Driving an older-model vehicle has become a badge of honor among many Americans today. Dedicated to living a more frugal lifestyle in order to pay off stifling debt or to save for retirement, college funds, or other needs, these frugal road warriors often proudly describe their vehicle of choice as a "beater" and take great pride in the dings, dents, and faded paint their cars have accumulated through many years of use and hundreds of thousands of miles of driving. If you are one of those who are proud to drive a beater in order to maximize your financial goals, the following tips will help you stay safer while on the road.
Driving a beater means dealing with no-frills insurance
For most people, driving a beater means driving a car they bought from a private owner for just a few hundred dollars. Because these cars are usually ten or more years old and have little remaining resale value, opting to cover them with just a basic, no-frills insurance policy makes driving them even more economical. The downside of doing that, however, means that if the car is involved in an accident and becomes unsafe to drive, the auto insurance company will not be paying to replace it. In addition, no-frills vehicle insurance usually doesn't offer free use of a rental car while the car is being repaired. So the first rule of driving a beater is to always maintain a small self-insurance fund of available cash to purchase a new beater vehicle, when necessary.
Opt to be proactive when driving a beater
Driving a beater does not mean that you need to take unnecessary risks, such as driving on bald tires or failing to keep the brakes in good repair. Instead, driving an older vehicle means taking extra care to make sure it is well-maintained and has properly working safety features, such as lights, mirrors, and windshield wipers. In addition to these things, beater drivers who want to make sure that their car continues to get them where they are going each day should make sure that:
- the gas tank is kept filled and the oil and other fluids are checked, changed, or refilled promptly, as needed
- tires are checked for wear and rotated, balanced, or replaced as needed
- abnormal operating issues, such as noises, odors, or visual clues of trouble are checked by a car repair professional as soon as possible
It goes without saying that an older vehicle with lots of miles on it will be more prone to breakdowns, no matter how well it is maintained. To offset this potential problem, beater drivers should make it a priority to locate a reliable towing service in their area and keep the number handy when driving.