After a home, buying a car is right up there with the most expensive purchases one can make. This is compounded by the fact that car costs don’t end the moment you drive out of the car dealer’s yard.
If anything, the costs start accruing the moment you claim ownership, with servicing, insurance, and fueling among other costs hitting your wallet immediately.
Now once the car is parked at your home or apartment’s basement parking and the initial new car excitement has worn off, there are a few tips/strategies/ideas that could ensure that car costs don’t dent your wallet as much.
They can be broken down into maintenance costs, fuel costs, insurance costs and first-time buyer costs.
The tips on how to save on car costs are discussed in detail below.
This is where car dealers make the most money – even more than they do when selling a car unit if you think about it critically.
The fact that most car owners are not as knowledgeable about their automobiles as they should be. This creates a money-minting loophole for mechanics.
However, technology has changed the game in more ways than one for car owners.
For instance, one can quickly look up their car model and how it works, its kinks, which parts are susceptible to wear and tear the most etc.
More importantly, Kenyan car owners can now ship in their own spare parts straight from the manufacturer and this is a game-changer.
For years, the car spare parts industry in Kenya has been making a killing with crazy margins. For example, something as small as a used Toyota Fielder side mirror cover (usually stolen during traffic snarl-ups) will cost you anywhere from Ksh4,000 to Ksh6,000 in downtown Nairobi – depending on the design.
However, a quick search on sites such as Alibaba shows that new ones retail at Ksh1,100 plus Ksh300 shipping costs.
The same is true when it comes to big spare part purchases such as shock absorbers, headlights or any other major part that may need replacing. Getting your own spare parts could save you thousands each year.
As they say – cheap is expensive.
Any amount of money you’d be looking to save by taking your car to be serviced at a make-shift garage which your friend who doesn’t own a car told you is cheap, will cost you in the long run.
Cars are delicate machines and having unqualified personnel working on your car should not be entertained. From installing parts that don’t necessarily go with your car model, to convincing you that oil is oil. They usually like shortcuts and it almost always ends badly and more importantly, is costly.
Look into having one qualified mechanic and avoid dingy garages where all sorts of shady business go down.
It may come off as a mundane task that is beneath you but let’s look at the math.
If you wash your car at least once a week in Nairobi at an average cost of Ksh 300, then this means that you spend at least Ksh15,600 each year at your local carwash. If you do it twice a week, then that turns into Ksh31,200.
If you go for the full vacuum, then the figure goes even higher as most charge anywhere from Ksh 600 to Ksh 1,000 for such specialized services. This could then bring the figure to about Ksh 52,000 each year.
It may not look like much but having the alternative to save such an amount during the current economic times could be worth the trouble.
It could be even turned into a fun family joint project on any given Sunday. You can get a rechargeable, cordless vacuum cleaner for as little as Ksh 2,700 on online stores that deliver anywhere within Nairobi.
A 12V electric multipurpose portable car pressure washer is now retailing at Ksh3,500.
These little DIY projects such as washing your own car, replacing your own tyres, wiper blades etc eventually add up to considerable savings at the end of the year.
A litre of petrol in Kenya now goes for Ksh159 plus some cents, which then makes finding ways to improve your car’s mileage even more important.
Experts have come up with a few ways to ensure your fuel serves you for longer distances, thereby making considerable savings at the petrol station. Here are a few;
Speeding, rapid acceleration, and hard braking are the quickest ways to waste fuel. According to research prepared by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, such aggressive driving can lower your car’s fuel mileage by up to 33% at highway speeds and by 5% around town.
Also, don't be fooled into paying for premium fuel for a standard car. Unless you have a high-performance sports car it will make no difference other than costing you more money.
Turn off the engine if you are waiting while parked. 1.8L of fuel can be used each hour when idling.
Keep Your Tyres Inflated
According to research, proper tyre pressure can improve your fuel mileage by 3.3%.
First of all, having knowledge of the maintenance costs for the vehicle you're eyeing could save you a lot of money down the line.
One needs to consider what kind of monthly expense they are willing and able to handle when added to their monthly budget once they buy a car.
Different types and models of cars have different maintenance costs. From the new hybrids popping up in Kenya to the famous fuel guzzlers, one’s choice of car should be hinged on their income.
When buying a car for the first time, having knowledge of out-of-pocket costs like fuel, maintenance, financing and insurance and depreciation of the car for the first five years you own it, allows you to compare vehicles beyond the initial sticker price.
If your prefered method of purchasing is through financing, having a big initial downpayment is the most cost-effective route.
A down payment is an initial, upfront payment you make towards the total cost of the car. The more you put down, the less you need to borrow. Larger down payments may also reduce your monthly payment and your total cost of financing.
As a rule of thumb, before buying a car with a loan, it’s important to think about the following factors before signing on the dotted line:
While most companies range in a similar price range, having an understanding of the various policies as well as offers available at different insurance service providers could help make some considerable savings.
It is a requirement for all cars on the road to have a minimum of third-party can insurance as mandated by the law.
The Kenyan market has over 30 general insurance companies offering the full spectrum of insurance policies. Therefore, it's crucial for the customer to know what's available and how much it will cost before making a decision to purchase auto insurance.
For example, an insurance company (not sure if we should name them Heritage insurance) recently launched a telematics-based insurance called Auto Correct insurance which rewards good driving customers with up to 15% cash back of their annual car insurance premiums.
By going through the various insurance companies and what they offer, one can easily identify packages that suit their pockets. It is also much easier now as insurance price comparison websites are just a click away.
Despite the fact that cars are regarded as assets, it's important to keep in mind that they are depreciating assets. They lose value every year as a result of deterioration and the introduction of newer models.
It is highly advised that you create a separate account for maintenance and repairs. Any time you have extra money, tuck it in the car account so repairs won’t break the bank.
Basic weekly checks on oil, tyres and water levels are simple to do and will help to ensure that you do not get an unexpected problem.
As the experts always state – treat your car well and it will treat you well.