Six sure-fire money savers
Read this, do as we suggest and you can't help but reduce what you spend on your car - that's an absolute promiseOwning a car costs plenty. Unless you’re a shopaholic it’ll be the second biggest expense in your life, after your home.
But whatever you pay for the freedom that motoring gives can be pared down sharply. And the good news is that it need not mean driving fewer miles, nor making do with a smaller or cheaper car.
Here’s the motors.co.uk guide to cutting bills down to size:
Don’t pay twice
Ds your motor insurance cover also provide free legal assistance, and even a breakdown service for your car? If you need them both, fine. But it is amazing how many folk pay for both add-ons yet still keep their AA membership – or have legal cover available as a benefit within their home insurance or even as part of the benefits package that their employer provides. If you think that you are ‘doubling up’ in this way, check your paperwork and cancel wherever there’s a saving to be made.
It may be that there’s none to be had mid-way through a period of cover – but it’s one to remember come policy renewal time.
Check fuel prices
Don’t pay more than you need when you fill your tank. Buying fuel at just 5p a litre cheaper saves £57 a year if you drive 10,000 miles and average 40 miles per gallon. Travel further in a thirstier car and you’ll easily double that saving. Check prices at local stations, or go to a web site, such as www.petrolprices.com, that quotes figures for your area.
Try not to fill up at motorway services because they are up to 10p per litre dearer than elsewhere, but do watch for supermarkets that give fuel discount coupons for customers who buy groceries. By all means plan journeys so that fill-ups happen at low-priced pumps – but don’t make a special journey to get cheap fuel. The savings rarely cover the extra diesel or petrol you’ll have burned.
Shop around for insurance
When the quote to renew your policy comes through, there’s one thing you can be sure of: there will be a cheaper offer out there – giving the same or maybe better cover, and for less. Amazingly a third of us don’t bother, though, and renew with our existing insurer. Using the motors.co.uk loan comparison site will feed you quotes from dozens of companies. If you like the service your current insurer gives – but not the price – you could ring and ask them to beat your best quote. Or else get a quote from them online – but don’t say you are an existing customer. More than a few insurers offer discounts to win new customers that they don’t freely give to existing ones that renew.
Need repairs or servicing? Haggle
Garage prices aren’t usually fixed – although they don’t, of course, advertise the fact. And if their forward bookings diary looks empty, most service managers will drop prices to win your business. If you prefer to use franchised dealers, and you live in a city, phone a couple. If the nearer is cheaper, bingo! If it isn’t tell them how much the one across town charges and invite them to match it. If you plan to use an independent, non-franchised repairer, ring several, and then ask the one you’d rather use to match the best price you’ve seen.
Pump ‘em up
Tyres kept at the correct pressure are safer and roll easier, so you should achieve better fuel economy. But the real issue here is that too-hard or too-soft tyres wear far faster. And with a set of top-brand rubber for an ordinary car costing £300 or more to replace, it is easy to see why eking the most miles out of them matters.
And when the time comes to replace, shop wisely on brand and price. Tyres made by Michelin, Dunlop, Pirelli and the like last well and feel nicer to drive on. But they are twice the price of others and, unless you have a specialist or high-performance car, lesser-known makes should be fine. Best plan is to get advice from a tyre specialist. But one thing we’d never advise is buying second-hand tyres. They may be cheap but you don’t know whether they’ll stay inflated and you don’t know whether they’ll be safe.
Spare gym kit, your kid’s skateboards, that load of wood for a DIY project. It’s easy to use cars like mobile cupboards – and we do. But the cost of hauling around that extra weight shows in fuel bills, while it will also take its toll on the tyres, brakes and suspension. But once you have cleared the car it is easy to learn the habit of keeping it that way. Just think of it as a loaned car you must return at a moment’s notice. Carrying around 70kgs-worth of stuff – that’s the weight of a smallish adult – could increase your fuel bill by 10%.
If you’ve a roof-rack, leave it off until needed. It’s a faff to keep taking one on and off – until you realise that it can worsen fuel consumption by up to 15%, particularly if you leave a roof storage box or cycle racks attached.