left your car on the street. So try one of a slew of apps, some of which tell you where you can find legal street parking, remind you when you need to feed the meter, or point you to a budget garage.
Call Up Deals
Use gas and parking apps to save even more.
greenMeter Calculates your fuel costs and evaluates your driving for fuel efficiency.
Parker Mobile; VoicePark; PrimoSpot (New York, Boston and Seattle); Chicago Parking (Chicago) You can pinpoint the cheapest parking in each specific city with these apps.
GasBuddy; YP; AAAMobile These can help you find the least expensive gasclosest to your location.
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