Near some universities, a car is a virtual necessity. However, you can minimize your spending on your vehicle and commute by making judicious choices both in your initial purchase and ongoing usage.
Purchasing a Car
An ideal frugal vehicle would have a low purchase price (with no debt) and be fuel-efficient, reliable, and inexpensive to maintain and repair. Because this is such a financially impactful purchase, you should devote significant time and energy to researching the vehicle you want to buy and where to buy it from.
Private sales are generally less expensive than dealer sales, though they may not include a warrantee or previous inspections. You should have a mechanic check over a private sale vehicle before you purchase it.
New cars lose an enormous fraction of their value in the first year of ownership. A better value is to buy a car that is at least a few years old, but has been well maintained. The common wisdom is that driving a car “into the ground” (until it is no long usable) after purchase maximizes the value you can get out of the car.
Financing a car not only causes you to pay interest over the life of the loan but, like any other kind of debt, can also enable you to overbuy. If possible, buy a car with cash. If that’s not possible, think about the total price you will pay to own the car, not just the monthly payment amount.
To reduce your fuel spending, expend less fuel or buy your fuel at lower prices. If you are not willing to buy a car with better gas mileage, you can practice hypermiling to increase your gas mileage in any vehicle, or simply reduce the amount you drive by substituting lower-cost transit methods. Keeping your car well maintained should also minimize your fuel usage; tire pressure, for example, has a large impact on fuel efficiency. There are now many apps available such as Gas Buddy to help you find the best gas prices nearby.
To reduce your spending on car insurance, buy only as much insurance coverage as you need. For example, you can raise your deductible if you have savings on hand to meet it. You may not be required to maintain comprehensive coverage if you own your car outright. However, carefully consider the possible consequences of reducing your insurance coverage and make sure that you have the savings to cover the potential downside.
Compare prices across multiple insurance providers to find the best price, including bundling services. Be sure to ask about all available discounts offered by your insurance company, such as those for being a good student or having a clean driving record. To lower your insurance cost, you can own a less expensive and/or safer vehicle, drive fewer miles per year, install a driving monitoring device, and pay for multiple months of coverage at once.