How can you reduce the cost of owning a car or travel for free plus make money from it?
Transport can be expensive, whether you own your own car or catch public transport it is one of the top expenses for Australian households. I’ve owned cars, in fact, we had two in Canberra, lived without a car in the city and in the suburbs so have options for everything. With each place we lived I compared transport costs for my daughters and I. In Canberra a car was essential, in Melbourne CBD it was completely unnecessary. Now, in the suburbs, we have used public transport but a car has made life easier so I bought one last week.
This post may contain affiliate links to products and services I use or have used. You can find my full disclosure here.
Since transport is such a huge topic I have split it into car ownership and tips for those who don’t own a car.
How to save money with transport
Until recently I didn’t have a car for quite a while and I loved it but did miss having the freedom to go away whenever I wanted. Living in the city meant I had free public transport around the city and we walked everywhere. On the rare occasion I needed to go further out I used Car Next Door (get $15 off your first booking here), public transport or Uber/Ola/Taxify etc.
Free Transport Options
Walking! Obviously the easiest form of free transport. When we first moved to Melbourne we didn’t walk as much. The longer we lived here, the further we were willing to walk and the easier long distances became. Bikes are super popular here, too, especially around Carlton and many have baskets so people can shop easily.
Free public transport is available on trams around the city in Melbourne and in some other locations around the world, so check your options.
Carpooling or bartering with friends and family where you do something for them and can get a lift or borrow their car is another free or almost free option. It wears thin pretty quick though, so use it sparingly.
Lastly, hitchhiking is an option, one I wouldn’t do, but it’s your choice!
How to make owning a car cheaper
When you include the cost of buying the car, petrol, insurance, maintenance and replacing it later, cars are expensive. Living in the city it worked out cheaper for me to use car share options when I needed a car instead of owning one. Now, in the suburbs, owning a car is more practical.
Tips for buying the car
One of the most important parts of owning a car and saving money with it is choosing the right car to begin with. Buying brand new means you lose thousands as soon as you drive it away but some people like the perceived reliability of a new car. Perceived because some new cars are absolute duds and have constant issues still but they have a warranty. This doesn’t stop them being hard to resell later or being a pain constantly needing to be fixed.
Do your research on any car. Check redbook.com.au for the car you want to buy to see how much it should be selling for so you don’t get ripped off. Google the type of car and ‘issues’ to see what problems you can expect and genuine reviews. Then for any car you want to look at, check if it has a full service history.
When doing a test drive make notes of any issues, check the tyres, wheel alignments etc. then use any issues to either negotiate lower or choose a different car. Negotiate and be firm on what price you will pay. Where possible, older people are typically better to buy from. Their cars are looked after, they tend not to drive like hoons and have low kms which means it is likely to last longer.
How to save on insurance,
Owning a car comes with a long list of extra expenses. First is the insurance. Get this as soon as you take ownership of the car! I cannot stress this enough. Don’t risk driving around without it. Be sure to read the fine print and go for agreed value instead of market value. The difference is agreed value means a value is selected for the car e.g $10,000 and that is what it is insured for the whole year. Market value means the value can change depending on the market and you can get totally short-changed by your insurance company with it. Instead of $10,000, they might place the market value at $7,000 and you lose $3,000!
Factors such as your driving history, age, postcode and who else will be driving all impact the cost of insurance. Be sure to compare prices and play around with the excess to see what the best price for you will be.
Another option is to join Car Next Door, rent your car out sometimes and pay the $60 a month to be with them. It means your insurance comes under their fleet insurance and can be cheaper than your own insurance depending on the car you have.
How to save with rego
Changing registration costs a fee as well as the annual fee and greenslip. If you have a pension card you might be eligible for a discount on your registration (the registration portion, not the greenslip/insurance which is compulsory). Paying annually is usually cheaper, but if you can’t pay annually you can opt for 3 ot 6 months. Be sure to register on time though because the fine for driving unregistered is not cheap.
Prices are skyrocketing and it costs a fair bit to fill your car now, so you want to make sure you can reduce it. Firstly, keeping your car well maintained, clean and the tyres inflated correctly helps your car use fuel more efficiently. Remove anything from the car you don’t need so it isn’t weighed down and use the correct fuel for your car.
Check out petrol apps such as the 7/11 one where you can lock in petrol prices when you see them cheaper. Know which stations are cheaper in your area and plan your trips accordingly. Do all your errands at once and avoid short, unnecessary trips. Lastly, top up your tank when it is cheap instead of letting it run down to empty. Half a tank of cheap fuel still saves you money. Plus if you always wait until the car is empty, you will be forced to fill up at the next station which might not be the cheapest.
How to reduce car maintenance costs
Servicing your car is so important. Keeping it maintained and keeping the log book helps for resale value but servicing helps well before that. Ensuring your car is running smoothly and you can fix issues as they come up helps prevent major issues later. The sooner a problem is found and done, the easier it is to fix.
Plus there are some things such as brake pads and timing belts which need changing at certain times and are dangerous if they aren’t.
You can learn to do a service yourself including basic oil changes. Also, if you do have any issues with your car, Google it first. When I had my Camry there were issues with the lights. I called and asked for advice on it and was told it is likely a huge electrical issue and will cost thousands. Google told me it could be a specific $2 fuse which I could get from Super Cheap Auto and if it’s not that fuse then look at it being thousands. It was the fuse. I fixed it myself and had no further issues.
The same with starting issues. Once the car had problems with starting and I was told it was the starter motor. Looked at the engine, saw some corrosion on the battery and cleaned it then had no more issues.
Learn about cars, know what you are talking about and you can save yourself thousands. That said, always get a professional for the big things and especially if you don’t know what you’re doing. Find a mechanic you can trust (yes, they are out there!) And check out these tips from a female mechanic in Sydney we’ve dealt with before. They run courses for women to learn about their cars too!
Without A Car
Can you live without a car? If so, it could save you thousands. After a year of living in Melbourne, I did a comparison looking at car expenses in Canberra vs no car in Melbourne. Running 2 cars cost us $20,000 a year there! I was partnered at the time and we had a Camry plus a Nissan X-Trail. The cost of the cars/cost to replace later was included in my calculations but the rego, insurance and petrol were the main expenses. Without a car, we spent only $1,000 on transport in the year in Melbourne. That’s a $19,000 saving!
Depending on where you live and your lifestyle, living without a car is possible. Get a bike, walk, use public transport, try rideshare options like Uber/Taxify and Ola or try carshare such as Car Next Door (I wrote a comparison of a few here). Living in the city, these options combined worked out significantly cheaper than owning a car for the lifestyle I had. Living where I do now, it’s $4,000 a year for public transport to get us to and from school etc. Add in the cost to hire a car when I go to Canberra, plus time and other things and it now works out better to have a car for us.
Look at your options and decide what is best for you.
How to make money with your car
If you’ve got a car, you can make money with it. The first option most people think of is being a driver, but not everyone wants to do that and it’s not the only option.
Test them out first if you want to see what it’s like. Get $15 off your first booking here. Then, if you are comfortable with it, list your car. You choose the price and you don’t have to have it available for others all the time. Many people who use Car Next Door make $300 a month and they guarantee $2,000 a year!
Uber, Ola, Shebah, Taxify
You will make less than minimum wage but it’s flexible. On average, drivers I have spoken to said it works out to be $8 to $10hr after all their expenses. Evenings are busier as are weekends but you need to like people. Shebah is a female only option if you prefer that.
Instead of driving people around you could deliver food through Ubereats or Deliveroo. Both of these options make more than being a driver according to my research and speaking with drivers.
If you have a relatively modern car, some businesses will pay to have a car wrap on your car promoting their business. It isn’t as popular as it used to be but still an option. Or if you have your own business, put your business on the car!
Examples from my life
In Canberra and Sydney, I had a car most of the time. Both locations it felt essential, especially with my kids and all the appointments such as speech therapy we needed. Until recently in Melbourne, a car didn’t matter.
I’ve used cars for work (when I had a mobile hairdressing business in Sydney) so could claim some expenses on tax. Renting it out isn’t something I’ve personally done but I have rented plenty of other people’s cars. Now I own one, I’m considering my options.
How to make and save money with travel
Travelling could be classed under transport. I covered ways to save money when travelling as a family here and ways to make money travelling here. We love to travel and it is a huge part of our lives. One tip is to use Skyscanner to search for flights or Momondo. Recently, I found flights for a friend through them way less than anything she could find.