Photo: “Education Save Money” by Chris Potter
With petrol prices and car insurance soaring, minimising the other costs associated with running a car is essential. Here are 12 easy ways you can save.
There can be little doubt that running a car is becoming more and more expensive, with insurance and petrol prices in particular hitting your wallet hard.
However, there are some simple steps you can take to make motoring that little bit more affordable and to keep your car running smoothly. Here are 12 simple things you can do to lower the cost of keeping your car on the road:
1. Find a reliable local garage
In general, a local independent garage will be cheaper than a mass dealership with franchises across the UK so it makes sense to go local if you can.
The key is finding a local garage that you can trust so getting recommendations from friends is a must.
If you try a garage for the first time and are presented with a long list of work that needs doing then there is no reason that you can’t take it to be checked at another centre for a second opinion.
This benefits you in two ways, firstly you will know if the first garage is trustworthy but it also gives you the opportunity to compare the price quoted for the work to make sure your getting the best deal.
2. Check your drivers manual
Your driver’s manual is your best friend when it comes to keeping your car running smoothly and cheaply.
Not only does it tell you what your tyre pressures should be and how to tune your car radio but will also give you an idea when major parts will need replacing.
For example the CAM belt often needs replacing at between 70,000-80,000 miles (this will vary depending on the make and model of your car), fail to do so and it can cause fatal damage to your car’s engine if it fails while you’re driving.
Check your manual and make a note of when replaceable parts might need to be changed and consider a pre-emptive trip to your garage to avoid being stranded roadside and landed with a huge repair bill.
3. Keep your service history intact
Although having your car serviced will involve an upfront cost each year, getting your car thoroughly checked on a regular basis will not only preserve its resale value but will also ensure that any potential problems are caught early on and when they will be cheaper to fix.
For newer cars, maintaining a full service history is also often a requirement to keep your warranty valid.
You’ll need to decide whether you want to get your car serviced at an authorised dealership – this often looks better in your car’s logbook so is something worth considering for newer cars – or at a local garage. The latter is likely to be the cheaper option but a dedicated dealership is also likely to be more atune to the kind of faults that occur with the make and model you drive and so better able to recommend preventative steps that wil help keep costs down in the long run.
You should check your car manual to see how often services are recommended – it’s likely to be either after a certain number of miles or a certain period of time.
4. Regularly check your oil, coolant & brake fluid
Arguably the best way to reduce the cost of running a car is to make sure that it needs as little repair work as possible.
Keeping your fluid levels topped up is one way of making sure that everything continues to run smoothly under your car’s bonnet. Fail to keep you oil, coolant and brake fluid at the correct levels and it could end up costing you hundreds of pounds in repair works.
It’s recommended that you check your car’s oil level, using the dipstick under the bonnet, at least once a month to make sure it’s at the correct level.
Coolant & brake fluid don’t need to be checked as frequently but are still important for the smooth running of your car. You should refer to your owner’s manual for instructions on how often and how they need checking.
5. Check the tyre pressure
Keeping your tyres at the right pressure not only saves fuel but can also extend the life of your tyres.
Driving with under inflated tyres will cost you considerably more to get from A to B, simply due to the extra effort & fuel required by your car’s engine to turn the wheels.
Over inflated tyres can be equally expensive but in a different way, as it causes extra wear to the tyre’s tread and reduces their lifespan.
Check your tyres on a regular basis – at least twice a year, ideally once a month and before any long distance journeys – to make sure that they are within the recommended pressure levels.
You should also take the opportunity to check your tyres tread depth at the same time you check the pressure to ensure they are safe for the road – the UK limit is 1.6mm depth over 75% of the tyre surface although you should try to avoid getting to this level before changing tyres.
6. Order replacement tyres online
Replacing your tyres can be a costly undertaking, especially if you rack up the miles commuting to and from work so need a new set on a more frequent basis.
While you should never ignore over worn tyres to save money, you can cut the cost of getting a new set by buying them online rather than visiting your nearest garage on the off chance.
Ordering your tyres in this way also gives you the time to compare the different types of tyre on offer, rather than being pressurised into having the latest F1 tyres fitted to your 3 door hatchback.
Some tyre sites will also give you a quote for fitting at their partner garages; otherwise you can still take tyres to a local garage and pay to get them fitted if you are unsure how to do it. If you’re considering doing this you should compare the total cost of ordering your tyres online plus paying separately for labour compared to purchasing the tyres from the garage that you plan to get to fit them. As ever, you should go with the cheapest option.
7. Get your tracking checked
Ensuring that your car’s tracking – the angles of your wheels- is aligned properly will not only make driving in a straight line that bit easier but will also extend the life of your car’s suspension and the tyres, by encouraging even wear meaning they last longer.
Many garages offer to check you tracking for free, however this can often be a ploy to find other work that needs doing and a way for the garage to drum up business.
Remember, while getting a garage to check your tracking for free is a good way to make sure that your tyres are perfectly aligned, you are under no obligation to agree to any more work suggested by the garage.
Contact your local garages to find out which ones offer this as a free service and make a note to get your tracking checked on a regular basis.
8. Haggle over price
It’s fair to say that many of us balk over the price of car repairs, and are unsure exactly where the money is going.
However, there is nothing to stop you from negotiating a reduction in the price you were initially quoted.
Ask for a breakdown of all the required work and how they have come up with the final cost so you know exactly what’s contributing to the cost.
You should also get several quotes from other garages nearby and use the cheapest quote as a haggling tool to see if the other garages can beat the best price.
For tips on how to negotiate a reduction in price read our guide How to haggle.
9. Book your MOT online with your annual service
If your car is more than 3 years old it will need to have an MOT on a yearly basis to make sure that it is road worthy. However, the cost of an MOT can vary dramatically depending on where you take your car, with prices anywhere from £10 to upwards of £100.
In most cases booking online can save you time and money, as you can search for local garages and compare the different offers available to make sure you get the best deal.
You also need to ensure that the garage you take your car to doesn’t charge for re-testing should your car fail its MOT.
Most garages don’t charge you for a second test as long as the required work is completed on site and within a certain amount of time, however it is always worth checking before booking your test.
You can often make further savings by booking your MOT with your annual service – in some cases you may even get the MOT for free by doing this. Although you should consider your car’s resale value if you are trying to maintain a dealership service history.
10. Source your own car parts
If you find that your car does need some work you can often cut the cost by sourcing the parts needed yourself rather than getting your local garage to do it on your behalf.
Get a full quote – for parts and labour – from nearby garages and then ask for the cost of just fitting the parts alone.
You may then be able to get the parts you need from a local scrap merchant at knock down prices or online from a parts supplier or an auction site.
If you find that you can find the parts cheaper than through a garage, order them yourself and take them to the garage that will fit them to your car for the cheapest price to ask them to fit them for you. Make sure this is cheaper than simply purchasing the parts from the garage before you commit in case they charge more for fitting non-sourced parts.
11. Order your car tax annually
Car tax is an unavoidable expense of motoring; however you will be given two options when it comes to payment – a 6 month tax disc or a 12 month disc.
In the long run paying annually will save you a significant amount, although you should only pay the larger amount if you can afford to do so without going into debt.
You should also always ensure that your tax disc is valid; penalties for driving without a tax disc include a fine of at least £1,000 and the seizure & destruction of your car.
12. Extend your warranty
If you car is approaching the end of its warranty and you don’t want the worry of looming maintenance costs there are several companies that offer extended warranties to car owners concerned about the potential cost of car repairs.
For peace of mind an extended warranty will protect you against the almost unlimited costs of car repairs should something big go wrong. However, like any insurance policy you may end up paying for a service that you never need to use.
Make sure that you thoroughly research your options and compare the terms and conditions of any warranty you’re considering so that you know exactly is included before you buy and the likelihood that you would claim for what is on offer.
Before you buy it’s worth researching the type of faults that commonly occur with the make and model of your vehicle and making sure these are covered by the warranty. You should also check whether issues arrising from wear and tear are covered, whether you’ll need to pay an excess and whether you get to choose which garage does the repairs.
If the warranty company specify the garage you will have to use make sure the amount they’ll pay per hour for labour will cover the actual cost of having work done.
For older cars or those with higher mileage you’ll need to check whether you will need to contribute anything towards the cost of parts and whether new or reconditioned parts will be used to repair your vehicle.
Essentially you need to consider if the peace of mind that an extended warranty policy offers is going to save you money down the line if something does go wrong.
If you do pay out for a warranty make sure you adhere to any servicing and car maintenance requirements so that your claim will be paid when something goes wrong.