After rent or mortgage, travel costs are often the biggest bills we face. Owning a car is an expensive business. On top of the initial cost of purchasing the car, the regular costs of insurance, road tax, annual MOT fee and any potential repairs, parking and fuel costs can run into hundreds of pounds a year. There are very few ways in which you can slash the costs of your motoring to zero, but there are lots of things you can do to reduce your current bills. All you need is a bit of lateral thinking.
Car Insurance – Shop Around
Just as we should be shopping around for our travel insurance or using an EHIC to bring down the cost of holiday cover, never take your insurer’s renewal quote without comparison. Many insurers will offer special prices to hook in new customers and less competitive prices to customers who stay with them year after year. The internet and price comparison sites make it easier than ever to log on and see what price you could get elsewhere. It takes minutes, and could save you hundreds of pounds. Just remember to make sure you’re comparing like for like policies in terms of what’s included in the cover, and the level of the excess you contribute towards the cost of repairs. Once you’ve found a better price, you can either just cancel your existing policy and go with the cheaper quote, or ask your current insurer to match the lower figure.
If you travel on a regular commute to work, are there any colleagues travelling on a similar route? Arranging to pick someone up half way, or driving on alternate weeks could slash what you are paying in petrol. Many companies offer incentives to employees who car share or offer lifts to other members of staff in addition to the amount you are saving on fuel. You don’t usually have to clear offering lifts with your insurance company, unless you are operating a taxi service.
Keep on Top of Maintenance
Even little things like driving around with under inflated tyres can hugely affect your fuel efficiency, and your fuel bills as a consequence. Checking your tyre pressure is easy and takes just minutes. It’s part of the regular maintenance along with making sure the water levels are topped up, and ensuring your tyres have adequate depth on the tread. Another golden rule of motoring is not to ignore warning lights on the dashboard or weird sounds coming through the engine. The chances are that problems are not going to fix them, and are only going to get worse, and more expensive. Get your car serviced in according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to minimise risks of break downs.
Switching to an Eco-Car
If you’re thinking about swapping cars soon, take into account the ongoing running costs when buying. It’s often a good idea to look at electric cars, or hybrids. You’ll qualify for a reduced rate of car tax, won’t pay congestion charges if you regularly drive through an area which imposes them, and may benefit from free charging points too. On the flip side, electric cars have historically been a lot more expensive to buy initially than a diesel or petrol car, but costs are coming down all of the time. The key is to average out the costs over the length of time you intend to own the car rather than just focusing on the purchase price alone.
Think About Fuel Economy
Most cars have a “sweet spot” which allows you to drive steadily and get maximum fuel efficiency. Generally speaking, the faster you go, the more fuel you use. The way you drive can also affect how much fuel you are using. Drive smoothly, avoiding sharp braking and acceleration which will add to how much fuel you are using. Change up through the gears early, rather than allowing the engine to rev high before changing. A steady speed of 50 mph might get you to your destination a bit more slowly, but it could save as much as 25% on your fuel bills too. It is also worth shopping around for fuel – supermarket fuel is just the same as branded furl, and often a lot cheaper too.