Top tips for cheaper motoring

As every car owner knows, the annual cost of driving isn’t getting any cheaper. According to the AA, once you take road tax, insurance, depreciation along with running costs such as fuel, tyres and servicing into consideration, an average car with a mileage of 12,000 miles a year can cost around £0.60 a mile, or £7,200 a year. There are many ways of reducing this cost. Here is a useful guide that offers our tips for keeping cost down.
Hand holding a steering wheel shown from the inside of a moving car.

Servicing

Garage servicing costs are high, but not always as high as they have been in the past as discerning motorists shop around for the best deals forcing garages to offer competitive rates. You can save a considerable amount on servicing by shopping around for the best fixed price deals. But you should stick to the servicing intervals recommended by the car manufacturer and always keep a full service history to help retain the value of your car.

Tyres

Whilst you must never drive on damaged tyres or tyres with less than the legal minimum tread depth of 1.6 mm across three quarters of the width of the tyre (though the AA recommends at least 3 mm for winter driving), you can prolong their life by taking proper care of them.

Ensure that they are correctly inflated as over or under-inflated tyres aren’t only dangerous, they will wear out more quickly and they will increase your fuel consumption. Check the tread for any foreign matter such as stones and chips that might have lodged there, and have your wheels aligned; badly aligned wheels can double tyre wear rate.

Load

Do you carry around unnecessary clutter in your boot? Many people use their car boots as a dumping ground for all manner of items. The heavier your load, the more fuel you will use; this makes a big difference over time. De-clutter your boot (and the rest of your car) and save money.

Driving style

The way we drive can make a huge difference to fuel consumption. Every car has an optimal fuel efficiency typically around 25 mph to 55 mph. Driving at 70 mph reduces efficiency by 17%, while driving at 80 mph reduces it by a staggering 28%. Keep your speed down and save fuel. Other ways in which you can improve your fuel efficiency are:
  • Drive smoothly, accelerating and de-accelerating gently.
  • Avoid unnecessary braking by keeping a reasonable distance from the car in front and reading the road.
  • Avoid unnecessary stopping and starting in queues – try to keep your car rolling but don’t make a habit of slipping the clutch
  • Change up sooner, but avoid labouring the engine.
  • Switch off the air conditioning when you don’t need it as it can increase your fuel consumption; but always stick to the manufacturer’s recommendations about running it periodically.
  • Don’t run unnecessary electrical equipment as all electrical loads will increase fuel consumption.
  • Turn it off: electrical loads increase fuel consumption, so turn off your heated rear windscreen, demister blowers and headlights, when you don’t need them.
  • Stuck in a queue and not moving? Switch off your engine.

Aerodynamics

Car manufacturers make big efforts to improve the aerodynamics of their design to reduce drag and improve fuel economy, so why do so many people fit their cars with roof bars and boxes which they never remove? They are great assets when you need them, but taking them off when you don’t need them will save a considerable amount of fuel.

Car insurance

Choosing the right insurance for you will save you money in the long run, and it’s not always best to go for the cheapest premium. For instance will you need a courtesy car in the case of an accident? Will a small car be sufficient or will you need a larger car or people carrier for the daily school run? If your needs are covered by your insurer than you will save unnecessary expenditure should you need to make a claim.

Winter-proof your car

Autumn and winter are the worst times of year for car breakdowns and insurance claims. It seems that many of us almost forget how to drive in the dark. Always take your time at junctions and keep on the lookout for cyclists, pedestrians and motorcycles which can be difficult to spot after dark. Make a special point of looking for them.

It's also important to ensure that your car is ready to cope with the winter months. Some tips for doing so are:
  • Lights – make sure that they are all working and keep them clean. A dirty head light can severely reduce your ability to see the road in front.
  • Screen-wash – it is always dangerous to drive with a dirty windscreen, but, even more so with the low winter sun when there is a high risk of being dazzled in the mornings and late afternoons. Keep your windscreen clean at all times, and ensure that your screen-wash is topped up regularly.
  • De-ice before you set off – make sure that you remove ice from your windows and mirrors before you set off, so allow a little extra time for doing so. Keep de-icer and an ice scraper handy.
  • Battery – car batteries are heavily used in the winter months, so ensure that yours is in good condition. If you haven’t changed it recently, get it checked out and replace it before it lets you down.
  • Winter tyres – in the UK it isn’t compulsory to fit winter tyres, though it is in several other European countries. Winter tyres are made using a different compound which gives a better grip in the cold and uses a different tread pattern which is safer when driving on snow. Even though they are not mandatory, they are becoming increasingly popular in the UK, and they are well worth considering.

By following these tips you won’t just save on your motoring costs, you’ll be safer on the roads and less likely to have to make a claim on your car insurance.

First published 06/10/2014

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