There are plenty of ways to save money once you’re on the road. The way you drive and the condition in which you keep your car directly impact upon consumption of petrol, diesel or alternative fuel.
You could consider doing an advanced driving course, such as those run by IAM RoadSmart. By enhancing your skills behind the wheel, you’ll learn to drive more smoothly and fluidly. The resultant boost to fuel economy is no minor consideration in these days of inflated forecourt prices.
Also ensure your car is properly tuned. Regular servicing should keep the motor in tip-top condition. Keeping your tyres at the correct pressure also pays dividends, both at the pumps and from a safety point of view.
Decluttering your car, not filling up the tank completely, removing an unused roof rack and turning off the fuel-sapping air-conditioning unless you really need it will also help improve efficiency.
It’s wise to plan your trip by studying route options and traffic conditions before you set off. Sitting at a steady 50-60mph on a motorway or A-road will return far better economy than crawling along in stop-start traffic, so do your best to avoid the jams.
Don’t pay too much for insurance
The key to cheap insurance is to shop around come renewal time. Use a comparison website to research cheaper competitors, and either swap to them or ask your existing insurer to consider price matching. Never let your policy automatically roll over; you simply won’t get a good deal.
Of course, a cheap insurer doesn’t necessarily mean a good one. Balancing value for money with decent service is imperative, so do your research.
Look at the major automotive customer satisfaction studies such as JD Power and Driver Power to see who the top insurers are for cost, service and making things right when it all goes wrong.
One more thing – do pay to protect your No-Claims Bonus, or you’ll lose out if you have to make a claim.
Don’t overspend on fuel
Forecourt prices are very high these days, but there are ways to get the cost down. Loyalty schemes and supermarket shopping tokens can offer you pennies off per litre, which soon add up. You could also consider using a credit card that offers cashback, but set up a direct debit to repay the full balance every month.
Use a free online tool such as www.petrolprices.com to find out where the cheapest petrol is near you, and never run your tank to virtually empty. Your only option may be to fill up with significantly more expensive fuel.
If you’ve got an electric vehicle look into your supplier’s Economy 7 plan, which will make charging up overnight much cheaper.
Don’t pay over the top for servicing
Regular servicing helps ensure efficient running and lessen the chance of costly breakdowns.
Keeping on top of the maintenance schedule is imperative. One way of doing this is to purchase an up-front servicing package from the dealer when you buy the vehicle. This will cover maintenance for a certain period of time, and is more cost-effective than paying for the work on an ad hoc basis. It is also worth referring to your finance agreement, if you have one, because they can sometimes include rules about who can carry out any work on the vehicle and what type of parts can be used.
For older vehicles or those out of warranty, an independent garage will often do the work for less money.
If you’re handy with a spanner, you could learn to change the oil yourself every 3,000 miles. This will extend your engine’s life and will more than pay for itself in savings on repairs and wear. Also, doing your own pre-MOT checks will help beat common, easily preventable fails.
Save money on buying parts
Rather than paying marked-up garage prices for replacement parts, consider sourcing the components yourself. Before having your car worked on, get separate quotes for fitting and parts, check that the garage would be happy fitting items you’ve provided, then shop around.
Independent suppliers can be much cheaper than dealers, while online research will reveal wildly differing prices – but beware counterfeit parts. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is, and fitting sub-standard parts could cost you dear in the long run, or worse, be unsafe.
You’ll be able to choose between import parts (which are bargain priced and widely available, but often of inferior quality); higher-quality Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts officially made to an auto manufacturer’s spec; and branded parts from established manufacturers.
When it comes to tyres, do your research. Don’t be afraid to haggle or ask your local fitter to price match, especially when changing more than one tyre. Getting them balanced once a year will add thousands of miles to the life of your rubber, as well as save unnecessary wear on your suspension system.
Keep consumables cheap
Even if you have the car professionally serviced you should still keep on top of consumables such as fluids yourself. Many supermarkets and big-box stores sell decent own-label stuff that’s cheaper than the major brands.
If your work is related to the auto business you might be eligible for a trade or loyalty card at high street motor factors, which can help reduce your spend on items such as screenwash, antifreeze, battery water and oil.
Keep your car clean
You should do what you can to protect and cherish your new pride and joy – you’ve spent enough buying it, after all. Keep it in good condition inside and out, and you’ll get more for it come resell/trade-in time. Bingo – more money saved!
Regular wash and valeting services can be expensive, though, so invest in a decent bucket, cloths and cleaning products, maybe a jet washer, and put some elbow grease into it. The savings will soon start to add up.