Motoring on the cheap: How to drive down the cost of running your car

Aside from your home, the most expensive and most researched purchase you’ll probably ever make will be your car.

However, as any motorist knows, merely acquiring the vehicle is the easy part; it’s keeping it on the road where the challenge really lies.

Fuel costs, insurance, road tax, replacing tyres, breakdown cover, MOT – it all adds up but there are proven ways to limit just how heavy these burdens need to be.

New research from CompareTheMarket found that the cost of running a car for a young driver has increased by 4.4 per cent to just under £2,300 in the six months leading up to August.

Despite the price of fuel dipping below £1 a litre in some areas at the start of the year, the biggest annual increase to the cost of motoring has been fuel, rising by 12 per cent or £89.

For anyone aged between 17-24, that’s enough to want to get the bus but for those that rely on their car for work, that won’t be an option. So what can motorists do to cut the cost of driving?

Fuel

Unless you drive an electric car, trips to the pump are a fact of life, but they needn’t be as pricey if you know where to go.

PetrolPrices.com is a handy website for finding the cheapest fuel in your area. After entering a postcode, it’ll come back with the lowest prices within a certain radius and rather than revisiting often, it’ll email you with the best prices.

If you’re really clocking up the mileage (i.e. anything over 16,000 miles a year), then it’s worth driving a diesel car. The black stuff is generally seven pence more expensive per litre, but it adds up in the long run due to diesel’s stronger fuel economy. However, diesel cars can be more expensive to buy and to repair should anything go wrong.

Get the council to do your MOT

Having your car MOT’ed is another inevitability. Without it, your car’s insurance is void and an MOT could nip a potentially pricey repair in the bud by spotting it early.

An MOT is an MOT is an MOT and while you can get one for £30 at some garages, you run the risk of paying extra for fictional repairs. A council-run MOT centre – which charges around £55 – may not necessarily carry out extensive repairs, therefore has no incentive to fail your car.

There have been tales of people being faced with hefty repair bills post-MOT, only for their car to pass first time at a council MOT centre – find your nearest local council testing centre here.

Insurance

Shop around – it’s a common bit of advice that we’ve heard a thousand times but it really is worth the effort to switch insurance provider when renewal time rolls around.

Tweaking certain factors can reap cheaper premiums too. Think about how many miles you actually do in a year because entering a lower annual mileage will bring down insurance costs. Also, increasing your excess to the highest point you’re comfortable with will do the same.

Also, rethink your job title. A ‘chef’ pays on average £98 more than someone who puts ‘kitchen staff’, while a ‘music teacher’ pays £86 more than a ‘teacher’, according to GoCompare. Trial and error is the only way to see what brings back the lowest premium but be careful; getting too liberal with the truth could void your insurance.

Slow down and more efficiently

Going back to fuel, driving slower tends to use less fuel with 55mph believed to the sweet spot for fuel economy, where legally possible. Avoid harsh braking and wasting your hard-earned fuel by anticipating red lights and rolling up to junctions.

Tyres

Check your tyre pressures regularly – every two weeks is fine – because driving on the optimum pressure will benefit your car’s fuel economy.

Come MOT time, some garages may suggest part-worn tyres at a lower price than their brand new counterparts, but many safety groups warn against opting for the cheaper option with the mantra ‘part worn, part safe’.

Drive a newer car

Not an option for everyone but newer cars are almost always cheaper to run as a result of being lighter, more aerodynamic and using more efficient engines.

Car share

Are you going my way? If you are, then you could receive fuel money and a bit of welcome company on your commute by car sharing. There are plenty of websites about, with LiftShareand BlaBlaCar being the first two that spring to mind.

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