If you feel like you’re constantly looking for new ways to save on the cost of motoring, you’re not alone. With rising fuel, insurance and maintenance costs, getting from A to B by car is proving pricier than ever for many drivers in the UK.
To help, we’re looking at some of the ways you can save money on the cost of running a car. These tips fall into three main categories: upkeep and maintenance, insurance and behind-the-scenes savings, and fuel – giving you plenty of scope to make savings.
Use the links below to navigate or read on for the complete guide.
Don’t pay for unnecessary work on your car – have a go yourself and save ££s in maintenance fees. Here, we look at some of the simple fixes and maintenance jobs you can easily carry out yourself, and save plenty of cash in the process.
Change Your Car’s Air Filter in 10 Minutes
If you don’t already change your car’s air filter yourself, this is a great way to save on annual maintenance costs. Most cars need a new filter every year or after 12,000 miles, so the cost of replacing it can add up over the life of the car. By learning how to change a car’s air filter yourself, you can keep costs down — here’s how it’s done:
- Start by popping the bonnet and finding the air filter’s casing – it’s usually in a clipped box near the centre of the engine. If you’re struggling to find it, check the owner’s manual.
- Unscrew the casing and look at how the air filter is positioned inside. This is important so you know which way to put the new one in.
- Slip out the old filter, and insert the new one exactly how the old one was sat. Remember to reseal the casing when you’re done.
Bonus tip: You can extend the life of your current air filter by removing it from the casing and giving it a blast with compressed air to remove dust and debris.
Perform DIY Battery Maintenance
Faulty batteries account for a huge number of breakdowns in the UK each year, yet many of these could be avoided with a little DIY battery maintenance. Batteries may seem complicated but with a little care and know-how, you can keep your battery ticking over happily — potentially saving you hundreds in unexpected repairs.
Have a look at your car’s battery and see if it’s in good condition. Residue on the posts and clamps can lead to a poor connection, which could result in a breakdown and a pricey trip to the garage. Spot any grime on the battery and it could be time to give it a routine clean, something that’s easier than you might think:
- Remove the battery terminals, starting with the negative cable first. If they’re stuck or gunged up, use a flathead screwdriver to pry them loose.
- Using a wire brush, scrub the battery terminals to remove dirt and grime. You might come across DIY tips recommending home remedies such as Coca Cola for cleaning, but we’d recommend using a professional cleaning product instead such as Engine & Parts Degreaser.
- Once you’ve removed all traces of residue, rinse the battery with a little water before drying with a rag. Then, reverse the steps listed above to replace the battery terminals.
Cleaning your car’s battery might sound like a simple tip, but it’s a routine piece of maintenance that could see you save cash further down the line.
Industry experts have traditionally told motorists to change their oil every 3,000 miles, but newer cars and different types of synthetic oil now mean you can drive further between oil changes, especially if you drive carefully and avoid over-exerting the engine.
Considering the average oil change costs around £40, this means motorists must shell out £160-a-year in oil change costs (based on an average of 12,000 miles a year) to keep in-line with the 3,000-mile schedule. By making your car’s oil last another thousand miles or so, you could make a sizeable saving. Just make sure you follow the servicing schedule outlined in the owner’s manual.
Car problems will happen. Flat tyres, minor leaks, worn parts… they’re a part of car ownership. Spotting problems early (by noticing changes in how your car feels, funny noises, or increases in things like fuel consumption) means you’ll be able to fix them before they become major, and likely save some cash. Stock up with emergency repair items – Tyreweld’s a great thing to carry in your car for peace of mind, Bradex is great for when your engine won’t start on a cold morning, and Radweld can help you save money on costly radiator repairs.
Carry Out Simple Car Checks Yourself
It’s always worth having a reminder of some of the DIY car checks you should be doing to save money in the long-term.
Check the fluid levels
Start by checking all the vehicle’s fluid levels, particularly engine oil and coolant/antifreeze, which are both essential to the roadworthiness of your car. Oil reduces the friction of moving parts in the engine, and without it these components would quickly start to wear — causing expensive damage in the process.
Coolant/antifreeze helps to regulate the engine’s temperature in hot and cold conditions, so it’s important to keep it well topped up.
Simply make sure the coolant/antifreeze is between the min and max marker on the reservoir, and use the dipstick to do the same for the engine oil.
Check the Pressure and Condition of Your Tyres
With a complete set of tyres costing anywhere between £300 and £1,000+ depending on the car in question, it pays to look after your current set to avoid shelling out for pricey new rubber.
To make sure tyre issues don’t impact your finances, spend a few minutes every fortnight checking the pressure and condition of your tyres. If they’re under or over-inflated, adjust them to the right PSI as noted in the car’s manual to avoid flat tyres, blowouts or uneven tyre wear.
Also, check the tread depth of each tyre in turn using the 20p test. If there’s a noticeable difference between the front and back tyres, consider rotating them.
Repair Your Own Exhaust
An exhaust which has holes or splits in it can cause you problems, but it doesn’t have to cost you the earth. A faulty exhaust can cause you to waste fuel, or if it gets more serious the fumes can cause damage to other parts. Checking your exhaust for damage can be done at home – just make sure the car hasn’t just been driven or you could end up touching hot parts.
If you do notice any holes or damaged areas, you can fix them yourself on your driveway without any special equipment. All you need is some Gun Gum – it’s easy to apply and dries hard to provide a permanent gas-tight seal. Read more about repairing your exhaust here.
The behind-the-scenes costs of owning a car often have the biggest impact on your wallet, so any way you can make savings is well worth looking into. Below, we’ve put together a few ideas on how to cut costs on that most annoying of car-related overheads: insurance.
Consider Black Box Car Insurance
If you consider yourself a sensible driver and are sick of getting stung by high and unfair insurance premiums, consider black box insurance. This is when a GPS device is fitted to your car so that the insurance company can monitor how you drive, and adjust the price you pay for cover accordingly.
Black box insurance was developed to help new and young drivers escape paying eye-watering insurance fees, but it’s steadily becoming a more popular option for anyone who wants to pay as little as possible for cover. So long as you drive sensibly and within the rules, you can expect great savings by switching to black box car insurance.
Add Experienced Drivers to Your Policy
Rather than charging more to insure another driver on a single policy, insurance companies actually reduce their prices when you add an experienced driver with a clean driving licence and decent no-claims to your policy — especially if their occupation is classed as a ‘pillar of the community’ job (teacher, policeman, civil servant etc.)
Provided you get their permission first, you could stand to save a fortune on the cost of your insurance premium by adding experienced drivers to your policy. Before committing to buy or renew your annual car insurance, experiment by adding different friends and family members to the policy. Just make sure you remain the main driver of the car.
Choose Your Excess Wisely
Spot the term ‘voluntary excess’ on a car insurance application, and it can be tempting to lower this figure to as small a sum as possible. While there are advantages to opting for low voluntary excess, not least that you won’t have much to pay in the event of an accident, you could be shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to saving money on your overall car insurance quote.
By increasing your voluntary excess by as little as £50, you’ll see your quoted insurance prices tumble, meaning more money in your pocket. Work out how much you could afford to pay out, and adjust your voluntary excess accordingly. After all, you may never even need to pay out for damage, meaning you could have made a saving on a year’s insurance policy.
Don’t Leave Buying Car Insurance to the Last Minute
According to Comparethemarket.com, motorists stand to save an average of £240 a year by switching their car insurance three weeks before its scheduled renewal date. This is because car insurance providers know that most drivers leave their insurance renewal until the last minute, and therefore ramp up their prices the closer people come to that all-important renewal date.
By perfectly timing when to renew your car insurance policy, you stand to make a huge saving — so it pays to be organised well in advance.
Paying for fuel may be an unavoidable part of running a car but if you cover a lot of miles, the bill can quickly add up. So, to help keep costs down as much as possible, you need to get savvy about how, when and where you fuel your car. Here are some suggestions.
Don’t Overfill the Tank
If you like to limit your trips to the pump by filling the tank to the brim, be careful not to overfill. Topping up the tank to the nearest round number is something most of us are guilty of doing, but this could actually be wasting money.
Fuel station pumps are equipped with a vapour recovery system, which is designed to stop petrol and diesel vapours escaping into the air when drivers are refuelling. By topping off your car’s fuel tank after the automatic shutoff has triggered, most of the fuel you use will be drawn back into the nozzle, and into the station’s overfill tanks — so you’re effectively squirting your money down the drain.
Not only that, but overfilling the fuel tank can result in excess weight which can in-turn hamper fuel economy, meaning your first few miles after refuelling will be more expensive.
Don’t Use High-Performance Fuels
Most fuel stations now offer high-performance petrol and diesel promising more MPG and greater fuel economy. The truth is, unless you’re driving around in a performance car, there’s no need for performance fuel. Studies show there’s little to no difference in consumption between standard and super fuel when it’s used in a non-performance car, so don’t waste your money.
If you are keen on using high-performance fuels, however, we’d recommend using the stuff every fourth time you top up the tank — opting for normal juice on most occasions, or alternatively use a quality fuel additive as this will give you control over what’s going in your engine.
Find the Cheapest Fuel in Your Area
We’ve all had the frustration of filling up at our local station only to see cheaper fuel advertised a few miles down the road, so it pays to find the cheapest pumps in your area if you spend a lot of time behind the wheel.
By using a free fuel price comparison site like Petrolprices.com, you can easily find the cheapest per-litre price of unleaded and diesel based on your postcode. A few pence here and there might not sound much, but over the course of a year, opting for cheaper fuel stations could save you hundreds in the cost of refuelling your car.
At Holts, we aim to solve your car problems by providing a great range of DIY car maintenance products, trusted by amateurs and professionals alike. To find out more, visit the Holts website.