The cost of motoring has gone up frighteningly in recent years and it’s not likely to get any better. Some people have responded by taking up cycling, using more public transport and simply walking when they can. But often using the car is the only option. So how can you make motoring cheaper?
- Fuel prices and mileage
- Save money on servicing
- Car tax and emission based charges
- Insurance costs
- Depreciation costs
- Cut costs by changing your driving style
It may seem like a lot to consider, but happily all the information you need to save money is below!
Cut your petrol costs. Petrol and diesel prices have risen substantially and are expected to continue rising as oil production declines. A really useful site to help cut down your fuel costs is PetrolPrices.com. Simply enter your postcode here and it will find the lowest petrol prices in your area.
Thinking of getting a new car? Be sure to compare fuel efficiency and road tax costs of car models using this comparison tool. It will also tell you the top 10 most fuel efficient vehicles in each car category (e.g. family, executive etc). We examine the different types of car below:
- Diesel cars
For: Diesel cars tend to have lower emissions, get better mileage per gallon and retain their value better than cars with petrol engines. And because they’re more environmentally friendly, you tend to pay lower car taxes as well. (For example a diesel 1.4 litre VW Polo Bluemotion is currently exempt from car tax, while the petrol based model of the same car will cost you upwards of £120 in car tax).
Against: Diesel costs slightly more than petrol and diesel cars cost more than petrol cars – so take into account your annual mileage and your car model.
Not sure which option will save you money? Use a diesel vs petrol fuel calculator like this one.
- LPG cars. Liquefied Petroleum Gas is an alternative fuel which can cost less than half the amount of petrol and produces low emissions. Many cars can be converted to run on LPG for around £1,000. Some classic car owners have converted their older fuel-greedy vehicles to this cleaner technology. There are several million LPG cars on the continent and in Japan 90% of all taxis run on LPG. In the UK more than 1,300 fuel stations carry LPG. Definitely a technology to keep an eye on!
- Consider a ‘Green’ car. Green cars famously use less energy. There are literally dozens of green cars available with more being launched. These cars can be diesel, petrol, petrol-electric hybrids or simply electric. The top rated green cars (see www.green-car-guide.com and the guide by Which?) are manufactured by the likes of Ford, Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen, Seat, BMW Mini, Smart and G-Wiz City Car. They offer mpg (miles per gallon) from 50 mpg to equivalent 600mpg at prices ranging from £7,000 to over £20,000.
- Learn how to check the basics of your car yourself – you’ll then nip any problems in the bud before they have the chance to cause any serious damage to your vehicle. Learn how to check your engine oil, engine coolant and automatic transmission fluid by reading your Owner’s Manual. It’s worth taking the manual inside and reading it for 30 minutes. It will empower you and save you money. If you’re feeling more ambitious a good socket set and a Haynes manual will quickly redeem it’s initial cost. If you are prepared to do a little greasework and research a small fortune can be saved by buying parts through specialist websites or even 2nd hand through eBay.
- Pay attention to those lights on the dashboard which alert you to problems. I ignored one blinking red light once and my engine burned out!
- Consider cars that are cheaper to service (like diesel models).
- Get you car serviced by a garage that you know and trust. And ask lots of questions—a good mechanic won’t mind that you want to learn.
- Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) for cars registered before 1 March 2001 is determined by engine size. But cars registered after that date are charged Graduated VED based on emissions. Currently there are 13 different charging bands. Cars emitting less then 100g/km are free, less than 110g/km £20 annually. This increases to the highest band whereby cars emitting more than 255g/km are charged £460 per year or £253 for six months.
- Cars with a low emission rate including electric cars, hybrids and some diesels are exempt from Congestion Charges in central London. At the current price of £10 per day (or £9 if you’re registered for Congestion Charging Auto Pay) that could mean a saving of £2,600 a year.
- Car and engine size play a big part in determining premiums. There are 20 different insurance bands which cover everything from a modest Skoda to the largest Rolls Royce.
- Other factors determine insurance costs too: car modifications, annual mileage, numbers of drivers per car, no-claims bonus and types of cover – fully comprehensive insurance is more expensive than third party, fire & theft only.
- Try putting women you know with clean driving history on as second drivers. This will make a dramatic difference to your premiums especially if you are young and male.
- Check that you are getting the best deal on car insurance costs by using our car insurance comparison tool. Insurance companies bank on the fact that most of us are too lazy to check elsewhere for our car insurance. They just send us the quote for another year’s premiums and hope we will pay without question. In fact you can save hundreds on your annual policy by shopping online for a better quote with our insurance comparison tool or Comparethemarket.com.
- If your breakdown cover costs are looking a bit steep at the moment, we can show you how to save money – we’ve rounded up the best deals here.
- Before you buy the cheapest policy you find, go back to your current insurer and ask if they can beat it. You’ve nothing to lose!
- Cut insurance costs by opting for a higher annual excess.
- Pay in one lump annually rather than spreading it out in monthly installments if you can afford it. You will receive a discount.
- Fit an alarm and an immobiliser, particularly if you live in a high-crime area.
- Don’t make small claims if you can avoid it. Keep your no-claims years going for as long as possible.
- Generally insurance companies give lower quotes for more environmentally friendly vehicles.
- There are some things you can’t change! Your age, sex, profession and driving record are important insurance factors.
- Need to insure someone else on your vehicle but don’t want your insurance costs to skyrocket? Check out our article on temporary car insurance. It’s especially useful if you have kids learning to drive in your car – you can insure them (without risking your no claims bonus) from just £2.30 a day.
- Don’t forget to consider the depreciation value over the life of a car which can actually be the biggest single cost of owning a car. Greener cars and cars with good mileage retain a higher resale value. Check the value of your car with a depreciation value tool.
- It is worth remembering that a car loses a lot of value during it’s immediate transition from new to used. Consider avoiding that initial depreciation by buying nearly new or just plain old used.
It really is true that the way you drive can make a big difference to the cost of motoring. By following the green driving tips below it’s possible to cut your fuel consumption (and so your fuel costs) by over 10%.
Fuel consumption and wear and tear on moving parts are all directly affected by how well you drive.
Before your journey
- More weight equals more fuel. So if your boot is filled with junk you don’t need, clear it out.
- Take the shortest route to your destination. It might sound obvious, but it can be easier said than done if you are driving in an unfamiliar area. We recommend investing in a SatNav, which will pay for itself in time. Never suffer another wrong turnings or an endless, meandering journey again! We recommend the Garmin Nuvi 215.
- Make sure your tyres are at the correct pressure – under inflated tyres have more traction with the road and really eat up fuel. Look up the pressures in your car manual (it’ll only take a second!) and if they’re too low you can fill them up with air at most garages for free.
- Aerodynamics matter! Take roof racks and cycle carriers off when you’re not using them. The extra weight and ‘drag’ needlessly increases your fuel consumption.
During your journey
- Save on fuel by accelerating (and decelerating) smoothly and cutting down on gear changes. Those sound like small things but over the miles they really make a difference to your costs.
- The AA says that 35mph is the rough optimum speed for keeping fuel consumption low. See if you can stick to this where practical.
- If you’re not in a rush, keep down your speed. According to the Department of Transport, driving at 70mph uses up to 9% more fuel than at 60mph and up to 15% more than at 50mph. Cruising at 80mph can use up to 25% more fuel than at 70mph.
- Change up to the next gear as soon as your engine is ready for it. It’s recommended that you change up at an engine speed of around 2,000 rpm (if in a diesel car) and at around 2,500 rpm (if in a petrol car).
- Reduce idling. Don’t keep your engine running when you wait for people.
- If you live near family or have good friends close by, consider sharing ownership of a car. I share my car with my mother so all car costs are cut roughly in half. Neither of us uses the car on a daily basis so it makes sense to share what would otherwise be a useless lump of metal constantly parked on the road!
- Get into lift-sharing. There are various websites that will help you connect with people needing a lift where you are going. It could be just a one-off journey to a major city or it could be your daily route to work. Try Nationalcarshare.co.uk and Liftshare.com. You will certainly save (and even make) money on your petrol.
- Combine your errands and reduce the number of trips you need to make. (Starting your car from cold each time wastes fuel and increases engine wear).
- Car washes are not cheap and there is the environmental cost of using gallons of water. My rule to clean my car—inside and out—once a year whether it needs it or not. However clean off bird poo as it is acidic and so damages paint.