Transportation and travel
Save on repairs -- and skip the new-car payments.
Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers (aka Tom and Ray Magliozzi), spout their brand of wry car advice on National Public Radio's "Car Talk." Their top tips for saving big bucks on your vehicle:
Drive gently. Accelerate slowly, without snapping your head back. Brake gently and avoid panic stops. Don't weave in and out of lanes on the freeway, and keep your highway speeds down -- for every mile per hour over 55 you travel, your fuel economy goes down by 2%. Savings: $449.
Go indie. If your car is off warranty, take it to an independent repair shop. We commissioned Murky Research and Development to do some research and found that, overall, dealers charge 15% more than independent repair shops for the same repairs. Why? Higher labor rates. Savings: $220.
Don't drive. If you're near public transportation, leave your car at home and use the bus or train. Or ask if you can telecommute. If your commute is 30 miles a day and you cut out one day of driving, you'll save gas and wear on your car. Plus, you'll find it more relaxing than dodging cell-phone-addicted commuters. Savings: $194.
Keep the clunker. Even if it doesn't score you the babe or the hunk of your dreams, owning an older car offers something else: a truly liberating experience. You no longer care about dents or bird droppings. And best of all? It's paid for! Savings: $1,670 (based on skipping a new-car payment and typical ownership costs for a 5-year-old car).
Total annual savings: $2,533.
Save on gas: More tips from the "Car Talk" guys.
Get a checkup. Regular service can spot lots of problems that reduce gas mileage and increase pollution, such as a broken thermostat, low transmission fluid, sticky brake calipers or a dirty air filter. You could increase your fuel economy by as much as 10% -- enough to cover the cost of the service and buy a supersize falafel sandwich with free-range bean sprouts. Savings: $194.
Lose the junk in your trunk. Toss out the four bowling balls, the barbells and the lead-lined box of plutonium fuel rods. Also, remove anything that causes additional drag, including the roof rack and the cargo carrier you're not using on your minivan. An extra 100 pounds carried in your car could reduce your mpg by up to 2%. Savings: $39.
Skip the premium gas. Even if you have an engine that's designed to run on premium fuel, you can probably fill up with regular most of the time. You may lose a little power, but nearly every car on the road today is equipped with a knock sensor to eliminate pinging. If you drive without lead-footing the gas pedal or overloading your car and you don't hear pinging, you can use regular fuel. Of course, you'll lose that warm feeling of giving oil companies 20 cents to 30 cents more for each gallon. Savings: $93.
Total annual savings: $326.
Know the time to go: Timing is everything on travel deals.
Off-peak bargains. Dreaming of a trip to Hawaii? Consider hitting the islands earlier in the year, during the off-peak season. In a Kayak.com search in late December, airfares from Washington, D.C., to Honolulu started at $879 round-trip for flights in mid-July, but they dropped to as low as $719 round-trip for travel in early March. And because we're talking about Hawaii, the weather will be just as gorgeous. Savings per couple: $320.
Take off on Tuesdays. Flying during the week instead of on weekends, when most people travel, is a great way to save. For example, going from New York City to San Francisco on a Friday in mid-May and returning the following Friday will cost $388 a ticket. A Tuesday-to-Tuesday round-trip would cost just $338 a person. Savings per couple: $100.
Procrastination pays. Last-minute deals that offer great bargains on unfilled plane seats and hotel rooms are regularly posted on many travel websites, including the Aer Lingus Vacation Store. In early January, for example, two people heading from New York to Dublin could get a package with two plane tickets and four nights at the three-star Regency Hotel for $1,449 if they booked by mid-January for an April trip. But if the couple could take off before late February, the cost would drop to $1,189. Savings per couple: $260.
Total annual savings: $680.
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