50 ways to save money on motoring
Our first 25 tips on how to save you money, and miles.
The old saying 'Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves' is all too true when it comes to car ownership - especially at the moment.
That's why we've put together 50 tips on how you can save money on your Swindon motoring.
Some might not be relevant to you but you might find the odd piece of advice that's worth trying - happy motoring!
1. SELL THAT SECOND CAR
According to AA figures, if your mileage is about average, 72 per cent of the cost of driving is taken up with just putting the car on the road, before you even drive it anywhere (41.22p per mile for tax, insurance, depreciation, capital costs and breakdown cover, compared with 16.31p per mile for fuel, tyres, service costs, parts, parking and tolls). There is no getting away from the fact that the best way to economise on motoring is simply to have less cars.
2. THINK SMALL
If you really need to keep that second car, you can still economise by choosing to use the more fuel-efficient one in situations when both are available.
That usually means using the smaller of the two, but compare MPGs online by clicking here. You may have to re-think your parking arrangements at home so that the most efficient of the two is more accessible.
3. GET A CHEAPER CAR
What’s the single biggest cost for car owners? Drivers are often surprised to find it’s depreciation.
According to the AA, if (like most of us) you drive less than 10,000 miles a year, then the average cost of depreciation per year is £1,097. That’s more than double the cost of fuel for average mileage.
It’s obvious that there is a vast capital outlay involved in owning an expensive car, but stop to think that expensive cars also depreciate rapidly. And we haven’t even considered how much extra it will cost you to insure, service and get parts for top marques and models.
And consider this: what sort of image would you rather be projecting in the 21st century - the successful businessman/woman who spends to impress, or the modern thrifty green-minded pillar of the community who is cool enough to drive a little car?
4. BUY WISELY
There are obviously plenty of ways to save money when buying a new or secondhand car, and whole websites are devoted to them.
Trusted organisations such as The AA and the RAC are always worth consulting for practical advice, and the golden rule is always to do your homework because you’ll probably never spend more on a single purchase unless it’s on property.
And – just with buying property – consider the published price as only the seller’s first offer, even if the seller is a dealer.
Even if you’re not comfortable with haggling, try to get extras thrown in (even if it’s just a full tank of petrol). But if there’s one single piece of advice that is most valuable when buying a car, it’s probably this: once you’ve set yourself a budget, stick to it.
5. WALK INSTEAD
There’s no getting away from it. If you want to save money on driving and get all kinds of other benefits into the bargain, you’re going to have to at least consider walking instead. And because you may need some convincing, we’ve put together a separate section to help you step out.
6. GET ON YER BIKE
As with walking, the benefits of cycling instead of driving start with cost and end with saving the planet – and there are plenty more in-between.
Swindon is blessed with an extensive network of cycleways (download the map by clicking here). However, many of these routes don’t quite meet up with each other, and you may find yourself having to veer onto roads to find your ideal route. The good news is that these are often quiet side roads that help to minimise concerns over safety.
If anybody needed proof of the level of support for cycling in Swindon as we entered a period of financial difficulty, last year’s two-week-long Swindon Cycle Challenge had perfect timing.
It involved more than 900 people across 41 organisations – many of them major employers – who were all pledging to begin cycling to work.
The Cyclists’ Touring Club (CTC) has plenty of information about cycling on their website (www.ctc.org.uk) and they also offer services such as breakdown cover.
But www.whycycle.co.uk is specifically aimed at beginners and “potential cyclists”. The best place to start if you are considering switching to the bike, however, is undoubtedly a specialist cycle shop, where one-to-one advice for all bike-related topics, including safety, is free.
7. CHECK YOUR TYRES
Not only will more regular checking of tyre pressure keep you safer, but also has a surprising potential for saving you money.
Under-inflated tyres create more resistance on the road, so they require more energy to move the car. Tyres that are under-inflated by 10psi typically cost more than 1mpg in fuel economy, and did you know your tyres lose about 1psi of pressure a month?
8. FIND OUT ABOUT ROLL RESISTANCE
If you haven’t heard about roll resistance, it’s time to talk to your dealer about the rating of tyres and how this affects fuel economy.
Better-rated tyres aren’t necessarily more expensive, but even if they are, they can provide significantly better mpg. Michelin, for instance, have been producing their Green Energy tyres since 1992, which they say has saved more than 9 billion litres of fuel.
9. AVOID TAX BY GOING GREEN
There has never been a better time to own or switch to a greener car. From April 2009, all cars will be graded according to CO2 emissions, which means the most polluting will be liable for a new so-called ‘showroom tax’. The best online guide is courtesy of AutoTrader, click here to visit their website.
10. GET REAL ABOUT MILEAGE
Drivers should check their annual mileage because they could be in for a shock.
Internet forums regularly include entries from people who think the average mileage in the UK is 12,000 miles a year - so it’s easy to feel smug if yours is, say, 10,000.
However, figures released by the UK Statistics Authority show the actual average is only 5,706. So if you’re doing more than 500 miles a month, you need to cut down.
Whatever your mileage, you need to have a good idea about what your actual figure is as insurers may give you a discount for low mileage. So put the trip meter on for a while and add it up.
11. BE KIND TO YOUR CAR
These days, few of us look after our cars properly, but a fit car is like a fit person - it usually lasts longer.
For instance, experts recommend changing the oil every 3,000 miles for older cars or 5,000 for new ones (but check the manufacturer’s recommendations) - and as the average mileage of a car is about 6,000 miles, you can do the sums yourself.
This is a job that should be done during the car’s routine servicing - and you do have your car serviced regularly, don’t you?
Expert servicing is obviously important for safety and also fuel economy, so don’t be tempted by the false economy of saving on servicing costs. Besides, even with the best of intentions, DIY maintenance of cars is not always a realistic option any more.
If you could turn the clock back 50 years, you would find many more people doing their own maintenance on cars, but cars were much simpler then and the various parts of the engine easier to get at.
In many cases, you are likely to find servicing difficult or impossible because of the complex systems found on most modern cars. It makes increasing sense to pay an expert to do it for you, and you should think of it as an investment in your car’s health.
12. SYNCHRONISE YOUR SERVICE
Most people combine servicing with their MOT – just because it turns out that both are due at the same time. It’s obviously more convenient, but there is an economic reason too – it’s cheaper that way!
If your service and your MOT are at different times of the year, synchronise them. Your garage should offer a discount for doing the two together – and if they don’t, ask for one!
13. CHECK FOR VITAL SIGNS DIY
Servicing may be asking a bit much (see above), but there are some easy routine checks you can do to nip troubles in the bud.
You don’t have to be an expert, but it’s wise to take advice from people who know best. Please click here So see the AA’s Ten Vital Checks.
14. PARK HALFWAY AND WALK THE REST
Here are a list of things that you want to avoid:
2. Having your mother-in-law live with you.
3. Parking charges.
Don’t you just hate feeding money into that machine and getting nothing more than a sticky little ticket in return? According to AA figures, UK drivers spend around 1.8p on parking for every mile they drive. That soon adds up into a huge annual cost, so some of the biggest potential savings for motorists is in avoiding parking fees.
Do whatever you can to avoid this expense, even if it means walking and/or cycling. And if you are going into town and really have to take the car, try parking further out, where there are no parking restrictions, and walk the rest.
Remember there is no law against parking in front of somebody else’s house (as long as you are considerate and make sure residents have full access to their drives).
15. PARK ON SOMEBODY’S DRIVE
If you’re going into town or parking for work, ask people if they wouldn’t mind you parking on their drive.
Some private house owners now offer their driveways for parking commercially, especially during the working week. www.parkatmyhouse.com provides a means for drivers and drive owners to be put in touch with each other.
However, these charges are high and may not represent significant savings for drivers, so do the legwork yourself and approach residents in the area where you park if it’s obvious that they aren’t using their drives or other land themselves.
If you are parking on somebody else’s drive instead of paying for parking, save even more money by negotiating a lower premium with your insurer now that you are parking off-road.
16. RENT OUT YOUR DRIVE FOR PARKING
We’ve already talked about ‘renting’ somebody’s drive as a parking space, but can you make money yourself from renting out your own drive? Check out www.parkatmyhouse.com or do your own research and approach local businesses to see if any of their employees might want to park in your drive.
Remind them that it may be possible to get lower insurance premiums if drivers can show that their car is being parked off-road. Making space on your own drive may be another incentive for getting rid of that second car (see above).
17. USE PARK & RIDE AND SAVE ON PARKING
Swindon currently has two Park & Ride stations - at Groundwell and Croft Road.
However, Swindon Borough Council is planning to mothball the former.
There are several advantages to Park & Ride. Parking is free (you only pay the bus fare) and it is also safer and more secure (for drivers as well as cars). It may even be worth telling your insurance company that you are regularly parking in a secure location as this may qualify you for a discount on your premium.
Park & Ride buses usually run every 15 minutes throughout the day (not just during rush hours), and the stations have waiting rooms and toilets on site. Please click here for more details.
18. DON’T BE CHOOSY ABOUT PARKING SPACES
If you really must park in a car park, always go in the first available space, rather than wasting fuel by trying to find one that’s nearer the exit or more convenient.
19. DON’T BE BACKWARDS ABOUT REVERSING
Did you know that it’s always better to reverse into a parking space than reverse out? It even saves you money.
Indeed, if your journey involves any reversing manoeuvre – say, positioning the car to point in the right direction if you live in a cul-de-sac - it’s much better to do it at the end of the journey rather than the beginning.
Research by AutoTrader found that a cold engine uses up to 25 times more petrol when reversing, compared with a warm engine. Reversing out of a space is also much more likely to result in an accident than driving forwards, and the Highway Code encourages people to reverse into parking spaces because it’s safer for everybody (not many pedestrians are knocked down in parking spaces!)
In car parks, there is a security benefit (and therefore a potentially major saving) from reversing in - because your boot is in a less accessible and appealing place for thieves, especially opportunists.
20. SHOP AROUND FOR BREAKDOWN COVER
One of the good things about the recession is that competition for customers increases – and that includes companies offering breakdown cover.
Shop around for the best deal every year, and look out for any special offers. People are more likely to try to economise by not having breakdown cover (a false economy, if you ask us), so your custom will be more valuable than ever.
21. PAY FOR BREAKDOWN COVER BY DIRECT DEBIT
You can sometimes save money by paying by direct debit for breakdown cover – and if they don’t offer a discount, ask for one! It’s the companies’ way of capturing you for a second year as many people will renew automatically. But you don’t have to stick with the same company after the year is up, and unless they offer a good incentive for renewal or a reward for loyalty, you should shop around.
22. TAKE A CLOSE LOOK AT YOUR WINDSCREEN
Check your windscreen carefully and regularly. Not only are cracks and faults in windscreens now illegal, but they become more costly if unnoticed or unchecked. This is because small cracks can be repaired – and this is relatively cheap when compared with the cost of a replacement windscreen.
23. CUT THE CUSTOMISING
Customising and modifying your car - especially the engine - bumps up the insurance premiums. Worse still, changing the body shape, suspension or other key element of its efficiency can mean sufficiently worse fuel economy. You can keep the furry dice, but otherwise keep it simple.
24. LEARN ABOUT LPG
Most cars can be converted to liquified petroleum gas (LPG) and many leading manufacturers will sell you a new one that runs on it – but what are the pros and cons?
AutoTrader tested five different cars to check out the financial benefits and found there were savings of between £509 and an amazing £794 per annum from converting (please click here for details).
The bad news is that conversion is expensive and new cars that run on LPG are more expensive to buy than those that run on old-fashioned petrol, so you won’t actually be saving money straightaway.
AutoTrader found that after conversion it would be three years or more before you’re in credit, thanks to this capital outlay. But at least finding out more about LPG costs nothing – and there is plenty of impartial expert advice on the net. To learn more about the different kinds of fuel available click here.
25. WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER
If you are a member of a trade union or a professional association or society, check with them before buying insurance. They may have negotiated special rates for members.
50 ways to save money on motoring - part 2
Save Money by Walking