The annual cost of driving can easily run into the £1,000s, what with insurance, MOTs, breakdown cover and fuel. Yet it's possible to save on all of these.
We've put together a MoneySaving motoring checklist with over 40 quick tips to help drive down costs while keeping you safe and legal on the road.
The annual cost of driving can easily run into the £1,000s. Even if you've a good little runner, insurance, MOTs, breakdown cover, parking and fuel can all quickly clock up the pounds. Yet it's possible to save on all of these.
We've put together a MoneySaving motoring checklist with over 40 tips to help drive down costs while keeping you safe and legal on the road.
Motoring MoneySaving Checklist
Don't assume third party cover is cheapest
The minimum level of cover to legally drive on the road is known as 'third party' insurance.
Earn up to 3% cashback on all petrol spends
Buying fuel is the biggest regular expenditure for most people, whether using a card or cash. But there's a nifty way to save every time you fill up.
Check photo licence expiry or risk £1k fine
Photocard licences came into force in 1998. A whopping two million photocards were out of date in January 2014, according to the DVLA - so check yours now.
Use hidden MOT centres for fewer fails
Regular MOTs are a must for any vehicle. Yet as their maximum cost is fixed at £54.85 for cars, it's not the test fee but repairing the fails which often makes the biggest dent.
Don't buy premium fuels for standard cars
Many petrol stations sell ‘high performance' fuels, yet there’s little or no performance difference for most standard cars. So for an easy saving, don't fill up with the super fuels unless you've a sports car that you've been advised will actually use the petrol correctly.
Young drivers save £1,000s on insurance with specialist policies
Finding affordable young drivers' car insurance can be a nightmare – the average for a 17-22 year old is £1,187. But there are simple ways to save.
Haggle on breakdown cover at renewal
On expiry, don't just accept the renewal price. Many firms quote highly-inflated costs which are easily beatable by asking for the deals given to new customers. Our poll in March 2013 showed haggling success rates are huge. 86% of AA customers and 67% of RAC customers who tried to haggle managed to slash the price they pay.
Save 30% on fuel by changing driving habits
It's possible to drive the same distance in the same time using much less fuel - without cutting your top speed. In the process, you could chop up to 30% off your petrol or diesel costs.
Do a pre-MOT check to beat common fails
40% of cars fail their MOT test first time, and far too many for a simple, avoidable reason. Often fixing problems is a question of common sense, not mechanical know-how.
50% who fight unfair parking tickets win
Getting an unfair parking ticket from an official body, such as a council or the police, is a sting in the tailpipe.
Car insurance is a must - even if not driving
It's a common misconception that cars don't need insurance when not driven. In fact, legally cars must be insured unless declared off-road with a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) or they've been untaxed since before 31 January 1998.
Combine comparison sites to check 100+ insurers in minutes
Comparison sites zip your details to hosts of insurers' and brokers' websites, scraping their data to report back the cheapest.
Only drive occasionally? Consider car clubs
Car clubs claim to be a cost-effective way to drive, as they remove insurance, breakdown and maintenance costs. Yet joining, rental and annual fees mean that they only tend to be appropriate for those who use them infrequently, and make short journeys each time.
Driving abroad: Is your UK licence valid?
A UK driving licence is accepted throughout the EU, but if planning a road trip further afield, check if you'll need an International Driving Permit (IDP).
Halve hire costs in minutes
Holiday car hire can save a hefty whack on taxis to and from the airport, and can be invaluable if you're on a family getaway. If you're definitely going to need it (see below for alternatives), make sure you book the right way.
Bag a free parking tips mini-guide
The Glovebox Parking Aid is a free printable PDF mini-guide to help combat unfair parking tickets, clamping or towing. It's designed to sit in your car ready for action if the worst happens, for essential info at your fingertips when you need it most.
In it, there's help on what to do at the scene, how to avoid tickets when parking, as well as common mistakes to avoid when out and about. Print and pop it in your glovebox – you may well be glad you did.
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Declutter your car to cut fuel costs
Fuel price rises can be a painful addition to motoring costs. But some basic maintenance can help put the brakes on your fuel bill.
Grab fuel vouchers with your weekly shop
Supermarkets often run petrol promotions. As their forecourts are usually cheap for fuel (always check), these schemes mean you can make some decent savings.
Get car parts yourself
If you don't mind the legwork, it's possible to make hefty savings on parts by sourcing them yourself. Before getting your motor repaired, ask for separate quotes for fitting and parts, and check if they'd mind just fitting the part if you can find it.
Add a second driver to cut insurance costs
If you're considered high-risk, adding a second driver to the insurance – even if they won't use the car often – can smooth out the average risk, and can even reduce the cost.
Learn to dodge parking tickets
Ever wondered what 'blip' markings on kerbs mean, or if a quick trip to get change is allowed? These are just some of the key points in the Park Right guide.
Find the cheapest petrol station in seconds
Before you fill up, use free website PetrolPrices.com to find the cheapest petrol, diesel and LPG near you. After registering, enter your postcode and and it'll list the cheapest forecourts in your area. The Cheap Petrol guide's also full to the brim with ways to save, including a quick tool to show the target cheapest price to aim for in your area.
Make cash from your driveway
If you live in a city, near an airport or train station, or anywhere where parking's pricey, your driveway might just be paved with gold. Rent out a parking space and you could make £200 a month or more.
Private parking firms CAN'T fine you
Parking tickets from supermarkets, housing estates or other private car parks do better impressions than Jon Culshaw. Some are dressed up like fines, they can even be called Parking Charge Notices to mimic council Penalty Charge Notices. Don't be fooled, they're just invoices.
Haggle down tyre costs
New tyres can be pricey, but it's essential to make sure you keep them above the 1.6mm legal minimum tread depth to let surface water slip through.
Swap Clubcard points for cheap RAC cover
If you're a Tesco shopper, hoard your Clubcard points and you can use them to get cheap breakdown cover.
Protect your no-claims bonus
For every year you don't claim on your insurance you get a discount, which can make a big difference to costs. If you claim, you usually lose two years off this discount – a deliberate tactic to encourage you not to claim.
Grab cheap MOTs if you're sure your car will pass first time
If your car's in perfect condition and you'd be surprised if it failed anything, check our Current MOT Offers to get your test as cheaply as possible.Then check your local garages to see if they'll match the lowest possible MOT test fee. It's also worth hunting around for cashback deals (full explanation in the Cashback Sites guide).
Tweak your job title for cheaper cover
When it comes to insurance quotes, tweaking a job title could save serious cash. Insurers base prices on risk assessments, and your occupation plays an important part.
Don't be tempted to lie
With insurance, remember the golden rule:
If you've read these tips and thought, "it's easy to lie", you're right. Yet lying on your insurance form is fraud. It can lead to your insurance being invalid and, in the worst case, a criminal prosecution for driving without insurance. Don't do it.
Even if parking for free, there are catches
In rural or suburban areas, you can usually park for free outside busy parts of town where there are no road markings. But you can't just park anywhere that's unmarked.
Time your MOT right
Whether you've a banger or a Bentley, your car needs an MOT when it's three years old (four years in NI), then once a year after. Yet timing is crucial.
Breakdown cover for £17 a year
Whether you've a flashy new convertible or a trusty old banger, there’s no need to pay £100s for breakdown cover. See Breakdown Best Buys for the latest cashback deals and best buy roadside recovery policies to help find the cheapest cover.
Driving in Europe? Check insurance, breakdown and road rules
Don't assume you're automatically covered if you're taking your car to the continent. Make sure you set off fully prepared.
Snaffle hidden airport parking discounts
It's often said airports make more from parking and shopping than planes. Leave the car there without booking first and you risk sky-high rates, but a quick comparison can nearly halve the cost in minutes.
Consider car hire alternatives
Before you book car hire, don't forget to consider the alternatives. Unecessary car hire can be an expensive, unused hindrance. Car swaps, public transport and even taking your own car may work out cheaper for some destinations.
Don't overestimate motorbike mileage
If you're on two wheels, finding cheap insurance isn't always an easy ride. The Cheap Motorbike Insurance guide has a step-by-step system to help find the cheapest cover for your needs, with tips on security, mileage, no claims and more.
Halve parking costs with a private space
If you drive to work, buy monthly car parking with one of the big chains or pay over the odds for your regular Saturday football space, you might be able to halve parking costs by renting a private space. Plus you can get a rough idea of savings in seconds.
Try the petrol diet
No, we don't advocate swigging the stuff – it's a challenge on the MSE forum, where MoneySavers share tips to cut their fuel spend.
Cut fuel costs through car share schemes
A quick way to reduce your fuel bill is simply to drive less. No, we don't mean hiring a chauffeur – try sharing journeys with friends or colleagues.
Grab free maps, cycle guides, travel mags...
There's a mass of motoring goodies available for free at the click of a mouse, if you know where to look. Visit the Travel and Motoring Freebies section of the full Freebies guide for goodies including maps, practice theory tests, car stickers, travel magazines, cycle guides and even a free motorbike trip.
Check van insurance terms carefully
Whether your van's used for removals, family holidays, or work, as with car insurance, it's possible to save hundreds by switching.
Find extra public transport discounts
Public transport may be a more MoneySaving alternative to driving, particularly if your once-economical motor is now a fuel-guzzling monster. And there are easy ways to cut costs further.
Share your tips on the motoring forum
The Motoring forum board is fantastic for sharing ideas and swapping tips on all aspects of being on the road. Whether you want to learn to drive for less, find free car journey games or buy a second-hand car, there's something for everyone.
Sell your car and stop driving
OK, it's a radical thought, and it's not right for everyone. But if your motor costs a fortune, it's worth considering: do you really need it? Or if you have two cars, do you need them both?
Beware Google when renewing your tax disc
Search for 'tax disc' or 'pay vehicle tax' on Google and you risk being duped into paying a shyster site for nowt. These firms appear high up on Google/Bing, dressed as official agencies.
How to buy cheap tyres
You can save a lot on new tyres by shopping around.
Wear your MSE car sticker with pride!
If you've found this checklist useful, pass it on – and if you want to show others you're proud to be a MoneySaver, get the 'free' official MSE car sticker (you know you want to!).
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