30 money-saving motoring tips

30 money-saving motoring tips
Motoring costs rocketing? Here are some quick tips to save money: some will earn you many pounds, some just a few pennies, but they all add up.

If motoring is growing too expensive, read on for 30 ideas on how to reduce your costs.

1. Get 5% cashback on fuel purchases

Fuel is easily the most expensive part of motoring - so why not at least earn a little while expending on this necessity.

There are a number of cashback-card options available and while they only offer a small return percentage - and sometimes for a limited time only - you'd be surprised at how much it adds up.

The American Express offers a good cashback card option, as does Tesco, for more information check out Money Saving Expert's petrol credit card guide.

2. Buy economical tyres (yes type of tyre makes a big difference)

How to save money on your driving

Need new tyres? While it might be tempting to go for the cheapest available, that can prove to be a mistake in the long run.

DID YOU KNOW? You can buy tyres through the RAC and get free fitting for tyres over £31.99

Not only do such tyres not perform as well as more expensive tyres (tests show they often increase stopping distance and have a negative effect on handling), but they may also hit your fuel economy and need replacing more regularly.

Something that not many people know to look out for is the tyre's EU tyre label. All tyres sold are fitted with one and it includes the fuel efficiency rating of the tyre.

An ‘A’ rating means the tyre decreases the energy lost through the tyre (often referred to as ‘low rolling resistance’), while a G rating is the worst performing - resulting in increased CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.

Research conducted by Which? found that a good quality ‘eco’ or ‘energy saver’ tyre could improve fuel economy by around 2.5mpg compared with the worst tyre for rolling resistance.

That could slash £50 off your yearly fuel bill, helping to offset the cost of buying good quality, premium brand tyres.

READ MORE: The RAC's complete guide to tyre buying

3. Don’t pay extra for premium fuel

You’ve probably noticed the so-called ‘premium’ fuels when filling up with petrol or diesel. The retailers claim that these fuels offer performance and economy advantages, whilst cleaning and protecting your engine.

In reality, unless you’re driving a performance vehicle, you’re unlikely to see any improvements by using fuel with a higher octane (petrol) or cetane (diesel) rating. You will, however, pay up to 10p a litre more for the privilege.

In 2016, research conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) found that drivers in the United States were wasting more than $2.1 billion by using premium-grade petrol and diesel in vehicles designed to run on standard fuels.

If you’re still keen, our advice would be to experiment with two or three tanks of premium fuel. If you see a significant increase in the number of miles you can squeeze out of a tank, then it could be worthwhile in the long run. Drivers of performance cars may also notice some added poke, in which case the additional cost might be justified.

Stay up to date with prices on RAC Fuel Watch.

4. Don’t press the accelerator when you start the car

Every car today has engine electronics that regulate the car starting procedure. In the olden days, you needed to use a little gas to get the car running - but you don’t need to do this anymore.

So don’t waste the extra fuel and risk damage to your engine by doing it, the car will start cleanly without.

5. Drive gently when the car is cold

Cars are at their least efficient when they are cold. If you drive quickly straight from start-up, you are redoubling the wasted fuel, and also wearing out the engine more quickly in the process.

Show some mechanical sympathy and you’ll immediately start saving money.

On a related matter, you shouldn’t allow your engine to idle for too long. Today’s engines are designed to operate from the moment you turn the key – warming the engine is no longer required.

If you like the cabin to feel warm on a cold day, it might be worth investing in a car with heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Remember to turn them off when you’ve warmed up, as they will increase your fuel consumption when switched on.

READ MORE: Trouble getting started in the cold? probable causes and fixes

6. Check your tyre pressures

How to check tyre pressure

This simple check can save you big. OK, it might cost you 50p or £1 to do it at a filling station, but the savings soon add up. You could also buy an electric pump and check and inflate yourself, rather than go to a garage. Tyre inflators are available from the RAC Shop.

Tyres under inflated by 15psi - a difference you may not notice from a visual glance - can use 6% more fuel.

That’s the difference between averaging 40mpg and 42mpg. Or, to put it another way, an additional 26 miles from a 60-litre tank of fuel. Based on the current average price for a litre of diesel, you’ll spend £1,365.08 a year at 40mpg or £1,300.10 at 42mpg – a difference of £65.

Click here to find out how to check your tyres.

7. Hunt out cheap fuel

You can save many pennies per litre – and therefore many pounds over the course of a year – by searching for the cheapest fuel. Driving out of your way to fill up with cheap fuel is a false economy, but what steps can you take to ensure you don’t spend more than is necessary?

Get to know the petrol stations in your local area, making a mental note of the price per litre as you drive by. You can find a difference of a few pence on the same street and it might be worth making a small detour to make a big saving.

Also take advantage of supermarket and fuel retailer loyalty cards which can come in handy in cutting fuel costs. The more you fill up, the more points you’ll accrue, which can be exchanged for vouchers when you come to fill-up.

Small changes matter, because at 42mpg and 10,000 miles a year, a 10p increase in the price of diesel would cost an extra £100.82 over the course of 12 months.

Read our top tips on how to find the cheapest fuel in your area for more information.

Remember though, driving far out your way in order to pick up cheap fuel is a false economy, which becomes even more negligible the less economical your car.

8. Choose wisely, petrol or diesel?

Buying the right engine can save you money

Once, buying a diesel instead of a petrol would automatically save you money. That’s not necessarily true today. For starters, diesels cost more than petrols: on a supermini-sized car, the premium can be 10% or more.

Diesel fuel costs no less than petrol and, while they usually give better economy, efficient new petrol engines are catching up. An anti-diesel mood is also building in the UK, which could lead to diesel surcharges (and reduced future values). Unless your annual mileage is very high, you can be best sticking to petrol.

At the time of writing, the average price of a litre of unleaded was 118.7p, with diesel at 120.5p. For up-to-date prices visit petrolprices.com.

As a rule of thumb, if you drive more than 10,000 miles in a year, a diesel-engined car could work out cheaper. Anything less than that and a petrol-engined car would make more sense. You could also consider an electric or hybrid vehicle, if your circumstances allow.

For a deeper look into the argument, visit our petrol or diesel buyer's guide page which also has a short quiz to help determine what your ideal vehicle type is and how you can save money.

9. Take an advanced driving course

You can tweak your driving style to motor more economically. An advanced course will teach you these - you’ll still make good progress but be doing it in a more efficient way.

Hypermiling is the art of driving as economically as possible and once you take on the challenge, it can become addictive.

To find out more about hypermiling, click here.

Advanced driving courses could also bring down the premiums on your annual car insurance policy.

10. Haggle on car insurance

Car insurance can be one of the biggest motoring costs you face annually. Figures released by the Association of British Insurers (ABI) revealed that, on average, comprehensive cover costs £462 a year – the equivalent of £38.50 a month.

Don’t simply accept your auto-renewal quote, give your insurer a call to see if you can haggle and reduce it. Before you do so, make sure you see how well your quote and benefits compare against other insurance providers.

You should also consider the factors that influence the cost of your premium. These include the type of car, where you live, where the car is kept overnight, your age, driving experience and your history of claims.

While you’ll be unable to change your personal circumstances, you can make savings by storing the car in the garage, reducing the number of miles you drive or you could purchase ‘black box’ insurance.

RAC members often pay less for insurance with the RAC.

11. Claim for pothole damage

According to Potholes.co.uk, as many as one in 10 mechanical failures in the UK are caused by potholes, costing motorists an estimated £730 million every year. Also our breakdown data suggests pothole-related breakdowns have increased this year despite the mild weather, so your chances of falling victim to pothole damage are relatively high.

If a pothole causes damage to your car, you may be able to claim compensation.

The chances of your claim successful, however, will significantly depend on whether the pothole has already been reported as councils cannot be held liable for a defect they are not aware of.

So it's worth being part of the solution and reporting them when you see them in the first place, which you can do remotely on your mobile using our handy pothole reporting tool.

In 2016, local councils were forced to spend £102 million repairing 1.7 million potholes, with the average hole in the road costing an estimated £49 to fill.

To find out more about potholes and how to claim for damage, visit our how to report a pothole and claim for damage page.

12. Add family members to your car insurance

We are not recommending 'fronting' this is illegal. But adding your partner as a named driver on the family car can balance the risk and reduce your premium by a few pounds.

Also, if you’ve previously been a named driver on a policy and have yet to build up a no-claims bonus, but your partner has, some providers will allow you to transfer your partner's no claims bonus and therefore their discount, to your new policy.

A word of caution: adding a young or inexperienced driver could increase your premium, as the insurer will base the cost on the driver with the most risk.

13. Appeal against parking tickets

Appeal against parking tickets

Think you’ve been unfairly caught out by a parking ticket? Try appealing it.

According to the MoneySavingExpert, 56% of motorists who went all the way to the official, independent appeals body were successful in their claim.

Provide evidence, check the terms and conditions, present a mature and balanced case, and sometimes the ticket can be overturned. If you’re certain it’s unfair, it’s worth submitting an appeal.

If you’ve been issued a ticket and have to hold your hands up, you usually have 28 days to pay. In some cases the fines will be reduced by 50% if you pay within 14 days.

READ MORE: How to avoid and appeal Parking Charge Notices

14. Use apps to find cheap parking spaces

Don’t simply park up in the closest car park you can find, or the one you know the best. Check there isn’t a cheaper one nearby first, using apps such as Parkopedia. Particularly in big cities, this can save you a fortune.

Alternatively, park on the edge of town and take a walk. Your fitness tracker will welcome the additional steps!

15. Don’t overestimate your annual mileage when buying insurance

If you generally tell your insurance company you cover 10,000 miles a year but you in reality drive far less than this, you could be paying for a higher-risk premium than is actually needed. Give the company a realistic figure instead - but don’t underestimate, or you could be left without cover.

16. Don’t drive up and down kerbs

It’s amazing how many people drive up and down kerbs. This damages the metal wires in the sidewall of the tyre (and often the alloy wheel itself), and will eventually lead to a puncture.

Not only will avoiding driving up and down kerbs save you money, it will also keep you safe.

17. Park away from other cars

Park away from others

If your car is on finance, it will be assessed for condition before you hand it back. You’ll be charged if any rectification is needed.

An easy way to reduce the risk of damage it to park away from other cars, so their car doors can’t damage it, and they can’t scrape it when driving in and out. Remember, even small car park panel dings are logged by the dealer on the condition report.

18. Buy a smartphone holder

If you are caught using a hand-held mobile phone behind the wheel, you are now fined £200 and given six points on your licence.

If you use your smartphone for navigation or as an audio player, and it is not in a fixed position, you could be penalised for breaking the law. Avoid the risk by securing it in a smartphone holder, ideally fixed to the dashboard, not the windscreen so it does not obscure your view.

A good quality smartphone holder will set you back between £10 and £20, but this works out a lot cheaper than the potential fine and points on your licence. Remember, having endorsements on your licence might increase your insurance premium, further increasing your motoring costs.

To discourage people from using handheld phones at the wheel, we at the RAC, have created a campaign called BePhoneSmart.uk that encourages drivers to take a positive step by committing to not using a handheld phone – quite simply, to make an online promise to keep within the law, to keep their focus on the road ahead, and to share the message on to other people that they know.

19. Don’t use your windscreen wipers on ice

Don't use your windscreen wipers

Windscreen wipers can cost £20 or more to replace. And they’ll wear out much more quickly if you use them on ice in winter - you even risk tearing them entirely.

Scrape the screen or use de-icer instead - this is also much safer (and less irritating for sleeping neighbours). If you haven’t got a scraper, prices start from as little as £1.

MORE TOP TIPS: How to demist your windscreen in double-quick time

20. Check for obvious faults ahead of your car's MOT

According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), around 1.5 million vehicles fail their MOT due to simple things such as faulty bulbs, tyre tread and empty washer fluid bottles.

There are really simple things you can check for prior to an MOT - whether your bulbs are all working, the state of your tyres, the state of your windscreen wipers, even if the washer bottle contains any fluid.

No matter how simple they are, the garage won’t rectify them before completing the MOT, and will fail you for the most minor faults.

Why risk the inconvenience and potential expense? For more MOT advice, read our everything you need to know about MOTs page.

21. Source car parts yourself

Been quoted big money by a dealer to replace parts? Consider buying them yourself online and using a local (but well-rated) garage to fit them.

This could potentially save you several hundreds of pounds.

If you're looking for a reliable local garage, look no further than the RAC's approved garages.

22. Know what your PCP mileage limit is and stick to it

Know your PCP mileage

If your PCP car finance scheme covers you for 9,000 miles a year and you actually cover 10,000 miles a year, you face excess mileage surcharges at the end of it.

These can be punitive, but even a minor-sounding 0.06p per mile surcharge adds up to a £180 bill if you go 3,000 miles over. Often, it would have been cheaper to factor this mileage into the PCP deal in the first place.

23. Empty your boot and ditch the roof rack

Don’t carry unnecessary weight around with you. On average, every 50kg will increase your fuel consumption by 2%.

A boot full of junk means you’re using extra fuel for nothing. Emptying it out will give small savings that will add up the more you drive - particularly if your motoring is mainly stop-start driving and city commutes.

Remove your roof bars when they’re not in use. Not only do they weigh between 3kg to 5kg, they’ll also increase the amount of drag, increasing fuel consumption by about 10%.

For more advice on how to save money by saving fuel, read our top fuel saving tips.  

24. Car share or use a car club  

Do you really need to drive? Could you car share instead? You don’t even need to know someone going in the same direction, services such as blablacar.com bring trusted carpooling to everyone.

Simply enter where you are and where you want to go, and the service will hunt out available rides. You can even add your own car to the service.

Failing that, many of those who live in urban areas might save money by simply borrowing a car whenever you need one, rather than paying out for tax and insurance on a car you only use occasionally.

Car clubs usually let you reserve cars via an online app, and you can often borrow them for anything from half an hour to a couple of days. Many clubs cost as little as 30p a minute or £5 an hour, or you can pay more for a bigger or more upmarket car.

This includes all running costs including tax, insurance and even fuel.

25. Monitor your fuel economy

Monitor your fuel economy

Do you know how many miles per gallon (MPG) your car returns under everyday driving? Don’t rely on its trip computer - they’re not always accurate - but use an app on your phone to calculate your MPG every time you fill up.

Once you know how well it performs, work out how you can improve it - and challenge yourself by making a game of it. Fuel efficient driving can save hundreds or even thousands of pounds at the pump over a year.

26. Wash your car yourself

Hand car wash centres are opening up everywhere. They charge just a few pounds and save you effort, so where’s the harm?

Well, even a £5 fortnightly car wash adds up to £120 a year but, doing it yourself will not only save you money, it will also allow you to keep an eye on the condition of your car and get any damage rectified before it gets too bad.

27. Use your smartphone so you don’t overstay on prepaid parking

Paid for parking? Not returning to your car in time can prove expensive if you’re hit with a fine. But many parking companies offer a service which lets you use an app on your phone to pay for parking.

Although there is a small convenience fee, it’ll notify you when your parking is nearly up - and you can extend it remotely so you’re not caught out.

28. Get a black box insurance policy

black box policy works by monitoring your driving via a small black box that's installed in your car. It builds a picture of the way you drive, allowing the insurer to treat you as an individual and reward safe driving with a lower premium.

If you are a young driver, black box insurance can be particularly helpful but you can also find more tips on our guide to making insurance cheaper for younger drivers.

Generally smaller engines tend to attract smaller premiums, so choose your first car carefully. Make sure you’re accurate about the amount of miles you will drive over the year, as overestimating can cost you more.

29. Buy tax annually not monthly

Car tax

You can pay vehicle excise duty (VED - or road tax) annually, monthly or every six months.

Many go for monthly to split it into smaller payments, but it works out more expensive over the entire year.

For example, a petrol or diesel car with a tax band of D will cost £115 for 12 months if paid for in full, or £120.75 if paid by 12 instalments. Similarly, you’ll pay £60.38 for six months or £63.25 if paid monthly.

Pay the full amount at the start of the year and be comfortable that it’s paid for the rest of the year. 

Alternatively, consider an interest free credit card to pay for the tax, but make sure you settle the bill in full before the 0% rate expires.

Remember though, VED rules are changing and some drivers looking to buy new cars will be caught out and find themselves paying more. Read our full explanation of the new car tax changes to find out more.

30. Get a quote for fully comprehensive insurance - it may be cheaper

If you’re on a budget, many assume third party insurance (the minimum legal requirement which only covers damage to other vehicles) will be the cheapest.

But try getting quotes for fully comprehensive cover (which also covers damage you’re responsible for to your own vehicle).

The weird algorithm of insurance companies’ computers often means it’s cheaper than third party.

You’ll be glad of it if you’re in an accident that’s your fault, too.

RAC members often pay less for insurance with the RAC too.

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