Rebecca | Edited by Steve N
Updated March 2016
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 54 tips to help drive down costs while keeping you safe and legal on the road.
Don't assume third party insurance is cheapest
The minimum level of cover to legally drive on the road is known as 'third party' insurance.
Nope, it's not where you end up after a long night out – it's a specific type of insurance that covers you for any damage to another vehicle (or property). It also protects passengers in your car and the public, but doesn't give fire or theft cover.
It used to be the cheapest type of cover, but bizarrely, fully comprehensive policies can be cheaper for some. This is because selecting fully comp may mean you're considered a lower risk profile.
Logically, third party insurance should be cheapest as it offers less cover than fully comp – yet this isn't always the case.
To illustrate this, with one low-risk driver quote we found £290 for fully comprehensive, compared with £406 for third party. It isn't a hard rule, but always make sure you get quotes for third party and fully comprehensive. Remember with third party, you and your car aren't covered for loss or damage.
To get max quotes at speed, combine comparison sites Confused.com*, GoCompare*, MoneySupermarket* and Compare the Market, then check Aviva*, Direct Line* and Zurich which they miss. Then check the policy's right and see if cashback's available. Always check your policy, so you know exactly what you are and aren't covered for in the event of a claim.
For full info, see the Cheap Car Insurance guide.
Earn up to 5% 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.
Cashback cards pay a percentage whenever you spend on them, which soon adds up. The American Express Platinum Everyday* card pays 5% introductory cashback for the first three months on all spending (including petrol) – up to £2,000 (so £100 cashback)..
After the introductory period the cashback is tiered: if you spend £0 to £3,500 you get 0.5% cashback. From £3,500 to £7,500 you get 1%, and all spending above £7,501 attracts the full 1.25% cashback. You must spend at least £3,000 on the card in a year or you will get NO cashback.
Make sure you repay IN FULL each month, or you'll pay interest at 22.9%. For full details see Cashback Credit Cards.
There are lots more neat ways to save too - see the Cheap Petrol guide for full info.
Check photo licence expiry or risk £1k fine
Photocard licences came into force in 1998. A whopping two million people have an out-of-date photocard, according to the DVLA - so check yours now.
If it's out of date, see the Is Your Driving Licence Valid? guide for full info on how to renew.
You can be fined up to £1,000 if you drive while your photocard's expired. Yet it's just £14 to renew online or £17 by post- an annoying cost, but far more MoneySaving than the alternative.
Under the new system, photos must be replaced every 10 years (no matter how young you look).
Paper tax discs are history
The paper tax disc was scrapped in October 2014 to save money - £10 million every year, according to the DVLA. This means that drivers still have to tax vehicles and will receive reminder notices, but all records are now maintained online.
Here's what you need to know about the changes:
- You don't need to display a paper tax disc anymore, but you still need to pay. Road tax is recorded online and you can check on Gov.uk if your car - or anyone else's - is taxed. Police now use cameras with numberplate recognition technology to spot untaxed vehicles.
- You can pay monthly - but it'll cost more. The ways to pay changed on 1 Nov 2014. You now have the option of paying by direct debit annually (in which case the cost remains the same) or on a six-monthly or monthly basis (in which case there's a 5% surcharge). Or if you prefer, you can pay a flat fee for just one year or six months (if the latter, there's a 10% surcharge). Payments can be made via Gov.uk, or at the Post Office.
- Road tax is no longer transferable. If you sell your car, the buyer will need to buy new road tax for it even if the existing tax hasn't expired. You'll get an automatic refund from the DVLA for any remaining full months of road tax (although if you paid in monthly or six-monthly instalments, you won't receive a refund on the surcharge).
For more information see Gov.uk or call 0300 123 4321.
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 can appear on search engines dressed as official agencies.
They then let you unnecessarily fill in vehicle tax applications through them, slipping in their own hefty charges on top. Vehicle tax usually costs £20 - £530 per year (see a full list of rates), but these sites charge up to £100 extra.
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.
If you've had problems with Del Boy dealerships in the past, little-known council-run MOT centres generally don't do repairs, so they've no vested interest to fail you.
The Cheap MOT Tricks guide includes a huge list of test centres to give your vehicle the best chance of passing. Thousands report a massive difference. Here's one MoneySaver's story:
My usual garage said to make it pass its MOT, repairs would cost almost £1,000. Following the article, I took it to the council test centre instead and it passed without any work needed.
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.
The AA says that for most, high performance fuels are too pricey for regular use. But if you're keen, it suggests using a high performance fuel every third or fourth tank full to keep the engine clean and efficient, then reverting to normal fuel.
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 £1,357. But there are simple ways to save.
The Young Drivers' Car Insurance guide offers a step-by-step system to help, with tips to slice off every spare penny. Here are the key points:
Pay how you drive. Specialist 'pay how you drive' and 'pay when you drive' schemes are worth checking to see if they undercut comparison site quotes (though increasingly they also appear on comparison sites too).
With these, a GPS or tracking device is fitted to your car, so what you pay depends on your mileage, the time you drive or your driving style.
- Specific young driver brokers. While comparison sites are good for standard drivers, for others they can underperform. So check specific young driver brokers separately (we've got full listings in the guide).
- Learner driver insurance. Learners are often added to parents' or friends' car insurance as an additional driver. This can up the cost, and put the principal driver's no claims bonus at risk. Consider getting a specific policy just for the provisional driver instead.
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 November 2014 showed haggling success rates are huge. 84% of AA customers and 77% of RAC customers who tried to haggle managed to slash the price they pay.
See Breakdown Cover Haggling for more.
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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 petrol or diesel costs.
Here are a few pointers to get you started. See Drive More Efficiently for more:
- Accelerate gradually without over-revving. Press harder on the pedal and more fuel flows. Get to the same speed using less power. As a very rough rule, stay under 3,000 revs.
- Drive in the correct gear. Always drive in the highest gear possible without labouring the engine.
- Slow naturally. Rather than brake frequently, let your car slow naturally and use its stored momentum.
- Think about road position. To do all this takes road awareness. The more alert you are, the better you can plan ahead and move gradually.
Your accelerator's a money pump. The harder you press, the more cash is turned into fuel. Your brake is a money burner. Press it, and the speed you paid for converts into heat.
Do a pre-MOT check to beat common fails
Nearly 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.
Some fails you can fix yourself, others will need a professional. Either way, sorting it pre-test is usually cheaper. Here are the main points to check. See the Pre-MOT Checklist for more.
- Are all lights fully working? Almost one in five fail MOTs due to a bust light bulb. Have someone sit in the car while you walk around checking every light: front, rear, headlights and dipped, hazards and indicators. If you need one, buy a new bulb for a few quid and replace it.
- Check suspension. While a full suspension check's difficult, to see if the shock absorbers have gone, quickly apply your weight to each corner of the car, then release. It should quickly settle back. If not, it's possibly a shock problem.
- Is there tension on the handbrake? This is tricky to do yourself, so will need a mechanic to fix. If brakes feel loose and unresponsive, or the handbrake slides up without resistance and can't be put at a set level, it's likely there's a problem.
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.
See the Parking Ticket Appeals guide for step-by-step info on what to do. If you've got a good case, it's worth fighting it, as 56% who take their appeal to the independent tribunal win.
You normally have the right to appeal twice to the body that issued the ticket. If that fails, then take your challenge to the independent adjudicator. If your car's been clamped or towed away, you can appeal once to the council/police, then to the independent tribunal.
Millions of pounds are spent each year repairing potholes were filled in 2012 in the UK. If your car or bike's been damaged by one, you may be able to claim back the cost of your repairs.
If you're thinking about claiming there are a few things you need to know. Firstly, it's not an easy process and can take a while. When you start you must prove it was the pothole wot dunnit, as just saying your car was damaged isn't enough - and you will need to get your mechanic to vouch for this.
It's also worth noting you can only claim if the authority responsible for maintaining the road didn't carry out the checks or repairs that it should have. See full info, free template letters and step-by-step help in our Pothole Claims guide.
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 they've been declared off-road with a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) or they've been untaxed since before 31 January 1998.
The Continuous Insurance Enforcement scheme came into effect in June 2011, stating all cars must be insured even if no one drives them (see the Compulsory car insurance MSE news story).
The rules are designed to clamp down on uninsured drivers. Break 'em and there's a fine followed by clamping, seizure or having the car destroyed (warning letters come first).
Even if you let cover lapse during holidays or hospital stays, you're breaking the law.
The only way out's to apply for a SORN, which declares the car will never be driven. To apply, see the Gov.uk website.
Warning! Don't just auto-renew car insurance to avoid a fine. Diarise six weeks before renewal and check for the best deal. See the Cheap Car Insurance guide.
Lock in today's car insurance prices to beat a possible 25% hike - even if you're not at renewal
The AA predicts an up-to-25% rise on car insurance this year. So even if your policy isn't up yet, check now if you can slash costs and lock in today's prices.
Comparison sites zip your details to hosts of insurers' and brokers' websites, scraping their data to report back the cheapest. We've full step-by-step help in our Cheap Car Insurance guide, but to get max quotes at speed, combine comparison sites Confused.com*, GoCompare*, MoneySupermarket* and Compare the Market, then check Aviva*, Direct Line* and Zurich which they miss.
Then check the policy's right and see if cashback's available. Always check your policy, so you know exactly what you are and aren't covered for in the event of a claim. The record using the full system is 96p for a year's fully comprehensive cover – let us know if you beat it.
How to save even if not at renewal
While the system above has always worked well for those at renewal, predictions of sharp hikes mean it's worth checking if you can save now even if your policy isn't yet up. Here's how:
Renewal within 60 days? Firms such as Aviva*, Nationwide & LV* give quotes valid for 60 days - so lock in a quote now before prices rise further, then check if it's still cheapest in 2mths. See our 20 long-quote insurers list.
- Mid-policy, ie many months left? If you can find a deal cheaper than your current one (and if you just auto-renewed that's VERY likely), then provided you've not claimed, for a £50ish admin fee you can usually cancel and get the rest of the year refunded (you won't earn the year's no-claims bonus), locking in today's price. See full switching mid-policy help.
Breakdowns are inevitably more common in winter, so it's worth being prepared. Our Cheap Breakdown guide has full info on breakdown insurance, but preventing your car from breaking down in the first place is better than waiting for rescue. Here are six tips to prep your motor before the cold weather sets in:
Buy anti-freeze and a screen-scraper. Anti-freeze stops your car coolant from freezing so it can keep your car's engine working, while a screen-scraper is useful for clearing your windscreen (a de-icer will also make the job quicker).
Make sure your lights are working. Scan your lights and check them regularly to make sure they're working properly so you can be seen in bad weather.
Check your tyres. The AA recommends a tyre tread of at least 3mm for winter driving (Tyre Safety has more on how to do this).
Stop doors sticking with Vaseline. A thin coat of polish or Vaseline on rubber door seals should stop them sticking.
Make sure you car is stocked up with essentials. For example: a torch and spare batteries, first aid kit, warm blanket, mobile phone charger, shovel, road atlas and jump start cables.
Check your battery. A faulty battery is one of the most common causes of cars breaking down at winter. It needs to be regularly checked and might need charging if it's not been used in a while.
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.
Before joining, think about your circumstances and carefully weigh up if it's worth it. Here's some general feedback on pros and cons from MoneySavers, though it varies by company so always check. See more tips and let us know how you've got on in the Car clubs cost-cutting hunt.
Car club advantages
- Clear costs. Car clubs make costs more visible. Hire a car for a day and you've an instant figure of how much it'll cost, while the price of running your own car can be a constant hidden drain.
- Cut car usage. Car clubs help to cut usage by making you consider if it's really necessary, given there's a fee per journey. After all, it's much easier to jump in your own car without thinking than to plan, book and pay a lump sum.
- Get rid of extra costs. You don't have to worry about maintenance, depreciation, or insurance. It's also handy if you want to drive around in a flashier car.
- Flexibility. Unlike standard car hire, they're generally available around the clock, so there's no need to depend on the rental shop being open.
- Get extra loyalty points. Forumites suggest using your own loyalty cards when filling up the car to nab extra reward points.
What to watch out for
- Fees quickly add up. Forumites report it's only MoneySaving if you need a car very infrequently (perhaps a couple of times a month). The cheapest advertised rates may only be for a very small number of cars, so factor this in.
- You must be organised to make it viable. You'll need to plan journeys in advance, mainly take short round trips, and live near decent public transport. Cars can quickly get booked up at weekends and on public holidays.
- You need to be near a car. How suitable it'll be depends where you live. If you need to travel a long way to pick the car up, it may not be worth it. To see car club cars near you, charity Car Plus has a useful searchable map.
- Beware late fees. Returning it promptly is harder in congested areas. Forumites have reported it can be worth booking an extra half an hour if you're often late, as a few minutes of being stuck in traffic may incur a nasty fine.
- Watch out for extra mileage charges. These can kick in after about 50 miles, so always check. Many forumites report this makes it cheaper to simply hire a standard car, so consider this too (see the Cheap Car Hire guide).
- Beware pricing and terms changes. Check statements carefully to ensure they're correct, and check if congestion charges are included, if applicable. Also, check for unaccounted damage to the car, and report it before driving off.
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).
See the Is Your Driving Licence Valid? guide for full details, but here's the key info.
An IDP is required or recommended in about 140 countries, including the USA, Thailand and India. Drive without one where it's needed and you risk trouble with the authorities, and may be refused a hire car.
It's in booklet format and there are two types, known as the 1926 and 1949 Conventions (they're the same price). Which you'll need depends on where you're off to.
Beware websites selling 'international driving licences' – these aren't legally-recognised documents, so don't get caught out.
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.
Find full details of current deals, tips 'n' tricks in the Cheap Car Hire guide. Here are the key points:
- Define your requirements. There's often a mass of costly add-ons on offer, such as air con, sat navs and extra drivers. Before you book, work out what you need and ditch the rest (this is especially important when choosing fuel policy).
- Quickly compare quotes. Next, take the legwork out of your search by using the right comparison sites to grab the most quotes in the least time. Our top picks are Skyscanner*, TravelSupermarket*, CarRentals* and Kayak*
- Check for extra discounts. See if you can squash the price further via fly-drive package deals, cashback, specialist travel brokers and online vouchers.
- Get the cheapest excess insurance. At pick-up, hire firms will try to flog "excess insurance" - but it's possible to do it for less than half the cost, via comparison site MoneyMaxim* then try our discount codes.
The earlier you book car hire, the more you'll usually save.
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, giving you essential info 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.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Keep your tyres inflated Efficiency improvement: Up to 3%.
Lower tyre pressure increases the drag on a car meaning you need more fuel, so regularly check the pressures are correct.
Declutter your car Efficiency improvement: Up to 2%.
The lighter your car is, the less effort it needs to accelerate. So declutter: clear junk from the boot, and ditch unnecessary weight.
Take your roof rack off Efficiency improvement: Up to 10%.
A roof rack adds massive wind resistance, increasing drag and making the engine work harder. Don't need it? Remove it.
Turn off air conditioning at lower speeds Efficiency improvement: Up to 10%.
Air con uses an incredible amount of fuel, so turn it off unless really needed. The general consensus is it's more efficient to drive with the windows down and the air con off at lower speeds, but at higher speeds it's better to use the air con and keep windows up due to the extra drag caused.
Don't fill it up Efficiency improvement: Up to 1%.
Fuel's heavy, so by filling up you're adding weight. The less fuel your car holds, the more efficiently it drives. Filling up slightly more often and putting less in (1/2 or 3/4-full) will make it more efficient.
Thanks to the RAC for efficiency data. See Make Your Car More Efficient for more.
Smoking in the car with under-18s could land you with a £50 fine
If you're a smoker, then you need to be aware of a new law. Since 1 Oct 2015, anyone in England and Wales, whether a driver or passenger, who smokes in a private vehicle with someone aged 17 or under inside could face a fine.
If caught, the person smoking faces a £50 fine - and if they're a passenger, the driver will be fined £50 too. This is quite apart from the fact smoking is both extremely unhealthy and mega expensive (see our Stop Smoking guide).
The Scottish Government has passed a similar law which could see drivers fined £100, which is due to come into force later this year, there are plans to introduce the ban in Northern Ireland too.
The law also applies to caravans, motorhomes and campervans when they are being used as a vehicle with the engine on, but not when they are being used as accommodation.
What if I am 16 or 17?
You can smoke if you're 16 (though you can only buy cigarettes if you're at least 18). If under 18 and driving alone, you won't be fined for smoking. If driving with others aged 17 or under, you will be fined.
If you're a passenger under 18 and smoking, both you and the driver could be fined (even if the driver’s also under 18).
What if the windows are open?
It doesn't matter. The law applies even if you have the windows and sunroof open, the air conditioning on, whatever.
What if I'm in a convertible?
You are exempt from these rules if the top is down and fully reclined.
What if the engine is off?
Even if the engine is off, whether the doors are open or not, you could still be fined.
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.
The offers are usually something like "spend £50 and get a 5p off/litre voucher". Past discounts have included 12p off/litre with a single voucher.
Get car parts yourself
If you don't mind putting in 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.
Then get its exact details, including name, type and size, to see if you can buy it yourself for less. Forumites recommend eBay* for cheap car parts, as well as calling independent suppliers and motor factors and comparing prices online. Amazon's car and motorbike* section's also worth a look. A few forum success stories for inspiration:
My 2001 Ford Focus only came with one working remote key. I bought two fobs from eBay for £20 each and got a locksmith to supply and cut new blades and programme the remotes. Total cost was £140 for two new keys, as opposed to £200+ quoted from a Ford dealer.
Is your car still under warranty? If so, the AA's told us in most cases repairs will be carried out for free. But if you choose to have the car serviced outside the dealer network, the garage must use parts that match the original specification to avoid invalidating the warranty.
My car needs new CV joints. Quote including labour is £945.41. After my eyes stopped watering, I told them I'd get back to them after I'd had a look for a better price. I've just gone to a local independent and got a quote of £150-180 all in. I'll be saving nearly £800.
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.
Those with a record for driving well are likely to help make bigger savings (if your friend's driving style's more Mr T than Driving Miss Daisy, this probably won't work), but adding anyone that's in a lower risk category can help.
It won't always work, but it's worth playing with quotes to check.
Warning! Don't confuse this with 'fronting', which is illegal. Never add your name as main driver on someone else's car, such as one of your kids', instead of them. This is called 'fronting' and is fraud. When you claim, this'll often be checked out and the insurance will be invalid. It can also lead to prosecution. Don't do it.
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.
Parking tickets aren't just irritating, they're hideously expensive. Plus, they may take months to reverse, so arm yourself with the myth-busting Top Five Parking Facts (if you know others who often get ticketed, pass 'em on):
There's no standard 'single yellow' parking restriction. You can sometimes park on a single red or yellow line, but there aren't standardised times. Always check the road signs.
Watch your wheels. Ensure your car's completely within any defined spot, such as a residents' or pay-and-display bay. If one wheel's outside, you risk a ticket.
Proudly display your permit or ticket. If you've a special permit (such as a residents' or disabled permit), a warden must be able to clearly read it otherwise you'll often get a ticket. The same goes for pay-and-display tickets.
Bank holiday rules vary by council. Many wrongly assume they can park anywhere on bank hols. Some councils allow parking in residents' bays or on a yellow line, others won't. There's no hard and fast rule; if unsure, don't do it.
Beware EVERYTHING in private car parks. Rules change on private land or in private car parks – whether at supermarkets, hospitals or elsewhere. You can be asked to pay huge amounts without reason, so check signs and be cautious.
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.
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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.
Here's a quick tip, but you can find more, plus the list of the big parking sites to try and what to watch out for, in the Rent Your Parking Space guide.
Quickly find what yours is worth. To get an idea of what you might be able to make, clever online tools can give quick estimates. You can see what those nearby are charging for long-term stays (eg, a month) with Park Let’s price guide tool, or for short-term stays (eg, a day), try the tool on Just Park*.
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.If a ticket's slapped on your windscreen and you think it's unfair (eg, no signage), like any invoice, reply explaining why and that you won't pay. It may huff and puff, yet they can't "hit your credit record" or "send bailiffs" without the time and expense of court action. If they do push that and the ticket's truly unfair, the court will wipe it anyway.
With 177 of the biggest firms you can also appeal to an independent body - 49% of the 65,000 motorists who tried between October 2012 and July last year succeeded. Find full info in our Fight Unfair Private Parking Tickets guide.
Tips to 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.
To measure, use the quick 20p tyre test detailed on the TyreSafe website. Pop a 20p coin on its edge into the main grooves of the tyre tread. If the outer rim of the coin is hidden, your tyres are legal. If you can see it, get them changed.
Don't just go for the first quote you get. You can make big savings by ringing round local garages for the cheapest quote on the ones you want, then see if you can lower the price further by haggling it down.
This can make a big difference to the price, particularly if you're replacing more than one tyre. Here are a couple of success stories from the forums for inspiration:
I rang around and then asked Kwik Fit to price match - got my two tyres down from £165 per tyre to £128 fitted, tracked and balanced.
I went to them with a price for just supplying tyres. They came back and beat the price, including fitting, balancing and tracking.
Should I get premium tyres? The AA's told us a driver changing all four tyres for AA-grade tyres, doing 9,000 miles a year with a fuel consumption of 30mpg, could save about £130 on fuel a year. However, as AA-grade tyres are generally pricier, weigh up any extra cost carefully before shelling out.
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.
How does it work? Spend Tesco Clubcard vouchers on goods or services listed in its Clubcard Boost brochure and you get back up to four times their face value.
Which policies can I get? One of the deals offered is an RAC roadside recovery policy, meaning you can sometimes get it at about a third of the high street cost. Not all the usual packages are available - see the Tesco Clubcard RAC table for the range on offer.
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.
You can get a protected no-claims discount so claims don't impact the discount. Some schemes also offer an accelerated no-claims bonus, eg, giving a year's bonus after 10 months, such as Admiral's* Bonus Accelerator. See Protect Your No Claims Bonus.
Beware price rises. Remember, if you have an accident, even if you don't claim, in order to keep your no-claims discount, you should report it or risk invalidating your insurance.
As a result, the price of the policy can still rise. Having a discount is one thing, but if you're seen as more of a risk (which happens when you have an accident) the price is still likely to rise, because this is a separate calculation insurers make when determining costs.
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, look out for 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.
This isn't about claiming you're a lollipop lady when you work as a stunt driver. But done responsibly, this can really help to lower your policy cost.
To help, we've built a fun Car Insurance Job Picker tool to show the riskiest jobs and see if small tweaks to your job description could save cash. For example, someone paying £500 a year for car insurance listed as 'builder' could knock off around £30 by tweaking it to 'contractor'.
Shockingly, those listed as unemployed are sometimes charged over five times more for their insurance than those in work. See the full MSE News investigation.
When considering using a different title, always imagine asking a reasonable person who knows what you do for a living. Would they say it's reasonable for you to describe yourself this way?
Don't be tempted to lie when getting car cover
With insurance, remember the golden rule:
Tell them the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.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.
Here are some basic rules to remember:
- Avoid parking near the top of a hill, otherwise you may not be seen by approaching vehicles.
- Never park on a bend, for the same reasons.
- Make sure you're not on a clearway or red route. If you can't see a sign, or simply weren't looking for one, this generally means you can't park on busy roads. So stick with residential streets, or roads where many other cars are parked.
- Don't park within 10 metres of a junction.
- Don't park where the kerb's been lowered to allow vehicles to access a driveway.
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.
Get a test in the month before the current certificate ends and the new one will expire exactly a year from the original's end date (the earliest date you can do this is printed on your test certificate).
But get it tested more than a month before the MOT's due and it'll expire exactly a year later, meaning you lose out.
Always book tests in advance if your certificate's run out. If your car's out of certification, you can drive it to the test centre provided the test's been booked. Plus, if it's failed the test, to get the problems fixed you're allowed to go from the test station to a repair centre. The vehicle still must meet a certain standard of roadworthiness, otherwise you can be fined. See Cheap MOTs for more.
To get a reminder six weeks before your test's due, use
the free Tart Alert tool.
Grab breakdown cover for £21 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.
You'll also find full info on the different types of policies to make sure you choose the right cover, as well as specialist policies, safety tips and more.
Know where to look and you can often get a basic policy for £21 after cashback, or full service cover for £42.
Buying a motor? Slash the cost of financing it
If you're in the market for a set of wheels, first check out our 20 Tips for Buying a Used Car and 20 Tips for Buying a New Car guides.
Whether a new or used runaround, saving up for it's best. Yet if you need to borrow, budget to ensure affordable repayments, don't overcommit and do it the cheapest way. For help, see our Cheap Personal Car Loans and Buying a Car with a Credit Card guides.
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.
Here's a useful basic checklist:
- Car insurance. Most comprehensive or third party, fire and theft policies become third party outside the UK but within the EU (ie, they'll pay if you damage another car but not your own, and no cover if your car's stolen abroad). You may need to notify your insurer of your trip, so check your policy (see Cheap Car Insurance).
- Breakdown cover. Go outside the UK and often your breakdown cover isn't valid. Do a check and if not, you can either upgrade to a European policy or buy special one-off temporary cover (see Cheap Breakdown Cover).
- Do a maintenance check. Do all necessary maintenance before you go, and ensure you've got manuals and the numbers to call if your vehicle breaks down.
- Driving rules. Check the country-by-country overseas driving regulations on the AA website to make sure you're familiar with the local rules before you go.
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.
The Cheap Airport Parking guide has full listings of the latest discounts which can help to hammer down your quote. It also has forum discussions for each airport to help uncover hidden local discounts.
Don't just turn up at the airport. Booking first, even on the day of your flight, could save money.
Consider car hire alternatives
Before you book car hire, don't forget to consider the alternatives. Unnecessary 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.
Go through this checklist first:
- What's the public transport like? In Miami or Los Angeles, everyone needs a car to traverse the huge city distances. But in New York you can't park anywhere, so the subway wins. Many European cities have great public transport links too, so a little research goes a long way.
- How much are taxis? Sometimes car hire's cheaper than just one taxi. A taxi from Malaga airport to Marbella's about €80 each way, yet you can often get car hire for less than £70 a week. So even if you never use it again, it wins. Use international taxi fare calculator Holiday Taxis for a benchmark price.
- Can you take your own car? If off to Europe, this may be an option. All UK car insurance policies automatically provide the minimum cover required by law in the EU, but check if full cover extends to Europe for full protection. It can be cheap to get EU breakdown cover. See Cheap Breakdown Cover.
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.
Big name insurers tend to think motorbike, moped and scooter insurance is risky and steer clear. So smaller companies cover the market instead.
But it's still possible to save £100s on cover, if you know where to look. While many of the methods to save are similar to car insurance, there are a few issues that are specifically for motorbike and scooter cover:
Mileage. If you also drive a car, don’t overpay because you’ve overestimated bike mileage. Many riders don’t use their bike as their main transport, but base their estimated mileage on what they do in their car. The average bike does just 4,000 miles a year.
Age of riders. Insurance costs jump if you're under 30, and more if under 21.
Security. This is a big problem for bike owners. If you keep it indoors or locked to a proper bolt, fixed to your wall, you'll get a cheaper quote. Spending £100s on a lock may not substantially reduce the quote price though, so bear this in mind - and always check if it's a requirement with the insurer.
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 Park Let's price guide tool, which lets you search for guideline UK parking prices on a map. Just drag the area of the map you'd like to park in under the 'X'. You'll only find the best average prices Park Let can offer, so even if the saving's good, use it as a benchmark to beat.
Once armed with Park Let's best price, try comparing Just Park*, Your Parking Space and Park On My Drive. If you're willing to dig a bit more, you could also try Gumtree. See the Cheaper Parking Tips note for full info and safety tips.
Security's a potential downside to parking privately, especially if you've a flashy motor, so always check this out.
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.
It's free to join in, open to all, and has loads of handy tips to help put your fuel usage on a diet to trim up your finances. See the Petrol Diet Discussion to find ideas and share your thoughts.
It's about pain-free, speedy ways to make your car and driving more efficient – and put you back in control of your fuel bill.
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.
The following sites help connect you to others planning the same journey:
Liftshare. Register your details on Liftshare (it says it never uses them for marketing purposes) and enter the journey you'd like to share.
Then check its search results for matching commuters. You can also opt for weekly or monthly emails alerting you to new matches, and it also lets you search for potential matches before registering.
- BlaBlaCar. Founded in France in 2006, BlaBlaCar* came to the UK in 2011 and since joining forces with Carpooling it now has 25 million users across Europe. It lets you search for potential matches without registering, but you'll need to register for free via Facebook or email to contact a driver or offer a lift.
Find full car-share info, safety and insurance tips in the Share Driving note.
Grab free maps, cycle guides, travel mags...
There's a mass of motoring goodies available for free at the click of a mouse. 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.
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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.
Though many of the issues are the same as for car owners, there are important issues that are specific to vans. There's a full list and cost-cutting system in the Cheap Van Insurance guide - here's a taster:
- Business or pleasure? If using a van for your business, make sure the policy covers business use, not just social and domestic.
- Speedy repairs. If your van's damaged or stolen, it may be out of action which could hit your livelihood. If so, look for a policy that repairs or replaces quickly.
- Contents. Vans' lack of windows make them more attractive to thieves. Check policies before buying to make sure anything left inside overnight is covered.
- Breakdowns. Most vans are heavily-used, increasing the chances of breakdowns. Some policies include breakdown cover, but separate cover's often cheaper.
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.
The Cheap Train Tickets guide is crammed with tips on getting standard rail travel for less, from split ticketing to the full list of railcard discounts, plus how to use Tesco vouchers to get cheap tickets.
Train and bus companies often discount heavily with regular sales to fill seats. Deals have included £1 UK train and bus tickets, and London to Scotland for under £20. See Cheap Trains & Coaches for the latest.
Cheap train and coach ticket offers go quick. To hear about them as soon as they're released, sign up to the free weekly email.
Alternatively, get your skates on (or your trainers, rollerblades or unicycle) if it's a short journey. Going by foot's a far healthier alternative, and it's MoneySaving too.
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?
Think how much you would get from selling it, how much you'd save on insurance, tax, fuel and repairs compared to the cost of getting public transport.
Not only would it save you money, you'd be doing your bit for the environment. See some of the forum discussions for other people's experiences of selling their motor.
How to buy cheap tyres
You can save a lot on new tyres by shopping around.
Online tyre prices. Buying and fitting new tyres in a garage is less hassle but may cost you more. It’s often cheaper to buy tyres online.
Tyre-shopper.co.uk and Blackcircles.com are liked by MoneySavers but always check a few websites before parting with your cash. Tyrequote.com compares prices and local garages and is a good tool for researching the market.
Enter the tyre width, diameter and load rating (from the car’s manufacturer handbook) to work out the cost. This is more accurate than relying on automatic results from your registration number.
- Delivery. Remember to factor in the price of getting the tyres delivered, fitted and balanced at a garage.
- Tyre quality. Before you buy, check the quality of the tyre on a website such as tyrereviews.co.uk. It lists all published tyre tests and will give you a good idea of how the tyres you’re buying stack up.
Give your local independent a try, if he's like me he will try his damndest to compete and will not try to sting you with 'extras' you don’t need.
Learn DIY car maintenance
Ever fancied yourself a dab hand under the bonnet? Well, why pay for basic repairs and car maintenance when you could do them yourself? The time and effort spent learning how to fix and look after your car could also prevent more serious problems happening down the line, saving you even more dosh.
Of course, if you're ever in doubt then seek professional advice, but if you're keen to learn for yourself then check with your local council, as well as nearby colleges, to see if they are running any cheap car maintenance courses. For instance, City of Westminster College runs a 10-week evening course in DIY Car Maintenance three times a year for £360. Use Hotcourses to find lessons in your area.
You can also search online for tips, information and guides on how to look after your motor. The Useful Motoring Websites forum thread has a long list of helpful sites to visit, while the Car Maintenance Tips thread has a huge amount of information on fixing common car complaints.
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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