Cars as we know really are the most money-sucking objects that have ever existed. So I set to work on how I could cut car costs every month on our two cars.
Do you really need a car?
The question I asked myself initially was whether I actually needed a car. Presently yes was the answer, for both me and Mr Budget. If it was possible, within an adequate amount of time, to travel on public transport, I would have done this, but this isn’t an option. If it is for you, it might be worth doing a cost comparison of how much a monthly travel card would be against the full cost of your car.
Buying a Car
I Buy a Good Quality Used Car
I always buy a good quality used car – for me this is something like a BMW – the mileage efficiency is good and the engines can carry on (bless them) for over 250 000 miles if you are lucky.My old bean, for example has just been given a clean bill of health and does 64mpg in the manual. Obviously there have been a lot of lies flying around from car manufacturers recently about emissions and mileage achievable, so check out your information carefully with different sources, before you buy. I check out Which website.
My other car, which is newer, we have bought as a long term thing. It is also a BMW and doesn’t quite do the mileage amounts of the other car, but nevertheless it is efficient. Because it is newer, if we keep it for the next 15-20 years, we don’t have to pay new car costs and the maintenance on a good quality car is usually (fingers crossed!) less.
I Shop Around for Cheap Breakdown Cover and Insurance
Every year, I use comparison websites to sort out both my car insurance and breakdown cover. If you are lucky, your bank account or a credit card could come with breakdown cover, so check this before you buy twice.
In my experience, if I carry on with the same insurer or breakdown cover insurance, they don’t look after their existing customers. As a result, my premiums would go up significantly. I remember one year laughing with Mr Budget, as I showed him the renewal letter for his car insurance – they wanted £300 more a year. We felt slapped in the face, for our loyal custom over the year. LESSON LEARNED – don’t be loyal. Take your business and hard earned cash to a company who will give you a great deal. I use moneysupermarket.com and moneysavingexpert.com to educate myself on the cheapest deals at the time.
Mostly (sometimes I forget or have had no spare cash) I send the car in to the garage, when it is due for a service. This means that the machine will be running at its optimum constantly and avoids unnecessary wear and tear from neglect.
In terms of tyres I buy slightly better than the cheapest. The cheapest, I find, don’t last very long, so you end up buying twice. Most garages will let you swap the tyres around periodically – this also ensures that tyres last longer, as they are getting equal wear on each side. Also I get my tracking and alignment sorted, so that tyre wear is also minimal. If the wheel is out of line by say only 2mm, it is amazing how much force put on the wheel when it is driving forward. So this causes friction on the tyres – yes I know – yawn – but all this is impacting your pocket. My garage do this for free, because my car recently had its suspension arm replaced. It may be worth asking if this is free at your local garage, if they have already carried out repair work that is related.
A biggie next would be tyre pressures – I check tyre pressures every week. Most local supermarkets and filling stations have air pressure machines that check the pressures and refill the tyres. You will find details of the correct tyre pressures in your car’s manual, or sometimes they are printed on the driver’s door. Mine is on a metal badge inside the door frame. I adjust the tyre pressures to whatever weight I am carrying at the time. Tyre pressure is a massive factor in your car’s fuel efficiency, as tyres that are not fully inflated cause friction against the road surface. As a result, the car needs more power to drive itself forward. With my car for example, I can see an improvement of 15mpg if the tyres are correctly inflated.
Check oil levels
Machine parts don’t work well without oil right? I had to self-educate to do this, but now I check my oil levels once a week, when I am checking my tyres. Once you are in a routine, it’s so easy! This also improves the mpg.
In your manual, it will describe how to check the oil. My car still has a manual dipstick and need to be run for 5-10 minutes before a check can be done – but every car is different.
TOP TIP – make sure you check the oil on a flat surface, otherwise it could be a false reading. On a slope, it could read that you have enough oil, when actually you haven’t.
Fill Washers Up
Ok, this is mainly a safety one, but why not, while you are checking oil and tyre pressures anyway.
Cut Fuel Costs
Ways of Driving to Conserve Fuel
Drive in the Correct Gear
I try to drive in correct gear, so engine is not over revving. The key to this is listening to how the engine sounds. If I hear the engine revving to loudly I know I need to change up. Also the rev counter going above 2000 revs indicates you really should change gear. In my newer car, Eco mode actually tells me when to change gear, so it’s already sorted.
Take Roof Boxes and Racks Off
Take the roof boxes and rack off – it causes a lot of drag. Men’s Health carried out a test of roof racks and found that they can damage your mpg by as much as 19%. Phys.org found that roof racks alone can take mpg by 25%, depending on the car that is used, so it is worth buying one that you can fit on and take off easily.
Don’t drive with Heavy Loads
Heavy loads can sap fuel efficiency. Next time you look in your boot, ask yourself the question. Does that stuff need to be in there? Can I store it somewhere else? If you carry around a heavy load, your engine is going to use more fuel and therefore resulting in lower mpg. This goes for fuel also – don’t carry around more than half a tank. The weight will negate the saving you are trying to make by making all the changes suggested.
Use the Air Conditioning Sparingly
Cut down using the air conditioning -while in town, open the windows if you’re too hot. It causes a 10% loss in mpg but not as much as blasting the air con will. Use the air con on the motorway. The drag open windows would produce on a motorway would be far more impractical and cause much more loss of mpg efficiency than air conditioning. Plus the fact that you are usually able to cruise at a constant speed, which will naturally improve your mpg anyway.
Drive Like Your Grandad
Sorry to all grandads out there, but I’m actually paying my grandad a compliment. He was the most controlled and relaxed driver (when he wasn’t cut up!) The style he used I remember well – not over accelerating and not then over-braking also. Fact is, if you are zooming around town too fast, you will inevitably have to brake harder also to stop. End result – yes, you guessed it – much lower mpg and also big bills for new brake pads and discs. (You have worn them out you F1 driver, you!)
When I tried out this theory, of driving at a slower, more relaxed pace, I was surprised to find I myself was more relaxed generally too. My MPG soared up to 82mpg, which was ridiculous, but here’s the photo! If your car has cruise control, set it to the optimum speed for the car’s mpg efficiency. I found this in my handbook, but you can find it online. So off I go, onto the motorway – travelling at around 55mph instead of 70+. Weird at first, seeing everyone overtake you, but I soon got used to that. Also because you are maintaining a steady speed, again there is the minimum wear possible on the brakes and gear box.
Stick to the Speed Limits.
Which brings me to my next point that could shock you. What Car? research shows that doing 80mph uses up to 25% more fuel than doing 70mph.
Based on my half tank of diesel, which costs, £25.00, I could be wasting up to £6.25, just by wanting to get to a place quicker.
So over time this could look like this.
Fuel costs 70mph 80mph
2 weeks £18.75 £25
Month £37.50 £50
6 Months £225 £300
Year £450 £600
5 Years £2250 £3000
So in a year, you would save £150, just by slowing down even a tiny bit, to 70mph.
In five years – £750
Pin me for later!!
Use the Road as Your Guide
On my way to work, I have to travel up a steep hill, so I don’t overly hammer my car. I treat her gently and approach the hill in as low a gear as I can. On the way home, I barely accelerate, which then takes up my average efficiency for the day. It’s difficult now unpicking what I do because I have been doing this for years and it has saved me literally thousands.
Hunt out Cheap Fuel
Supermarkets are usually the cheapest,and regularly compete with each other to be the cheapest. My absolute fave over the last 6 months has to be ASDA (see no affiliate link!). Consistently cheap fuel – well done ASDA. If you want to double check you are getting the best value in your area, here are a few suggestions for comparison websites that can help. Motoring research and Simple Motoring bring up a map up based on your location. I prefer these checkers, because you don’t have to create a free account before accessing their information.
Be Kind to the Engine of a New Car
A new car’s engine will perform at its optimum if you run in the engine kindly. This means driving a little more sedately than possibly you have in the past. This will pay you dividends if you intend to keep the car long term, because a properly run in engine is always more efficient.
So there you have – some of the things I do to save stacks of cash on my fuel and motoring. Has it inspired you to try a new idea? Have you got some inspirational ideas to share, so others can benefit? Remember to bear in mind that we just have to optimise the effificiency of our cars – if we can do this, at least it will offset our frustration at them always being items that need fixing and needing our hard earned cash spending on them!! If oyu are in the mood to slash thousands off your other budget areas, see also my posts about saving money on clothes, beauty, and food bills.