New Year motoring resolutions

Happy New Year from all at the RAC. With Christmas gone and the New Year upon us there’s no better time to make some motoring resolutions for the next 12 months of driving.

We’ve put together some potential promises to help improve your safety, reduce your costs and extract the most from your motoring this year.

Improve your fuel economy

There are many ways to eek the maximum possible mileage from a tank of fuel – predicting traffic conditions ahead by checking traffic updates, removing unnecessary weight from your car (like heavy objects in the boot) and a gentle right foot can all reduce the frequency with which you visit the pumps.

Patience is a virtue, so exercise some behind the wheel. Accelerating slowly rather than roaring off, only to have to brake again, will mean you’re more parsimonious with the petrol. Over a year’s worth of driving, the savings will add up.

Downsize your vehicle

To compound the benefits of a more economical driving style you could downsize your car. This doesn’t mean trading in your large family saloon or estate for a simple city car (although you’d certainly cut your outgoings if you did), rather making an honest assessment of your motoring needs.

Do you need all that space and a big engine? Could you make do with a vehicle from the class below with a more frugal motor? If the answer is yes, act now – you could be quids in.

Check your tyres regularly

Reducing your car costs is great but it mustn’t be at the expense of safety. It’s important to check your tyres over frequently to assess their condition – spotting an unusual wear pattern could indicate a fault with your suspension or steering, for example.

Your car’s rubber has to steer, brake and accelerate the vehicle so make sure the tread depth is above the legal minimum of 1.6mm, tyre pressures are accurate and there are no chunks or gouges in the sidewall.

Taking good care of your tyres can actually help you save money, too. According to a report from the Technical University of Munich, eco tyres are THE most cost-effective way of saving fuel, giving you the fastest “green return” – the point at which your investment starts saving you money.

Something as simple as ensuring tyre pressures are correct can also cut your fuel bills. It’s estimated that 63% of cars in Europe are running on underinflated tyres, costing a total of £4 billion per year in wasted fuel. Staggering.

It’s worthwhile learning or refreshing yourself on how to change a tyre – you never know when a puncture may occur and having the correct tools and knowledge to deal with it is important for safety. For more information on how to look after your vehicle’s rubber, read our tyre safety guide.

Take greater care of your car

Vehicle checks and inspections shouldn’t just stop at your tyres. Taking greater care of your vehicle – such as washing and even polishing it more frequently – can help you find faults and avoid expensive repair bills if you catch a problem early.

Having a good clean can even defend against them, removing road salt and grime that causes corrosion.

Checking the oil level, coolant and battery strength are all ways that might help reduce the chance of you having to use your car breakdown cover.

Paying attention to your pride and joy shouldn’t be limited to the outside either. You wouldn’t like to be invited to ride in a car with a dirty interior, so why subject other people to it?

An untidy cabin can pose potential safety hazards, too. If your car is full of clutter items such as empty water bottles and spent coffee cups could fall into the driver’s footwell and jam the pedals. Trinkets and rubbish also become dangerous projectiles if you should be unfortunate enough to be involved in a crash.

Be more courteous to other road users

The festive cheer may be waning but that doesn’t mean you have to become an angry, discourteous driver. Letting someone out of a side turning won’t delay you more than a few seconds but engenders mutual respect – remember to thank someone if they do it for you, too.

What goes around comes around, so helping other road users – including cyclists and pedestrians, as well as car drivers – will make a safer environment for all.

Obey speed limits

This is one we should all practice, not least because of the legal implications if you don’t. It’s all too easy to drift over the speed limit thinking it’ll be fine. It won’t.

According to road safety charity Think!, if you hit someone at 30mph there’s an 80% chance they’ll live, hit them at 40mph and there’s an 80% chance they’ll die. Travelling to the limits means you’ll have more chance to react to any events that should unfold.

Plus, it’ll help improve your fuel economy and avoid being snapped by a speed camera. This will lighten your wallet by a minimum of £60 and laden your licence with three penalty points…

Read your insurance policy thoroughly

…which could also send your insurance premiums up. It’s important to read through your car insurance policy documents thoroughly so you know exactly what your insurance excess is, what vehicles you are covered to drive and whether or not your policy includes a courtesy car or breakdown recovery.

As coverage costs look set to continue rising, by knowing what is or isn’t in your policy it can help you find a better deal when you come to renew your car insurance, too.

Don’t take unnecessary risks

One way that will certainly help keep your premiums down is by improving your driving standards. If you are a safe hand behind the wheel, consider opting for a telematics ‘black box’ so your insurance company can see how reliable you are.

Even if you wouldn’t entertain the idea however, don’t pull out into a gap you think you can make. Be certain. Chancing your luck is a brilliant recipe for disaster.

Even day-to-day elements of driving need to be addressed: pull over in a safe place to rest if you’re tired, don’t be tempted to use your mobile phone, keep your lane discipline strong and brush up on your knowledge of the traffic laws.

Practiced properly, these points should help you and other road users around you stay out of harm’s way this year.

Take some training

There’s no harm in admitting you’re a bit rusty behind the wheel and a training course is a perfect way to improve. It will keep you fresh, enlighten you to information you weren’t aware of and remind you of a few things you might have forgotten.

It could be a road-based programme, an off-road driving experience or even driving on a race track – all three will teach you about how a car handles and important lessons that can be transferred to your everyday journeys.

Some courses, such as those run by the Institute of Advanced Motorists, can also potentially give you discounts on your insurance policy.

Use your car less

There’s one sure fire way to save money on motoring during 2013 – use your car less. Walking shorter journeys where possible or riding a bike will not only cut congestion and pollution (even if it is one car at a time), but will improve your fitness and health.

Riding a bike also helps up your awareness and anticipation, as well as road positioning. It could make you appreciate what cycling in built-up areas is like.

Using a mileage calculator to calculate the cost of your journey before setting off, can help you decide whether to use your car.

Have a happy 12 months of motoring

The above are just a few suggestions for points we should all try to focus on when we get behind the wheel and some general tips for owning and running a car.

Whether or not we keep to them is a different question, but follow a few simple steps and 2013 should hopefully be a cheaper, more frugal and safer year of motoring for everyone.

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