Buying a car is no small undertaking because other than purchasing a home, it might be your next-biggest expense.

You’ll need to factor in monthly loan payments, insurance, fuel, and maintenance. To help you get a handle on all the costs, there are online calculators that can give you a good idea of ownership costs for any vehicle on the market.

There are many things you can do to keep from crashing your bank account and staying on the road to savings.

It all starts with money, and the first two things you’ll want to focus on will be saving for a decent down payment and finding a loan with the best interest rate.

A bigger down payment will reduce what you have to borrow, and a lower loan rate will trim your payments and interest costs. Start by checking rates at your financial institution and use those to compare against what a dealership might be offering.

As you look at vehicles, keep in mind that adding fancy options can add thousands of dollars to the final price. You might even consider buying a newer-model used one.

Once you purchase an SUV, car or truck, there are things to keep in mind about payments:

  • Don’t skip payments, even if you have that option. This will extend your loan and add to your interest costs.
  • If you can, round your payment up to the next hundred dollars or make an extra payment whenever you can. This will get your vehicle paid off faster and will reduce interest costs.

Another regular expense will be insurance. Take the time to read about coverage online and talk with an agent. Compare coverage rates and be sure to ask about any discounts you might qualify for. You’ll find that rates can vary significantly.

Once you know your fixed costs, here are some tips to help reduce your expenses:

  • Look for ways to save on gas, which include making sure your car is fuel-efficient; finding the cheapest gas prices, and using a credit card that gives you cash back on fuel purchases.
  • Make sure you keep up with scheduled maintenance; keep your tires at the right pressure; and use the right oil.

By taking the time to do some research, you can steer clear of spending more money than necessary – and putting what you save in the bank.