Driving — it’s seldom a cheap endeavour and for most, between fuel, insurance and maintenance, the costs just keep mounting. That said, if motorists are clever and take on board a couple of suggestions related to how they drive and how they run their cars, there are actually ways in which they can save hundreds of euro every year.
1. Shop around for insurance
Shopping around for car insurance is probably the biggest example of low-hanging fruit for motorists and one that can potentially save them the most money. Just because you’ve been a loyal customer to an insurance company for years, don’t assume you’re getting the best rates available. Get in touch with an insurance broker who’ll be able to input your details, take into account all of your driving experience, apply any no claims bonuses you may have and find you the best deal across a range of companies. It’s a fairly hassle-free process.
2. Investigate going electric
Electric cars are currently much more expensive than their petrol- or diesel-powered equivalents to buy outright, but depending on the mileage you cover, financing an EV (even a second-hand one) might yield significant day-to-day savings. We’ve looked before at how to calculate the cost of charging an electric vehicle and with night-time electricity tariffs in some cases as low as €0.0822/kWh it’s worth comparing your monthly fuel bill with potential monthly finance payments on an EV. For many, this won’t be an option, but it’s worth running the numbers for your own particular use case. The servicing costs of an EV tend to be much lower too.
3. Reduce weight and drag
A heavier, less aerodynamic car is going to use more fuel and hence cost you more money to run. Removing unnecessary weight such as golf bags and baby seats that aren’t currently being used can help, but roof racks and roof boxes are the biggest killers for efficiency. Studies have shown that an empty roof rack can increase drag (and thus fuel consumption) by around 16 per cent at motorway speeds while a roof box adds about 39 per cent more.
4. Drive more efficiently
Reading the road ahead to anticipate traffic lights, roundabouts and the like is the key to conserving momentum as you drive. Hard acceleration uses far more fuel than driving at a steady speed, so the less of it the better from a fuel-saving perspective. By coming off the accelerator in advance of, say a traffic light, it reduces the need for braking and, if the traffic light turns green before the car reaches it, it means that there’s less acceleration required to get the car back up to speed. Slowing down by 20km/h or so on motorways can also yield efficiency gains without losing much time. Drivers should also try to use as high a gear as possible at all times without letting the engine labour.
5. Shop around for petrol
There’s no hard-and-fast rule about where to find the cheapest petrol or diesel in Ireland, so those looking for the lowest price will need to keep a keen eye out locally. Savings aren’t likely to be much more than in the region of a few cents per litre, but every little helps. It’s also important not to drive too far out of your way to find cheaper petrol as that can quickly wipe out any potential savings.
6. Insurance tricks
When shopping for car insurance, it’s worth inputting a few different versions of your job description to see which gets you the cheapest rate. This is a very strange aspect of buying insurance — people with the same jobs but slightly different job descriptions may often see significantly different insurance quotes. A “cook” may get a cheaper quote than a “chef”, for example, despite the two being functionally more or less the same job. Get creative, but never lie to an insurance company as it can potentially constitute fraud and may invalidate any claims you make.
If you’re a younger driver particularly, try adding an older, experienced person as a named driver on your policy as it may reduce your premium too. If you’re in a position to normally park your car in a driveway or garage rather than on the street, that can also help.
7. Keep your car in good order
Checking your tyre pressures, tyre treads, oil and fluids such as coolant on a regular basis can help you to catch minor problems before they become major ones and, as a result, you may be able to nip any potential big issues in the bud. Keeping your tyres inflated to the correct pressure isn’t just important from a safety point of view, but under-inflated tyres can also result in worse fuel economy.
8. Try independent mechanics
Main dealers can often offer good deals on servicing, but when it comes to your car’s annual service or mechanical issues, it’s worth getting quotes from local independent mechanics. Not only do their rates generally tend to be cheaper, but they’ll be less inclined to insist on using original manufacturer parts, something that usually results in a lower bill and not always at the expense of quality either. Unless your car requires highly-specialised work, most mechanics will be well able to undertake any servicing or repair jobs you need done.
9. Use second-hand parts
Tyres, filters, brake components, rubber and safety-critical items should all ideally be bought new. For budget-conscious drivers looking for other replacement parts to, say, pass an NCT or fix another issue though, it’s worth checking out local breaker’s yards. If you’ve got a relatively popular car, a scrapyard will often have the parts you need in stock. Ebay, too, can be a good bet, though Brexit has somewhat complicated things if importing parts from the UK. Even if you’re in Cork and hear tell of a breaker in Donegal or Antrim with the parts you need, most businesses are happy to send goods by courier. As ever with second-hand parts, there’s always more of a risk of finding a dud than with buying new parts as you can’t tell an item’s history. As well as being a relatively inexpensive way of sourcing parts, it’s environmentally-friendly.
10. Investigate public transport options
Like switching to an electric car, taking public transport isn’t an option for many people and, even if it is, it may not actually be cheaper than driving. That said, it’s still worth running the numbers for your own particular circumstances to see if your daily commute could be made cheaper by taking the bus or train, especially if you’re eligible for student rates or a tax-saver ticket. Don’t just factor in fuel costs; take into account parking, wear and tear on your car and a potential insurance discount if you don’t use your car for commuting.