Cutting the Cost of Motoring
There's no avoiding the fact that car ownership is an expensive business. The freedom to take to the open road comes with a number of associated costs, which are rising far faster than most pay packets.
However, there are a number of relatively simple steps you can take to cut the cost of owning and running a car.
The first step towards lowering your fuel bill is to buy at a cheaper price and to consume less of the stuff. If you are a business owner, consider getting a fuel card. These work something like a credit card and can be used countrywide. They sell fuel at a fixed price, so you don't have to time looking for the best forecourt prices, but unfortunately they are not available to private car owners.
Otherwise you can use a fuel app on your smartphone to find the cheapest fuel in your area. When paying for fuel, take advantage of any loyalty schemes or cashback deals on offer. Supermarket filling stations run these in conjunction with the loyalty points earned with your shopping, so the rewards can be generous. If you are sensible with money and pay off your balance every month, use a credit card offering cashback for buying your fuel. While loyalty card and cashback schemes only offer small amounts, they can add up to worthwhile savings for high-mileage drivers.
Along with savings which can be made when buying fuel, you can cut your spending by altering your driving style. Smoother acceleration and deceleration will use less fuel than speeding up and slowing down abruptly. Experts suggest you could save up to 10% of fuel usage by taking this into account, and also extend the life of your tyres and brakes. Keeping your tyres inflated to the correct pressure is another way to reduce both fuel consumption and wear on the tyres.
Servicing is one of those outlays which may seem expensive at the time but can save you money in the longer term. Not only will it help to prevent expensive mechanical failures, but a full service history adds significant value to your car at resale time. Look around for a servicing package, such as the kind manufacturers offer on new cars. Honda, for example, offers servicing for five years for £695 - that's a saving of £500 compared to paying for services individually over that time. Some manufacturers offer similar schemes on used cars too.
Independent garages also sometimes offer service plans and can be cheaper than main dealerships. Owners who previously stuck to franchised dealers to comply with warranty conditions now have the option to go elsewhere thanks to Block Exemption rules, as long as the garage carrying out the maintenance uses manufacturer-approved parts and consumables.
At MoT time you may be able to save money by taking your car to a council-run test centre. As these do not carry out repairs, you are unlikely to be failed by mechanics who may see the opportunity to earn money by carrying out work on your car. A DIY pre-MOT check can help you to detect obvious failure issues, such as bald tyres or broken light bulbs, and avoid paying for a retest.
Newly qualified drivers and those who own the most expensive cars face the highest insurance costs, but even so there are steps you can take to reduce your premium. Firstly, make sure you shop around. Use a comparison site or get a number of individual quotes, and don't be afraid to play insurers off against each other. Make sure you are comparing like for like, as cheaper policies may not include some of the cover provided by more expensive quotes, and once you have established the level of cover you need, ask your preferred insurer to match other quotes. There are big firms which do not participate in price-comparison sites such as Aviva and Direct Line, so call them directly and haggle - politely - for a lower quote.
Don't assume third party, fire and theft cover is the cheapest option. These days, fully comprehensive cover is cheaper in most cases because insurers assume they are bought by more careful and responsible drivers. As a large part of insurance is calculated based upon your driving risk, presenting a picture of a responsible driver can reduce your premium, so consider adding an advanced driving qualification and joining the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) for savings of up to 10%. Technology in the form of telematics devices and dash-cams can also show that you are a sensible driver.