We often equate driving privileges with infinite freedom. But the reality is that owning and operating a vehicle can come with a lot of costs — both figurative and literal. Not only do you need to pay for gas, maintenance, and insurance, but failing to use your vehicle as intended can culminate in fees like parking and traffic tickets, as well as crashes, arrests, high insurance premiums, and more.
In other words, you’ll want to do everything possible to keep your car-related costs low. And often, that starts with simply becoming a better (and safer) driver. Here are just a few of the ways being more responsible behind the wheel can help you save money.
Better Drivers Can Obtain Better Insurance Rates
Insurance companies will examine a number of factors, but your driving record does matter. Since they will typically determine your risk level by assessing how likely it is for you to be involved in a crash, it literally pays to drive safely. Even something as innocuous as a traffic ticket can come back to haunt you. The more risks you present as a driver, the more money it will take to insure you. Many insurance companies will extend discounts to safe drivers — and if you’ve recently taken a defensive driving course, you could negotiate a lower rate. The less you have to pay each month for insurance coverage, the more breathing room you’ll have in your budget.
You’ll Save Money at the Pump
Although you may not have much control over the cost of gas, you can control how much gas you use on average. If you drive a lot or have a vehicle that doesn’t provide superior fuel efficiency, you could reduce how often you have to fill your tank by keeping aggressive driving habits to a minimum. The Department of Energy estimates that behaviors like speeding, hard braking, and rapid acceleration can lower your vehicle’s gas mileage by 33% on highways and by 5% when you’re driving in residential areas. While the savings may be around 20 cents per gallon, that still adds up over several years!
Safe Drivers Don’t Have to Worry About Tickets or Arrests
Keep in mind that the costs associated with being an unsafe driver can be substantial. Even for a first DUI offense, penalties can include license suspension, community service, mandatory attendance at an alcohol treatment program, mandatory overnight incarceration, and ignition interlock device installation. Many of these penalties will come with steep fees, so you’ll definitely want to avoid driving while under the influence for both financial and safety reasons.
But even if you haven’t had anything to drink, reckless driving behavior can have monetary consequences. Just because an AC Cobra Coupe reached 186 miles per hour on a British motorway in the 1960s doesn’t mean you can safely operate your vehicle at excessive speeds. Even if you manage to avoid being involved in a crash, you could easily be arrested for ignoring the rules of the road. Of course, you might merely receive a traffic ticket — which could cost you hundreds of dollars and require you to miss work, hire a lawyer, and deal with other costs related to court appearances. If you want to avoid these scenarios entirely, you should take pains to adhere to lawful driving practices at all times.
You Can Avoid Accidents and Unnecessary Maintenance
Whether you’ve been traveling too fast, texting while behind the wheel, or engaging in other negligible actions, being involved in an accident can be expensive. You might be responsible for car maintenance and repairs, total replacement, or other property damage. What’s more, you could end up with debilitating injuries. Although 20% of the world’s poorest people have some type of disability, U.S. medical care is among the most expensive in the world. Although insurance might cover certain costs relating to accidents, the truth is that you might face an uphill battle to obtain appropriate compensation. And if the accident in question was your fault, you might find you have very few financial options in front of you.
Even if you manage to avoid a serious accident, reckless driving can still take a toll on your vehicle. Hard braking and rapid acceleration can wear out essential car parts more quickly than normal, for example. Tires and other components might experience more wear and tear due to poor driving habits, as well. If you want to preserve the lifespan of your car and save money on upkeep, you might want to refamiliarize yourself with the best driving practices recommended by your DMV or insurance agency.
There’s no doubt that owning and driving a car will represent added expenses. But if you aren’t careful when you’re behind the wheel, you could end up spending much more than necessary. By engaging in safe driving behaviors, you could potentially save quite a bit over the course of your life.