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 lived with and without cars. In Canberra, we were a two-car household but in Melbourne, I didn’t need one.
Overseas, I didn’t have a car but in Noosa and Sydney, I had a car at times.
With each place we lived, I compared transport costs for my kids and me.
It varied from city to city, as did the public transport options and whether it was practical.
Some cities had ample public transport and it was cheap. Others were atrocious, unreliable, expensive and pointless so owning a car was essential.
One huge factor when it comes to transport is time.
When catching public transport, it takes longer, there can be delays and your whole plans for the day can get thrown out the window.
With a car, you have more control and usually, more time.
Since transport is such a huge topic I have split this article into car ownership and tips for those who don’t own a car.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links to products and services I use. Check out the full disclosure for more details.
How to Save Money With Transport
As mentioned, I have lived without a car on and off throughout my life.
Not paying for fuel every week, registration, insurance etc was great.
But I did miss the freedom of going away whenever I wanted.
Living in the city meant I had free public transport around the city and we walked everywhere.
Free and Cheap Transport Options
With the rising cost of fuel, free transport is more appealing even if it takes a little longer. Here are a few options.
If you are able, then walking is easy and free. Make sure you have good shoes because bad shoes will cause damage to your body over time.
My family complain that my ‘Just around the corner’ is WAY too far. The fact is, the more I walk everywhere, the easier it is.
I enjoy walking, talking with whoever is on the walk with me or listening to audiobooks/podcasts if doing it alone with my kids.
The neighbours are shocked at how far I walked most days during my pregnancy.
It kept me fit though and now, 4.5 weeks after giving birth, I am the same weight I was when I fell pregnant.
Walking is both free and a great way to keep healthy physically and mentally.
Canberra, Noosa and Melbourne (especially Carlton/Brunswick and similar areas) have been popular for bikes when I have lived in those locations.
Great bike paths, good roads and a culture that has cyclists makes it easier. Sydney, not so much.
With a bike, you have the initial cost of buying it as well as some minimal maintenance costs.
My kids love their bikes and have been taught how to care for them plus have kits to maintain them.
The place we purchased the bikes also offer the first service free.
When it comes to servicing, we like to learn how to do these things ourselves as it saves money and because we spend a lot of time in the South Pacific where this sort of knowledge is priceless.
Free public transport is available on trams around the city in Melbourne.
Noosa does free buses on the weekends and during tourist times e.g Christmas.
Check your locations to see what options are available for free transport and plan your errands then if you can.
Otherwise, check out the cheapest options for how often you will use it.
For example, a month pass for someone who uses it every day usually works out much cheaper than paying daily or weekly.
If you have a concession card, you will likely get a discount. Plus, some offer free travel options for those with concession cards or who are carers.
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 quickly though unless you are alternating, so use it sparingly.
When we’ve done carpooling it was usually us driving and friends paid a small amount for petrol (their choice, we would have driven them for free as they were on the way to work with us anyway).
Or we alternated with us driving one week and they would drive the next week.
This is not really something I would recommend but it is an option.
My dad used to do it all the time but we lived somewhere everyone knew him because he played football, coached football (and was always in the papers for it), had a good position in church etc.
He usually got picked up by people he knew and this was country Tasmania.
Personally I feel it’s a little risky to do but I still see lots of people doing it.
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. Outside the city, a car was a better option.
Tips for Buying the car
One of the most important parts of owning a car and saving money 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 but they have a warranty.
This doesn’t stop them from 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.
Most of the cars I have owned came from older people (teachers more often than not too), with full log book history, everything.
The only cars I had issues with, I bought from car yards.
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 that 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.
How to Save on Registration
Changing registration costs a fee as well as the annual fee and green slip/insurance.
If you have a pension card you might be eligible for a discount on your registration (the registration portion, not the green slip/insurance which is compulsory).
Paying annually is usually cheaper, but if you can’t pay annually you can opt for 3 to 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.
Or FuelMap which shows the cheapest prices in the area. 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 logbook 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 that 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.
I 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!
How to Live 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 in Canberra! 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!
I know of others who had their car break down, they sold that car and didn’t bother buying a new one.
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 Ubercarshare.
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 but you need to check with your insurer or possibly change insurance.
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. 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 Uber Carshare 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, Menulog and similar.
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 it can work if you have the right business and agreement.
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.
In Melbourne, a car didn’t matter for most of the time I lived there.
Here in Noosa, I have gone without a car at first but with my health issues during pregnancy, a car was essential again.
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.
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.