5 savvy ways to cut your car costs in your 30s

Buying that first car used to every teenager’s rite of passage to independence, but these days, a growing number of younger Aussies aren’t rushing to get behind the wheel. Fewer and fewer people in their 20s now have a driver’s licence, while the 30s have become a prime time to hop onto your Ls and pass your RMS test with flying colours. 

This is according to the Sun-Herald and The Sunday Age’s comparison of Roads and Maritime Services data with Australian Bureau of Statistics population figures, which found that between 2005 and 2018, the number of 20-24 year olds in NSW with a licence fell by 3.5%, from 78.6% to 75.2%. For 25-29 year olds, there was an even larger 6.6% drop in licence ownership down to 78%. 

But the findings reveal that by their early 30s, most people in NSW have gotten their licence - nearly 90% in the 30-34 age bracket. 

However, driving your own car doesn’t come cheap. And this can be a worry, especially if you’re at the age when you’ve started to cut back on spending in order to save up for the next 30 years rather than your next night out. 

So if you’re wondering about smarter ways to manage your car finances in your 30s, here are five top tips to help you cut down on expenses and save: 

Budget for ongoing car costs

Bought a sweet new ride and think the price tag’s all you needed to worry about? Well, think again! From repairs to registration, recurring expenses can build up to thousand of dollars annually and leave a dent in your bank account if you aren’t careful. 

That’s why budgeting for those ongoing costs can be essential in helping you stay on track financially, so you aren’t stopping your 30s self from reaching milestones like starting a family or buying your first home

Ongoing car expenses come in two forms: 

Fixed: Fixed expenses stay almost the same every year, making them easier to budget for, as there’s no surprise how much will come out of your hip pocket every month or year to pay for them. They include things like your rego renewal, car insurance, as well as servicing and maintenance fees.

To get your hands on a good deal for insurance and servicing, it’s always wise to shop around before going with a specific provider or offer. 

And keep in mind that while insurance is a fixed cost, your premium may change at renewal time if you’ve made a claim or changed your circumstances. So it’s worth comparing offers each time you renew to make sure you’re still getting the best deal for you. 

Varying: From petrol and road tolls, to bust tyres and broken headlights, variable expenses are a lot harder to predict, as they depend on factors like how much you’ve used your car and where you’ve driven. 

One useful way of estimating these expenses is to keep your receipts every time you top up petrol or pay a toll, and then to calculate the amount you’ve spent by the end of the week, fortnight or month. That way, you'll have a clearer idea of the amount you should budget for.

Build a ‘just in case’ fund 

By your 30s, you should have well and truly kicked your habit of blowing your paycheck in one go. So why not channel some of your monthly income into building an emergency savings stash? For the more unexpected costs, like a car repair if your four wheel drive suddenly breaks down, this savings stash could lend a much-needed hand - it’s a safety net, just in case you run into financial trouble and find yourself scrambling for cash. 

The rule of thumb is: your ‘just in case’ fund should have enough to cover at least 3 months of bills and living expenses. A high interest savings account is a great place to park this fund, so you know there’s always money up your sleeve when you need it - and in the meantime, you can earn interest too! 

Be smart about when and where you’re filling up petrol 

With petrol prices constantly going up and down, picking the right time to fill up your tank could make a huge difference to how much you’re spending in the long run. In fact, according to an ACCC report in 2017, Sydney motorists could have collectively saved $85 million over one year if they had avoided buying petrol during the six most expensive days of the price cycle. 

Apps like FuelCheck (for NSW and NT drivers) and MotorMouth (for motorists outside of NSW and NT) are a great way to keep track of which service stations have the lowest prices, and the best days of the week to head there for a top up. Or if you’re not really a smartphone savvy person, the ACCC website also shows you the cheapest and most pricey days to fill up, although keep in mind it only updates 3 times a week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). 

Share your car with others

The more, the merrier, as they say. Or in this case, the more, the bigger savings on petrol! If you and your partner (or someone in your neighbourhood) both drive to work, and you’re heading the same way, why not commute together in one car? 

Ride-sharing apps like the Carpool Club make things even simpler by letting you find other commuters travelling in the same direction so you can share the ride with them, either by giving or receiving a lift. 

Refinance to a better car loan 

Still paying off that pesky car loan? With a number of providers cutting their car loan rates recently, now could be a great time to hunt down an even better deal. 

Getting hold of a lower rate could save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. How? Let’s show you in an example: 

If you took out a $20,000 car loan with a 7% interest rate over 5 years, you would be paying $3,761 in total interest.^ 

But if you refinance to the lowest rate loan in Mozo’s database - 4.19% (4.73% comparison rate*)^^ - the interest you pay over the life of the loan drops down to $2,203, which is $1,558 lower than the first offer!

Ready to find a more competitive car loan? Head over to our refinance car loans comparison table to get started on comparing offers and making the switch today. 

^ Calculations as of 1 October 2019.

^^ The lowest rate loan in Mozo's database, as of 1 October 2019, is loans.com.au's Green Car Loan, with a fixed 3-5 year interest rate of 4.19% (4.73% comparison rate*).