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4 ways to cut driving costs

By Paula Pant · Bankrate.com
Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Posted: 3 pm ET

Many people who grow up in America find that buying a car is their first "big-ticket" expense.

Long before moving out of their parents' home and taking a full-time job, teens need to figure out how to pay for an automobile, car insurance and gasoline.

Those expenses often rise as people get older. Some people need to support multiple-car households, while others drive bigger vans or trucks. Still others commute ever-longer distances.

Following are four suggestions that may help you save money by cutting the cost of driving.

1. Search for alternatives

Before you buy or rent a home, think carefully about the distance between your prospective home and the places you most frequently visit.

For example, it is best if your home is near your workplace, day care and favorite grocery store.

If possible, buy or rent your home in a location that allows you to skip driving. Instead, you can walk, catch a bus, take the subway or ride a bicycle to your destination.

2. Choose a smaller car

Whenever feasible, opt for a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle. You don't necessarily need a minivan to drive your kids around town. A Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla is large enough to transport a family of four.

In fact, millions of American families drive these cars -- and millions more in Europe and Asia drive cars that are even smaller.

A van or a truck makes sense if your job requires you to transport lumber or appliances. But if you merely haul a few soccer balls, tennis rackets and brown-bag lunches, opt for a smaller vehicle.

3. Eliminate a car

Some households have multiple cars but typically use just one of the vehicles on a day-to-day basis. One car is a "daily driver," for example, while the other car is only used for long road trips or occasional home-improvement projects.

Calculate the cost of maintaining that extra vehicle -- including insurance, maintenance and depreciation. Then, compare the daily cost of owning the car to the cost of occasionally renting a car or truck when you need to take a road trip or haul furniture.

4. Drive to public transit

If you live in the suburbs, there may not be any convenient public transit options close to your home. However, that doesn't mean that you necessarily need to drive downtown every day.

Instead, try driving to the nearest subway or bus station and then transferring to a public transit option in order to travel downtown. You'll save cash on gasoline, maintenance and the added repairs that come from excess wear-and-tear.

As a bonus, you can enjoy reading during your commute, rather than sitting behind the wheel.

Paula Pant helps people ditch the cubicle and live on their own terms. She's traveled to 30 countries, owns six rental property units and hasn't had an employer since 2008. Her blog, Afford Anything, is the gathering point for a tribe that refuses to say "I can't afford it." Follow Paula on Twitter: @AffordAnything.

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