Gasoline prices have continued to climb over the last decade, and unfortunately, wages are stagnant , if not declining. What can we do to reduce car expenses without a major lifestyle change?

Leave your spare tire at home

A typical donut sized spare tire weights between 30 to 35 pounds. If you have a full size spare tire, it weights even more. As a result, leaving your spare tire at home not only improves fuel economy, but also improves acceleration.

I have been doing this for four years, and so far have not gotten a flat tire. (I am thankful for that.) Instead, I have a 24-hour country-wide roadside assistance phone number stored in the glove compartment, and a portable tire inflator (which plugs into the cigarette lighter) stored in the trunk.

In fact, a lot of new cars on the market today do not come with a spare tire: 2008 Ford Focus, 2009 Toyota Sienna, BMW 1 series, Mazda MX-5, and Honda Fit are some of the popular models that have no spare tire.

Fuel Injector Cleaner

A dirty engine is inefficient and makes acceleration sluggish. One of the most cost effective solutions is to use fuel injector cleaner. Think of it as a detox for your car – it cleans the interior of the engine while you drive.

A bottle of fuel injector cleaner costs about $5 to $8. They are available at the automotive departments of most major retail chains. Right before filling up the gas, pour a bottle of fuel injector cleaner into the gas tank. It helps improve gas mileage and restore lost power. Using it once every 5000 km should be sufficient to keep your car running smoothly.

Follow Maintenance Schedule

Most people follow the maintenance schedule when the car is new. As the car ages, things tend to slip. To prolong the life of the vehicle, (i.e. save money in the long run) it is important to perform oil changes and other regular maintenance on a regular basis. And it need not be expensive. Most shops charge between $35 and $45 for an oil change and it takes approximately 45 to 60 minutes.

Some helpful tips: Book an appointment in advance. If possible, try to bring in your car early in the morning on a Wednesday or Thursday, as those are usually the least busiest days of the week for shops. To avoid any unpleasant surprises, do a price check first. Labour rates vary greatly even for dealers.

Monitor Tire Pressure

Keeping tires properly inflated reduces tread wear and improves fuel economy. Ideally, tire pressure should be checked every two weeks.

Nitrogen Gas Tire Inflation

The reality is, most people do not monitor the tire pressure on a regular basis. Fortunately, there is an inexpensive alternative – Nitrogen.

Air molecules escape from the tire rubber which cause a loss in pressure. The solution is to inflate the tires with Nitrogen gas. Prices range from $10 to $20 for four tires. And if you purchase the tires from Costco, Nitrogen inflation is free of charge.

PASAP (Park as soon as possible)

Whenever you go to a mall, instead of driving around the parking lot hoping to find a parking spot closest to the entrance, try to park at the first available spot. Not only does it save fuel and reduce engine wear, it also eliminates the stress of getting into an argument with someone who thinks that “I am here first.”

Abide by the Law

This sounds trivial, but it is easily forgotten especially when people are in a rush. A traffic ticket can cost hundreds of dollars. Plus your insurance premium would probably increase as a result.

Wear a seat belt, drive within speed limits, make a complete stop at stop signs and so on only take seconds. Being a law abiding citizen saves you money and in some cases, saves your life.

Kevin, the creator of is a car enthusiast from Toronto, Ontario. He is a certified automotive paint protection film installer. In his spare time, he enjoys blogging about cars and is passionate about photograpy.


  1. andrewbpaterson on February 11, 2010 at 9:40 am

    I liked this post…very practical tips.
    No spare tire??? It sounds illogical, but when I stop and think about it, I haven’t ever used the spare tire in the trunk…not even once!

    Whoever “Gust Blogger” is, sign ’em up for more, FT!!!

  2. 2 Cents @ Balance Junkie on February 11, 2010 at 10:24 am

    These are great tips. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard a few before, but it’s so easy to forget! As for the spare tire thing, I (well, my husband) actually had to use mine a couple of weeks ago after I ran over a piece of scrap metal or something while getting onto an expressway. (It was dark.)

    Still, if I didn’t have my husband to call, I wouldn’t have any clue what to do with the spare tire even if I could find it, so I would just have to call for some kind of roadside assistance anyway. Maybe leaving it at home is a good plan for some people.

  3. Little Ms.Scrooge on February 11, 2010 at 10:41 am

    I realy enjoyed reading today’ post. Very useful tips too. Looking forward to future posts.

  4. paulie on February 11, 2010 at 10:50 am

    good tips, kevin. the spare will be left at home after today.

  5. Ben on February 11, 2010 at 11:18 am

    I think changing the air filter regularly is a good idea too.
    I’m keeping my spare though.

  6. Richy on February 11, 2010 at 11:31 am

    I would revisit your second point regarding the fuel additive:

  7. Pedro on February 11, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Be careful with the spare tire removal suggestion. The weight distribution of a car affects the handling and grip performance of a car. This is especially important under snowy conditions where you need all the grip you need.

    This obviously does not apply to vehicles designed to run without a spare tire at the back.

    The nitrogen suggestion isn’t suitable for Canada either, where there can be a 20 degree Celsius difference from one week to the next. Most of the tire pressure “lost” is not due to leakage, but to temperature difference. (cold air contracts)

  8. uber on February 11, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    Spare tire: what is your cost for 24-hour roadside assistance? I would bet that the amount of fuel you save in one year doesn’t pay for that service.

    Nitrogen: I already fill my tires with a mixture of 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen (approximately) and i have a manual pump at home that can replenish that mixture readily….why would anybody pay for nitrogen is beyond me considering the ‘savings’ you claim?!

    Fuel injector cleaner: see Richy’s comment above.

    Follow maintenance sched, keep tire pressure in check (see my first point), and drive safely (avoid rapid accelerations, etc.) is about all you can do. The rest on this list are just not well thought out solutions.

  9. bob on February 11, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Nitrogen in your tires is a myth and quite silly really. The air is 78% nitrogen as it is. I would expect that a blog interested in saving money should be ashamed to provide tips that are a WASTE OF MONEY.

  10. Weera on February 11, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Cannot agree with some of these at all. I have used the spare tire 2-3 times and I not only carry around my spare but also regularly check its pressure to make sure it is properly inflated. I cannot imagine being stranded because I could not be bothered to carry around my spare and having to pay a tow-truck vulture an exorbitant fee for a single tow (that will cancel out any little fuel savings you may have had). Fuel additives to clean the injector are a total waste of money… this is not a new fact. And I agree with bob, filling tires with nitrogen is a fad, another waste of money. Your other tips are OK though and could potentially save money. What then are my favorite money (and environment)-saving tips?, drive a fuel-efficient vehicle (not necessarily a hybrid), drive as little as possible, own only one vehicle and take public transit.

  11. nobleea on February 11, 2010 at 2:02 pm

    i’ve used the spare tire 2-3 times in the past 3 years. and that’s with new tires on the car. i wouldn’t get rid of it. i can change the tires over in under 5 mins, who nows how long you’d have to wait with roadside assistance.

    i change the oil every 6-7K. the 5K recommendation is fine if you’re a lead footed hot shot city delivery driver. most car manuals will have two oil change interval recommendations. 5K for ‘extreme’ driving conditions, and 8K for normal.

    accelerate slowly. don’t idle the car. it only needs 10 secs most days and at most 30 secs on the coldest days.

    park in the first stall you find. if possible, find a drive through stall so you don’t have to back out. the reverse gear is the least efficient.

    nitrogen is an expensive fad. you can buy a portable tire compressor for $10-20.

  12. Sampson on February 11, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    I agree there are limitations to the suggestions.

    Modifying your driving style (hypermiling) is a much more effective way to save money on gas.

    I can get upwards to 30-45% improvement in gas mileage simply by slightly overinflating my tires (wear is even, so neither traction, nor tire lifespan are compromised) and being a ‘feather-weight’ on the gas pedal.

  13. ethan on February 11, 2010 at 3:57 pm

    Hey if the weight of the tires are a factor in saving fuel, why dont someone just fill them up with helium :D jk. I for one just have a foot pump to fill up my tires.
    I too have 24 hour roadside assistance free and its good for another 2-3 years so I think I will leave my spare tire at home on those 2-3 years but put it back after.
    For the injector cleaner, I think thats an option once your car reaches like 100k km. btw fuel additives from the post above with the video is NOT the same as injector cleaner. In any case I would only use it after every 100k km as the gas nowadays are cleaner and not every 5k like suggested.
    driving at speed limit and following traffic laws and being light footed on the gas pedal are very good suggestions.

  14. Peter Wimsey on February 11, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    “Air molecules”? Say what?

  15. Greg on February 11, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    Gas these days is full of additives and detergents designed to keep your engine and fuel injectors clean. Watch the gas commercials on TV. In most cases additional additives are unnecessary.

    Nitrogen fill is a waste of money. Regular air is approx. 80% nitrogen anyway. Nitrogen fills leak out just like regular air. The only advantage of a nitrogen fill is that it is clean and dry. Many gas stations don’t look after their compressors very well and the air tanks can become full of water some of which will end up in your tires.

    Maintaining your car, keeping the tires properly inflated and not idling are the best things you can do to save money in the long run.

    As @Sampson said, Google Hypermiling for info on the best driving tips to save money.

  16. Gary Garic on February 11, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    As a certified mechanic with 40 years experience I have never come across a Article with as many errors, and useless advice.

    Nitrogen in your tires is a cash grab by the tire industry, and has been proven time and time again to not work, so save your cash and get FREE air, not costly NITROGEN.

  17. Mike on February 11, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    I don’t agree with the no spare tire suggestion. What if you are far away from cell-phone service?

    One of the best ways to save gas is just to drive less.

    Combining errands, public transit, walking (gasp) once in a while will help save money.

  18. Kathryn on February 11, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    We keep car costs down by being a one car family and using public transit when possible.

    Our one car is also a small car which has great milage.

    I’m still not comfortable with the no spare tire advice. It’s one of the reasons we didn’t go with the Honda Fit.

  19. Lillie on February 11, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    I’m guilty: I carry around the full-size spare tire and lots of other unnecessary stuff in my car. I seriously never considered the tire as extra weight and since I do have the Roadside Assistance Program and don’t plan to change the tire myself (unless absolutely necessary), I might consider leaving it behind. First, I probably will consider getting rid of the other items; however, on the other hand, I don’t think I want to leave my golf clubs behind.

  20. sonic on February 11, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    Worst tips ever, especially the one about not carrying a spare, and nitrogen? Seriously? You would PAY for that?!

    What’s roadside assistance going to do for you if you have no spare and it can’t be patched…do you think they carry tires to fit all cars? You’re going to end up wasting a lot of time/gas/money when you have to go out of your way to get your tire replaced.

    And is it worth waiting an hour or more for roadside assistance to come?

  21. Gary on February 12, 2010 at 12:13 am

    No spare tire?

    I pay for car insurance but I never used it. Maybe I should cancel it too?

  22. cannon_fodder on February 12, 2010 at 1:16 am

    One of the problems with leaving the spare tire at home is that certain husbands would never get to leave the house! Fortunately, I’m slim and trim so that is not a concern for me.

    Another way to save money are some very simple “repairs” you can do yourself. Replacing windshield wipers is not something anyone needs to pay for. Or filling up washer fluid – if you have your local garage do it, they will charge at least double for the materials than you would pay on your own. I’ve also replaced headlights and tail light bulbs – no labour, no GST (or HST) costs, no markups for parts.

    Shop around for car insurance – every year! I was stunned how my auto insurance kept creeping up at a company that originally had the best price. I was stunned because I decided to look around and saved around 20%.

    Buy used cars, never new.

    Buy a GPS or at least use the internet to print out driving directions so that you don’t waste time and gas trying to find your destination.

    Turn off your car when sitting at a railway crossing.

    I’ve heard that at highway speeds, it is cheaper to use the car’s A/C than to have the windows down.

    I now am a firm believer in rust proofing annually. I had to get rid of one car after 14 years which had a few problems, but the rust was the biggest one. Our other vehicle, which is only 9 years old, doesn’t have a speck of rust. The difference? One only had factory rust proofing, the other has had it done annually. If I had been able to keep the car 1 year longer that would have saved me over $6,000 in payments on a replacement vehicle.

  23. cannon_fodder on February 12, 2010 at 1:18 am


    If you fill your car’s tires with helium it could cause serious problems. If you hit the horn, it squeaks like a rubber ducky. Who is going to get out of the way of a rubber ducky?

  24. youngandthrifty on February 12, 2010 at 4:12 am

    Cool, I didn’t know about the Nitrogen Gas inflation! I am really bad at inflating my tires/ checking the pressure. I even told myself I’d do it near the first week of the month, but don’t do it.

    I’m not comfortable with leaving out the spare tire either.

    I definitely agree with making sure you follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintenance. When i first got my used Honda Civic Si, I didn’t really know about when/how often you needed to get oil changes. I think I’m paying for it now, because I can only seem to get 300 clicks per full tank on it (which is pretty abysmal for a Honda!). I took it to multiple mechanics who said they couldn’t find anything wrong. =(

  25. Steve Zussino on February 12, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Great post,

    Where can I get the nitogen gas over than Costco?

    I hate refiling my tires always!

  26. used tires on February 13, 2010 at 10:13 am

    I never thought about leaving the spare tire at home, but your idea makes sense. With 24 hour help available as it should be easy to find help. One can even try tubeless tires.

    About nitrogen, that’s a great suggestion too. Race cars use nitrogen for the same reasons. It doesn’t expand much so it’s a good gauge for temperature readouts.

    Till then,


  27. Garnet on February 13, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Hows does the fuel saved over the course of a year, by not having a spare, compare to the fuel burn of a tow truck over 100+ km?

  28. MTNG on February 14, 2010 at 12:34 pm

    Nitrogen filled tires are a sham. Check your tire pressure regularly. Air is free. That’s how you save money.

    Paying money up front and believing you won’t have to check your tire pressures is a complete waste.

  29. Steve on February 17, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    Is the article actually serious?
    No spare time…..

    But you’re paying annually for roadside assistance and expect to have a cell phone, the battery works and you get reception? Maybe you’re not Canadian but cell signals in the country don’t work and roadside assistance in itself is a money pit. You’ll freeze to death waiting for CAA to come out in the country. Don’t even get my started about cell phone costs…

    $50/m x 12 months for your cell phone
    $200/y for CAA
    = $800 a year
    Lets all not carry anything in our vehicles like our kids, hockey equipment or groceries either – that will save you a bundle in gas! Heck, why not remove all the unnecessary interior accessories like passenger seats too, they weigh something… you don’t need those.

    Also the vehicles mentioned are 2009 and 2008 models.. Why not buy a 05 and save a bundle, and hey, they even include a spare tire!

    Park as Soon as Possible?
    Why not stop going through Tim Hortons drive thru people! You do have legs you know!

    Buy used (cars and parts)
    Why not give advice like go to your local scrap yard and get yourself a set of winter tires for 1/3 the cost of a retail store? My winter tires on my SUV would be $800 + tax alone (no rims) I got a nearly new set at a scrap yard for $200 cash.

    If you’re new to town, get referred to a mechanic from people at work. I’ve saved a ton of money by having an honest mechanic, it pays having a relationship with them. Don’t use the “dealer” mechanics they won’t save you a buck. Most will never offer after market parts and you’re paying a premium. Also check online for negative/positive feedback about the business in your area (BBB).

    GPS – borrow one from your friends. I’ve only ever needed one once or twice a year if that. Print out Google Maps for free. You’ll save $200-500 and many of them actually suck and get you lost anyways.

    Insurance – check to see if your coverage includes a coverage car rental for you. My neighbour drove into my parked car on the street over the holidays and I was out of a vehicle to get to work. Luckily my insurance gave me a car as part of my coverage. It’s a great thing to have. Just think – my bumper and fender cost $1850 at the body shop so always get the persons insurance and file a police report!

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