How to improve your fuel economy: 23 top tips for better gas mileage

Fuel prices have been hovering at record levels around the United States for the past few weeks. Now is a good time to review the best ways to improve your gas mileage and save money at the tank. I scoured dozens of websites and read hundreds of tips — these are the best of the bunch.

Save Money With Your Vehicle

Purchase a fuel-efficient car
The best way to save money on gas is to drive a fuel-efficient car. It's probably impractical to replace your current car for something that costs less to run, but if you're in the market for a new vehicle, keep fuel economy in mind. Consumer Reports has several lists of fuel-efficient vehicles:

  • A list of the most fuel-efficient cars they've tested (CR loves the Toyota Prius)
  • A list of fuel-efficient SUVs
  • A list of cars that combine fuel efficiency and performance

This calculator from allows you to compare the cost difference between two vehicles based on their MPG.

Keep your vehicle well maintained
A car in poor running condition will use more gas than one that has been tuned up. According to this checklist at Advance Auto Parts, a dirty air filter can reduce gas mileage up to 20%. They also note that spark plugs in poor condition can reduce gas mileage up to 12%. Continue reading...

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How to retire rich Dave Ramsey style

how to retire rich

Eager to know how to retire rich? It might be surprising that Dave Ramsey's site has one of the best money hacks I've seen recently. Drive Free, Retire Rich explores the impact of carrying a car payment, and offers ideas on how your money can be used more wisely. Though the sentiment is familiar, I find Ramsey's approach novel.

You want a brand-new sports car that would normally cost you $475 a month. The car you're driving now is worth around $1,500. If you take that $475 and pay yourself instead of paying the dealer, you'll have $4,750 in just ten months. Add that to the $1,500 you can get for your current car, and you can pay cash for a used $6,250 car. That's a major upgrade in car in just 10 months — without owing the bank a dime! Continue reading...

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Flipping cars for fun and profit

The No Limits Ladies have posted an article on how to flip cars — how to buy used cars for cheap and sell them again for a profit.

I find used vehicles for sale, often times through, and I price them using When I find one that I know is in more demand, with a motivated seller at or below private party pricing, I go look at it and sometimes buy it. Then I drive it for a while for free, and sell it when I'm ready, for more than I bought it for. Then I roll that money into the next vehicle, or sometimes keep a bit for myself.

According to the article, the steps to flipping a car are: Continue reading...

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10 expert tips for saving on car insurance

My friend Lynn works for a major U.S. insurance company. I recently asked her for tips to help people save money on auto insurance. I expected maybe a few quick ideas, but she went above-and-beyond with the following detailed list. If you own a car, you should read these tips. For readability's sake, I haven't blockquoted this, but it's all Lynn.

Note that every insurance company is different — not all of these ideas work everywhere. The first thing you can do to save money on auto insurance is to self-insure as much as you can afford. Do this in the following ways:

  • High deductibles. Everyone preaches this, yes, but it's usually the easiest way to cut costs. Usually. (If your car is over ten years old, the savings may be minimal.)
  • Remove towing. Good maintenance and planning can save you money. Don't run out of gas. Don't lock your keys in your car. Make sure you have a spare and know how to change it. Sometimes your car will break down, but if your car is well-maintained, it won't happen often. You pay $10 - $30 a year over the life of your policy and one tow costs $100. Note that in the event of an accident, towing is almost always covered under collision.
  • Remove car rental. Small economy cars cost about $20 - $25 per day to rent. Car rental is $20 - $40 per year. Play the odds. If you rent a car on vacation, your insurance will cover you while driving that car. Don't pay for the extra coverage. The only things it offers are:
    1. Zero deductibles. You go all year long with your deductibles, why change now? Also, if you pay for the car with a credit card, they may pay for any out of pocket in the even of an accident.
    2. Downtime coverage. Downtime means that while the rental car you wrecked is in the shop being repaired, it can't be rented out to other customers and they can ding you for the daily fee. This may be an issue if they can show that all other cars were rented out and they lost money because of you — Hawaii is notorious for charging this. But, again, it's a risk you might decide to self insure rather than pay $21 a day for the insurance.

Aside from self-insuring, there are other steps you can take to save on car insurance.

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How to Sell a Used Car

Most buyers are honest people, and are happy to be working with a private party instead of a dealership. To get the best price from your car, follow these steps:

  • Prep your vehicle. Check the vehicle to be certain that everything works. You may consider having a mechanic examine your car and issuing a report about its condition.
  • Research the market. Spend a few weeks scouring your local used-car classifieds to learn what people are asking for similar vehicles. Use the Kelly Blue Book or NADA Guides to get additional information.
  • Set a competitive price. Determine what you think your car is worth, and then add a little to the price for wiggle room. (You don't want to start negotiations from the price you think the car is worth.) Decide on a rock bottom price below which you will not entertain offers.
  • Gather records. Prepare a folder containing all maintenance records. If you had a mechanic inspect the car, include his report. Consider purchasing a vehicle report from CARFAX — it can help set potential buyers' minds at ease. Also have a bill-of-sale ready to go. (What you need for a bill-of-sale will vary by location; here's a list of state motor vehicle division web sites.)
  • Clean your vehicle. Wash the car thoroughly. Don't just run it through a car wash — scrub it down. Wax it. Clean the interior. Get all the junk out of it and vacuum it. Make it look its best.
  • Create an advertisement that sells. Mention top options and improvements. List any recent upgrades, such as new tires or battery. Has your car lived all its life in a garage? Say so! Do you have all the maintenance records? Mention that, too.
  • Spread the word. Get as much exposure for your ad as possible. The more demand you can generate, the more money you'll make. Online, try craigslist, Autotrader, and (Quality photos are important for online ads.) Run your ad in a newspaper over the weekend, when it will reach the largest audience.
  • Be prepared to answer questions. People will call or e-mail to ask for more specific information. Be ready to provide it. Keep a list of key facts by the phone.
  • Show your car to interested buyers. If you're nervous about your ability to deal with people, get somebody to help. You're selling yourself as well as the car, so make a good impression. Allow the buyer to take a test drive, but be sure to ask for a valid driver's license first! Permit buyers to take the car to their mechanic, even if you've already taken it to yours.
  • Negotiate a fair price. A good price is fair to both parties. Having done your research, you'll know what your car is worth. Be confident in this knowledge. When you're sure of a vehicle's value, it's easy to stand strong when somebody tries to lowball you. Have a firm bottom price in mind, but if a reasonable offer is only a couple hundred dollars from this figure, consider accepting it.
  • Make the sale. Complete a bill-of-sale transferring ownership. Again, what you need for a bill-of-sale will vary by location. (Here's a list of state motor vehicle division web sites.) Ask for cash or a cashier's check. (Here's a page about avoiding fraud, including fraudulent cashier's checks).
  • Take care of details. After the sale is complete, cancel your insurance on the vehicle. Offer your phone number to the buyer so that you can answer questions, but be clear that the sale is final.

If anything about the transaction makes you nervous, call it off. If the buyer seems shady, he probably is. If the buyer wants to pay more than you're asking and then be issues a refund, he's probably trying to pull a scam. Don't do it. Trust your gut.

If your car has trouble, if it's a lemon, don't sell it to a private party. Sell it to a dealer. You'll get less money, but you won't be screwing over somebody else. And the dealer will be better equipped to repair the trouble. Remember: your goal is to provide an excellent transaction for yourself and for the buyer. You're not there to rip anybody off.

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The true cost of car ownership

The American Automobile Association (AAA) says that, on average, it costs 52.2 cents to drive one mile. To drive a Ford Focus like mine 20,000 miles per year, the average cost is 37.6 cents per mile.

How close are the AAA estimates? I ran some numbers.

Based on the purchase price of my vehicle ($16,500), the interest paid ($1,300), and the number of miles on the odometer (81,762 in 66 months), I calculated that for the past year my average cost per mile is $0.2170 over 20,274 miles. But that's only for the car itself. I've also accumulated the following operating expenses:

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