Rebecca | Edited by Steve N
Updated May 2018
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 55 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 someone else's 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.
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 a year's fully comprehensive cover for £290, compared with £406 for third party. It isn't a hard and fast rule, but always make sure you get quotes for third party and fully comprehensive. Remember that with third party, you and your car aren't covered for loss or damage.
To get quotes at speed, combine comparison sites MoneySupermarket*, Confused.com*, Compare The Market* and Gocompare*, then check Aviva* and Direct Line* 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 petrol and diesel
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 credit cards pay a percentage whenever you spend on them, which soon adds up. The American Express Platinum Cashback Everyday* card pays 5% introductory cashback for the first three months on all spending (including petrol and diesel) up to £2,000 (so £100 cashback).
After the introductory period the cashback is tiered: if you spend £0 to £5,000 you get 0.5% cashback, and all spending above £5,001 attracts the full 1% 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 our Cashback Credit Cards guide.
There are lots more neat ways to save too see the Cheap Petrol & Diesel guide for full info.
Check photo licence expiry or risk £1k fine
Photocard licences came into force in 1998. More than 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 details of how to renew it.
You can be fined up to £1,000 if you drive while your photocard's expired. Yet it's just £14 to renew online, £17 by post or £21.50 at a post office 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).
DON'T risk losing your car. Is it one of 750,000 untaxed vehicles?
Paper tax discs were scrapped in October 2014. But while you no longer need to display one, you DO still have to tax your vehicle. If you don't, you could face a fine of up to £1,000 and have to pay back tax. What's more, your car could be clamped, or even impounded in which case you'll be charged a £200 release fee, plus an extra £21 a day until you pay it.
Recent figures show since paper discs were abolished, the number of untaxed vehicles on the road has tripled to 755,000, despite the police deploying cameras with number plate recognition technology to spot untaxed vehicles. According to the RAC, drivers are forgetting to tax their vehicles because they no longer have the visual reminder of tax discs even though they should receive a reminder two weeks before renewal is due or they're simply more prepared to risk it.
- How to check you've paid your road tax. Road tax is recorded online. To check if your vehicle or anyone else's is taxed, go to the Gov.uk website and enter the registration number.
- Paying annually is cheapest, and with direct debit you won't forget to renew. Road tax renewal usually costs between £20 and £535 a year, depending on your vehicle's age, its CO2 emissions and your personal circumstances (see full list of rates).
Payments can be made via Gov.uk, or at the Post Office. Here are your options:
- You can pay by annual direct debit. Or for a 5% surcharge, you can pay by six-monthly or monthly direct debit.
- You can make a one-off payment instead. This can be for the year or for a 10% surcharge, for six months. If you do this, make sure you renew on time.
- Even if your vehicle's tax-exempt, you still have to apply. If you have a disability exemption, a disabled passenger vehicle, a vehicle made before 1 January 1977, an electric car, mobility scooter, steam vehicle or one used for agriculture, horticulture or forestry, you pay zero vehicle tax. Yet bizarrely you do still have to apply for it. See Gov.uk for full details.
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 on search engines dressed up as official agencies. They let you unnecessarily fill in vehicle tax applications through them, slipping in their own hefty charges on top sometimes 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 in failing you.
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.
The Cheap Council MOTs guide includes a huge list of test centres to give your vehicle the best chance of passing.
The MOT rules are changing. From 20 May, if a 'dangerous' fault - eg, insufficient tyre tread, contaminated brake fluid - is found with your car, you won't be able to drive it away until it's been fixed. If you go to a council test centre which doesn't do repairs, your only option will be to have it towed. For full info, see MOT rule changes.
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 it 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 to 22-year-old is over £1,400/yr. But there are simple ways to save.
The Young Drivers' 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 and 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 (see 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 showed haggling success rates are huge. 90% of AA customers and 87% 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 our drive more efficiently tips 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 our DIY MOT guide 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, dipped headlights, 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.
More than 50% of those 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. 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 a 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 and get 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. But legally, cars must be insured unless they've been declared off-the-road with a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) or they've been untaxed and without a SORN 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. Remember six weeks before renewal and check for the best deal. See the Cheap Car Insurance guide.
Driving to France? Check if you need this sticker to avoid £60+ fine
If you're driving through Paris, Lille, Lyon or Grenoble, new rules mean you're likely to need an emissions sticker to avoid risking a £60+ fine.
The four cities have introduced the Crit'Air scheme to tackle pollution, which means if you're driving through certain environmental zones during restricted times (which can be subject to change depending on that day's pollution) you'll have to have a sticker on your window.
The stickers cost 4.80 (about £4.25) and are colour-coded depending on emissions, but some vehicles are excluded from the scheme and so can't be driven where there are restrictions, including cars registered before 1997, motorbikes and scooters registered before June 2000 and trucks and buses registered before 2001.
Here's how to apply for the sticker (known as a vignette):
- Check your emissions on the RAC website.
- Go to the French Environment Ministry website to see which sticker/vignette you can apply for. Only use this official site, don't get caught out by a copycat site which is likely to charge more.
- Fill in the online order form you'll need your licence plate number, date of first registration, fuel and vehicle type, serial number (VIN) and a digital copy of your vehicle registration documents. You can only pay by debit card).
This is the only way to apply for a sticker you can't apply once you're in France. It should arrive within 10 days but it's best to apply well before you travel to be safe. See the Driving to France? MSE News story for more info.
Lock in today's car insurance prices to beat further hikes even if you're not at renewal
The cost of car insurance is now 10% higher than a year ago. 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 quotes at speed, combine comparison sites MoneySupermarket*, Confused.com*, Compare the Market* and Gocompare*, then check Aviva* and Direct Line*, 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* give quotes valid for 60 days, More Than* for 45 days so lock in a quote now before prices rise further, then check if it's still cheapest in two months' time. See our lock-in 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 though), locking in today's price. See full switching mid-year help.
Breakdowns are inevitably more common in winter, so it's worth being prepared. Our Cheap Breakdown Cover guide has full info on insurance, but preventing a breakdown 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 (TyreSafe has more on how to do this).
- Stop doors sticking with Vaseline. A thin coat of furniture polish or Vaseline on rubber door seals should stop them sticking.
- Make sure your car is stocked up with essentials. For example: a torch and spare batteries, first aid kit, warm blanket, mobile phone charger, granny in a glove box, 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. The Car clubs cost-cutting forum thread features feedback 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 thread.
Car club advantages
- Clear costs. Car clubs make costs more visible. Hire a car for a day and you will instantly know how much it's costing you, 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, tax or insurance. It's also handy if you want to drive around in a flashy car.
- Flexibility. Unlike standard car hire, car club cars are 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, use charity Car Plus's useful searchable map.
- Beware late fees. Returning cars 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 hire a car conventionally, 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 Check if you need an extra permit advice 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 and 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* and checking for special discounts.
The earlier you book a hire car, the more likely you are to save money.
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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 the efficiency data. See Make your Car More Fuel-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 the law. Since October 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).
This also applies to caravans, motorhomes and campervans when they're being used as a vehicle with the engine on, but not when they're being used as accommodation.
The Scottish Government passed a similar law which means drivers can be fined £100, which came in in December 2016, and Northern Ireland Assembly members have also voted to introduce a ban, although there is no set start date yet.
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 you're under 18 and driving alone, you won't be fined for smoking. If driving with others aged 17 or under, you'll be fined.
If you're a passenger under 18 and you're 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 open, the 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 and the doors are open, 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 though), 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.
Get the exact details, including name, type and size, and see if you can buy it yourself for less. Forumites recommend eBay* for cheap car parts, as well as calling suppliers and factories and comparing prices online the Amazon* car and motorbike section's worth a look. Here are 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 reduce the cost.
Those with a record for driving well are likely to help make bigger savings (so if your friend's driving is 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'. This is called 'fronting' and it's fraud. When you claim, this'll often be checked out and the insurance will be invalid if you're caught. 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 How to 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 mythbusting Five parking facts everyone should know (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 & Diesel guide's also full to the brim with ways to save, including a tool that quickly shows you the cheapest price to aim for in your area.
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Dodge pricey service stations by using off-motorway alternatives
As they've a captive audience, motorway services are rarely MoneySaving. Knowing drivers are unlikely to leave the motorway, they often charge a premium for food, drink, fuel and even parking. To show how bad it can be, we've spotted unleaded costing 12p/litre more than the UK average but it can be even worse while MSE Jo recently paid almost £9 for a 24-pack of nappies, usually costing £5.
However, by using the website JustOffJunction, you can go off-piste in confidence. The site lists 5,000 places to eat, rehydrate, sleep and refuel that are just off motorway junctions, where it's all likely to be cheaper.
While we haven't been able to check every recommendation, those we have are up-to-date. The site could be tricky to use on a phone, so is best used at home when planning your journey. It's a new site for us so if you've any feedback on it please let us know.
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 a 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 ParkLet's price guide tool.
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), as with any invoice, get in touch explaining why it's unfair and say that you won't pay. The issuer 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 some of the biggest firms you can also appeal to an independent body 37% of 40,604 cases between September 2015 and July 2016 were won by motorists. Find full info in our Fight Unfair Private Parking Tickets guide.
How to check if your tyres are safe
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.
Haggle down the cost of tyres
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's a success story 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.
Can I save buying online?
As well as haggling, you can also save on tyres by putting in some leg work online. It's not for everyone, but if you're happy you understand the measurements you could give this a try.
- 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.
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 Why do No Claims Discounts Need to be Protected?.
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, otherwise you 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 Top 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 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. Stick with residential streets, or roads where a lot of 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, gateway or other opening.
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 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 current 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 fails the test, to get the problems fixed you're allowed to drive it from the test station to a repair centre. However, the vehicle still must meet a certain standard of roadworthiness, otherwise you can be fined. See the Cheap MOTs guide for more.
To get a reminder one month before your test's due, use the free Gov.uk MOT reminders 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 Cover 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 get a basic policy for £21 after cashback, or fully comp cover for £43.
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, plan a 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 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 or taking your own car can work out cheaper, depending on the destination.
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 so you know whether you have complete 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.
Some big name insurers tend to think motorbike, moped and scooter insurance is risky and steer clear. So lesser-known 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.
- 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 ParkLet'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 ParkLet can offer, so even if the saving's good, use it as a benchmark to beat.
Once armed with ParkLet's best price, compare it with those on Just Park*, Your Parking Space and Park On My Drive. If you're willing to do a bit more digging about, you could also try Gumtree. See Find a cheaper space and halve parking costs 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.
Turn your phone into a free sat-nav to avoid traffic and save
If you're driving a long way or even if it's a route you know well it's worth using a sat-nav.
Obviously, a sat-nav can stop you getting lost, but it can help you even if you know where you're going. How? Because most sat-navs give you real-time updates, meaning you can avoid traffic jams, roadworks, accidents, fugitive sheep etc. And that can mean less time on the road, which means you're burning less fuel and making fewer costly service station stops. Plus if you've kids, crucially it means less "Are we there yet?"
You don't actually need to buy a sat-nav to do this though if you've a smartphone, there are loads of free apps you can download to turn it into one. The best of these include Google Maps (Android, iOS), Here WeGo (Android, iOS) and Waze (Android, iOS) all of which include real-time traffic updates.
Just be aware that using a sat-nav app on your phone while in the car will eat into your mobile data. Make sure you have enough or you could be automatically charged for more see Mobile Warnings for full info. Also, remember it's illegal to use a mobile while driving get a phone holder if you're going to use yours as a sat-nav, or risk a fine of up to £1,000.
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 you reduce your fuel usage and so spend less. See the Petrol/Diesel Cost Diet Challenge 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 30 million members 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 Sharing the Driving section of the Cheap Petrol & Diesel guide.
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 section of the Freebies, Freebies, Freebies guide for goodies including maps, practice theory tests and car stickers.
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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 used a lot, increasing the chances breakdown. 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 even further.
The Cheap Train Tickets guide is crammed with tips on getting standard rail travel for less, from finding split tickets to railcard discounts, plus how to use Tesco Clubcard points 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 Train & Coach Deals 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 cut the cost of learning to drive, find free car journey games or tips on buying 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 the forum discussion on other people's experiences of selling their motor.
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 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're 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 £399. 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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