Just as the purchase of a car will likely be among the most expensive things you ever buy, keeping it on the road can be just as costly and will form a significant part of your weekly and monthly outgoings. Between fuel, tax, insurance and incidental expenses, some cars can be a real drain on your finances. Much as with anything to do with money, however, smarter drivers can cut down on costs to give themselves bigger savings and more flexibility in how they maintain their vehicle. There are dozens of different ways to cut costs on your car but, as always, we have narrowed it all down to our 10 favourite tips, which will apply to virtually every driver and see more money staying in your pocket than being spent on motoring expenses.
1. Choose Economical Tyres
Funnily enough, cars come with tyres, and the most cost-effective option in the early days is to stick with the ones that came with the vehicle. Assuming you have done your due diligence concerning safety standards, they will be fine until they either get damaged or become so worn that they cannot pass a safety inspection. The time will come to replace them, and when this happens, you have a decision to make. Given that these tips revolve around saving money, it might make sense to go for the cheapest option. However, we are interested more in the long term and therefore focus on efficiency rather than price. Cheaper tyres can be more costly in the long run, decreasing fuel efficiency and wearing out quicker. When the time comes to make a purchase, check the fuel efficiency rating of the tyre you have in mind and factor that into your calculations.
2. Ignore ‘Premium’ Fuels
When you fill-up your car, you will probably have the pick of standard fuel and premium options, which claim to improve performance and clean the engine along with other perks – all at a premium price. This is rarely ever worth it. You do not drive a Formula 1 car presumably, and premium fuel will have close to zero impact on how your car drives. You can experiment with it once or twice to ascertain whether there are any reasonable improvements to the drive, but the chances are that you will waste money over time.
3. Take it Easy until the Car Warms Up
Efficiency will be a recurring theme throughout this feature, and it is always important to get the most value possible from anything you spend. Cars are at their least efficient before the engine warms up, and driving fast before the engine has the chance to acclimatise will waste a lot of fuel. As perhaps the highest ongoing cost, this is always worth keeping an eye on.
4. Improve Your Driving
Poor driving can also have a detrimental impact on car performance and fuel efficiency. One option is to take more care on the road to ensure you’re driving efficiently. Alternatively, you can undertake advanced driving courses which are not only designed to make you a safer driver but a more efficient one too.
5. Take the Time to Negotiate on Insurance
Another regular, costly payment that keeps you on the road is insurance, and there are not many people that ever feel like they have received a truly fair price from their insurance company. This coverage is always open to negotiation – insurers generally want the most they can get to cover you but are willing to make concessions to get your business. Automatic or rollover renewals are rarely a good idea, as competitors will go out of their way to get you onto their books. If you can make adjustments to lower the premium, all the better. Never lie about your circumstances, as this can invalidate a claim if any details are proven to be false, but if you have the option to store the car securely or can reduce your driving miles, let the insurer know and reap the benefits.
6. Don’t be Afraid to Appeal Parking Fines
Not all drivers receive fines and tickets for their parking, but those that do stand a chance of having their case overturned. Indeed, more than half of parking tickets are ruled invalid, but you have to be prepared to go all the way with the case. Do so, and you’ll save a significant chunk of change.
7. Address Faults before Someone Else Finds Them
You’ll have your car checked out each year, and part of those checks involves determining whether the vehicle is roadworthy. Rather than waiting until you must address a problem or risk being off the road, keep an eye on any potential faults over time and address them as they come up – or take preventative measures.
8. Find your Car Parts
When you need replacement parts, you can expect to be billed for parts and labour, and rightly so. However, the price for parts is rarely what the mechanic paid for them initially, clouding the issue somewhat. Rather than going to your dealer for this work, source your parts, get them delivered and take them to an independent mechanic to fit – labour charges rarely come with any premium.
9. Shed the Weight
The heavier your car, the more fuel it takes to propel it down the road. If you can cut down on weight, do so. This might mean removing a roof rack when not in use or keeping the seats and storage areas clear. There is no point paying to ferry around items you don’t need there and then.
10. Do Jobs Yourself
As anyone with a passion for DIY will know, doing anything yourself is usually cheaper, and there are plenty of opportunities on cars. If you are not mechanically inclined, then simply washing the car yourself can save money. If you are handier, then tire changes, tracking alignment and more can cost quite a bit with a mechanic, but virtually nothing at all if you do them yourself.