How to spend less on motoring

Updated on 17 July 2014

Fuel-saving tips and cheaper car running advice to help you save money on your motoring.

Cut your fuel costs

Pay as little as you can

There's obviously no point in driving for miles to save a few pence - so sign up with a company like It can email you a list of the five, cheapest filling stations (and the prices of petrol and diesel at each) in your local vicinity - you might be surprised how much the prices can vary.

Ditch the extra weight

A 100kg load can reduce mileage by up to 5 miles per gallon.

So remove roof racks when not using them, empty the book of unnecessary items and enjoy driving a more streamlined and efficient car!

Perform some basic maintenance

When was the last time you checked your own tyre pressures, oil level and coolant? A well maintained car is more fuel efficient - keep on top of these little jobs and not only will your vehicle be more reliable, it'll use less fuel too.

Under-inflated tyres can add up to 3% to your fuel bill; they'll wear down more quickly and could actually be dangerous, too.

Try hyper-miling

"Hyper-miling" means altering the way you drive. And a lot of it is sensible stuff - accelerating smoothly, don't speed, slow down gradually and aim to get as many miles to the gallon as possible.

Hyper-milers recommend parking up a slight hill if possible so you can simply roll back to get out (termed "potential parking").

They also recommend cars are maintained with fuel efficiency in mind so air filters are changed very frequently (dirty ones can cut mileage by 10%).

Keep an eye out for supermarket offers

Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco regularly run promotions where you can save 5p/litre of fuel, provided you spend £50 in store.

Pay with a cashback card

If you know you can cover the cost of your fuel in full, use a cashback credit card wherever possible. This will ensure you get cashback on all the fuel purchases you make. It's like getting a discount on the fuel - wherever you get it from!

Cut the cost of your car insurance

Shop around

Plug your details into an online comparison tool and you can apply for quotes from twenty or thirty insurers at once - now that really does save time. And as the AA reckons shopping around can shave £225 off the average comprehensive policy, it could save you a fair bit of money, too.

Start looking for quotes early, and get three or four. Don't assume that, as your insurer seemed cheap last time, it will be again next time. This is the easiest way to get ripped off.

Keep your initial quotes to yourself

Don't initially tell any of the insurers or brokers what your other quotes are. It's common practice in the car insurance industry not to offer the best price, but simply to beat the competition. Then, once you've got a quote you're happy with, go back to your favourite insurer and ask them to beat it.

Make your car more secure

The safer the location of your car, the lower your premium will be. So if you have a driveway, use it and state this on your form - don't just park your car on the road. Similarly, use your garage if you have one - you'll reduce the risk of theft that way. Adding an immobiliser, alarm and tracker to your car will also reduce the chance of it being stolen and therefore bring your premium down.

Word your occupation carefully

Believe it or not, your occupation can affect your car insurance premium. Unfortunately, certain occupations attract higher premiums than others. So if you're a journalist or estate agent, for example, you're likely to pay more because people in these professions generally claim more and are classed as 'higher risk'.

However, if you're in this higher risk category, simply altering the wording of your job description can help to bring the price down. But make sure you don't say anything completely inaccurate as this could jeopardise any claim you make.

Pay the premium in full, upfront

While insurers offer us the chance to pay our premium in monthly instalments over a year, they don't do so for free.

Read the small print carefully and you'll see that most charge for the privilege - and an APR of 30% is not uncommon. That's almost twice as much as it costs to borrow on a typical credit card! Ouch...

Check with your insurer about monthly payments and if he charges, pay upfront. If you don't have enough money in savings and are sensible, a 0% card for new purchases can help you spread the cost.

And forewarned is forearmed - open a dedicated savings account for next year's car insurance premium and start stashing £20 away a month - and this time next year you'll have £240+ to cover that bill.

Pick the right type of insurance

Pick the wrong type of insurance and you'll pay hundreds of pounds more than you should.

1) If you're a young or infrequent driver, a 'pay as you drive' policy could slash your car insurance bill. Pay-as-you-drive insurers will fit a device to your car which measures how much you drive. You the pay a certain amount per mile for your insurance, as well as a set monthly fee.

You will pay more per mile during peak times than off-peak times. It's often the cheapest option for young motorists who are willing to forego night-time driving and it can also work out cheaper for infrequent drivers.

2)  If you want a comprehensive policy, look very carefully at the small print. The best quality comprehensive car insurance policies will provide a like-for-like courtesy car for you to drive while yours is being repaired. But some policies will only provide Category A cars (typically small hatchbacks with manual gears - not much use if you need a family car or can only drive an automatic). Others will force you to pay extra for courtesy car cover.

Similarly, comprehensive car insurance should include legal assistance to help you recover any losses in the event of a dispute or if you have a problem with an uninsured driver. The best policies provide £100,000 of cover. Comprehensive cover should also mean you'll be legally insured to drive anyone else's car with their profession. And look out for extra benefits, like lifetime guarantees on repair and paintwork and breakdown assistance. 

3) If your car isn't worth much, savings can be made by opting for third party, fire and theft cover only -- as opposed to fully comprehensive insurance. Increasing the excess will also reduce the cost.

Adjust your driving technique

Choose the best route

Choosing the route that allows you to drive most efficiently will save you both time and money. Save yourself time and fuel by checking traffic reports from the Highways Agency before you leave. If you can, try to avoid routes where you will be forced to switch gears often at low speeds.

Cut your speed

Every extra 10 miles of speed per hour costs you an extra 4p per mile. The faster you go, the more this will increase - so, on the motorway, be aware you may be spending several pounds to save just a few minutes.

Change the way you drive

Always drive in the correct gear, as driving in a lower gear than you need to wastes fuel. Similarly, change gear at the correct point to put less strain on your engine. Try not to let your engine idle needlessly and switch it off when stationary for long periods.

Avoid sudden braking and accelerating as this can add up to 30% to your fuel bill. So drive smoothly, anticipate the road ahead and slow down gradually for red lights. Use the cruise control when you can, as this helps your car maintain a steady speed. 

Air conditioning can add 10% to your fuel bill, so switch it off if you don't need it - you can always open the air vents instead. But don't open the windows unless necessary as this adds drag to the car (which of course uses more fuel).

Take care when parking

It takes the engine of a typical five-year old car about one and a half minutes to warm up and reach maximum fuel efficiency. So try to reverse into, not out of, a parking space, as you use up 20 to 30 times more fuel reversing when the engine is cool than when you do when the engine is warm. If you reverse out of a parking space an average of 10 times a week then this additional cost in fuel adds up to around £2 around a week or £104 a year. Finally, only park in the shade on a hot day. This not only reduces the need for air conditioning when you get in the car, but it means less of your petrol will evaporate.


Avoid expensive repair bills

Maintain your car well

Check your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure once a week and before every long journey. Check your oil, coolant, windscreen washer liquid and your battery charge at the same time, and make sure your cooling fan switches on when the engine is hot. Check the brake fluid once a month. Use the handbrake regularly as this will make your brakes last longer. Change your air filer regularly and rotate your tyres diagonally twice a year or once every 6,000 miles. Every 50,000 miles, replace the timing belt and check the transmission fluid of an automatic car every 12,000 miles. Get it serviced regularly.

Cut your MOT and servicing costs

Shop around - the labour rate per hour is likely to be lower in an independent garage. Ask your friends and family for recommendations and consider taking your car to a government MOT test centre provided by your local council. You may find the cost of your MOT is cheaper here. For further tips, read Drivers: Cut the cost of your MOT.

Alternatively, use your Clubcard points – every £5 is worth £15 at a Nationwide Autocentre garage.

Learn basic mechanics

Some jobs require an expert, but some – such as changing a windscreen wiper or a fuse – do not. Haynes manuals like these talk you through the basics, or you could post a question on this internet group devoted entirely to UK maintenance discussions. Shop around and search for used car parts online to make sure you’re getting the best price.

Switch to an eco-friendly fuel

Be more environmentally friendly and save money at the same time by switching to either bio-diesel or LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas).

Switch to bio-diesel

Bio-disel emits 80% less CO2, only costs about 15p a litre to make and can be used in most diesel cars (but check the handbook to be on the safe side). Anyone can learn how to make it - it can even be made from converted chip fat! - but it’s much safer to buy it instead.

Switch to LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas)

Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) or Autogas is another 'green' alternative to the traditional petrol or diesel engine.

By far the biggest benefit to converting your car is that fuel typically costs about half the price of standard petrol, and less than half the price of diesel. You either buy a new car which uses LPG, or convert your existing car.

In order to convert your car, you will need to take it to a professional who will fit a second, independent fuel system with its own tank to the car, often in the space where your spare tyre would sit.

Once the conversion has taken place, you need to inform both your insurer and the DVLA that you have made the changes (your insurance premiums should not increase, provided it is fitted by an LPGA approved installer). You are then free to drive round, paying around half the price of your petrol compatriots.

And, as LPG is considered a ‘green’ fuel, if you drive in the capital you will also be exempt from the London Congestion Charge.

If you’re worried about the availability of LPG fuel, refuelling spots are becoming more common, though in some places they are still hard to come by.

Money saving site will tell you the nearest stations supplying LPG fuel in your area. Simply register, tell it how far you’re willing to travel and it will inform you of the cheapest refuelling spots where you live.

In addition, The LPG association website has a list of authorised retailers approved to convert your car, together with some handy hints if you’re considering changing over to LPG. For a great introductory guide, click on ‘Contents’, ‘Consumer Information’ and the ‘Switch to LPG’ guide.


Be the first to comment

Do you want to comment on this article? You need to be signed in for this feature

Copyright © All rights reserved.