Ways to save on transportation costs

In the midst of the holiday season, travel is on many people's minds. Here are some helpful hints for saving money now and in the future when dealing with planes, repairs and automobiles.

Airline fares

    1. You can lower the price of a round-trip fare by as much as two-thirds by making certain your trip includes a Saturday evening stay and by purchasing the ticket in advance.

    2. To make certain you have a cheap fare, even if you use a travel agent, contact all the airlines that fly where you want to go and ask what the lowest fare to your destination is.

    3. Be flexible, if possible. Consider using low-fare carriers or alternate airports, and keep an eye out for fare wars.

Car rental

    1. Car rental rates can vary greatly, so shop around for the best basic rates. Ask about any additional charges (extra driver, gas or drop-off fees) and special offers.

    2. Rental car companies offer insurance and waiver options. Check with your automobile insurance agent and credit card company in advance to avoid duplicating coverage you may already have.

New cars

    1. You can save thousands of dollars over the lifetime of a car by selecting a model that combines a low purchase price with low financing, insurance, gasoline, maintenance and repair costs. Ask your librarian for new car guides that contain this information.

    2. You can save hundreds of dollars by comparison shopping. Call at least five dealers for price quotes and let each know that you are calling others.

    3. Remember there is no cooling-off period on new car sales. Once you have signed a contract, you are obligated to buy the car.

Used cars

    1. Before buying any used car, check price guides to compare the seller's asking price with the average retail price. And have a mechanic you trust check the car, especially if the car is sold as is.

    2. Consider purchasing a used car from a person you know and trust. They are more likely than other sellers to charge a lower price and point out problems with the car.

Auto leasing

    1. Don't decide to lease a car just because the payments are lower than on a traditional auto loan. The leasing payments are lower because you don't own the car at the end of the lease.

    2. When shopping, consider the price of the car (known as the capitalized cost), your trade-in allowance, any down payment, monthly payments, excess mileage fees, excess "wear and tear" fees and the cost of buying the car at the end of the lease.

    3. Check the "Consumer Guide to Vehicle Leasing," published by the Federal Reserve Board, for valuable information about auto leasing.

Gasoline

    1 .You can save hundreds of dollars a year by comparing prices at different stations, pumping gas yourself and using the lowest octane called for in your owner's manual.

    2. You can save up to $100 a year on gas by keeping your engine tuned and your tires inflated properly.

Car repairs

    1. Find a skilled, honest mechanic. Before you need repairs, look for a mechanic who is certified and well-established, has done good work for someone you know and communicates well about repair options and costs.

Zall, Bureaucratus columnist and a retired federal employee, is a freelance writer based in Silver Spring, Md. He specializes in taxes, investing, business and government workplace issues. He is a certified internal auditor and a registered investment adviser. He can be reached at miltzall@starpower.net.

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