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Car care mistakes

Owning a car might be a necessity, but it doesn't have to break the bank. In fact, you may be spending too much money for your vehicle right now. Sue Perry, Deputy Editor of ShopSmart Magazine, explains five of the most common car owner mistakes.

The first mistake car owners may be making is overpaying for insurance. The auto insurance coverage you sign up for when you first buy a new car is usually more than what you'll need as the car gets older. ShopSmart recommends calling your insurance company once a year to see whether you should adjust your coverage. For example, every year that goes by without you making a claim or being issued a ticket makes you a lower risk and could qualify you for a lower rate. You can also try shopping around for another insurance provider by getting quotes. Just remember, the longer you stay with an insurance company and whether or not you have multiple policies with them, may not make switching worth it.

It's also a good idea to not put off warning signs. It might be easy to ignore the "check engine" light or an odd noise, but it could cost you more in the long run if you don't get it repaired right away. A simple chip in your windshield could cost as little as $60 to repair. However, if that chip turns into a crack, you could be hundreds of dollars out of pocket for a new replacement windshield. Do a monthly walk-around your car to catch the little things before they become big problems.

On the flip side, don't overmaintain your car either. It's important to stay on top of your car's vital fluids and other maintenance items, but many repair shops will try to get you to perform maintenance more often than necessary. ShopSmart encourages you to read your car's owner manual and go by the manufacturer's guidelines. An auto repair shop may encourage you to change your oil every 3,000 miles, but your car may only need to have it changed every 7,500 miles in normal driving conditions. Changing your oil more often won't hurt your car, but it will cost you more money.

If you are buying a brand new car, be careful not to focus on the monthly payment. A salesperson may say to you, "How much can you pay each month?" Perry says, don't take the bait. By getting the buyer to focus on monthly payments, the salesperson can start manipulating other figures, like the new-car price, trade-in value, and financing terms. You may think you are getting a great deal, but you could end up paying more in the long run. ShopSmart says to negotiate one thing at a time. Settle on the car's price first, then discuss trade-in or financing.

And finally, if you do need to finance for a new car, make sure you shop around. It may be convenient to get your financing from the dealer, but you'll often pay extra. Shop around with credit unions, local banks, and online lenders to get a better rate. Perry says it's also best to get prequalified for financing before you set foot on the dealership lot.

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