Owning a car in the UK can be an expensive endeavour. An estimate by Car Expert suggests car owners can spend up to as much as £389 per month on a car, which, when tallied over a few years can represent a significant amount of expenditure.
Car owners shoulder a significant financial burden in buying and maintaining a car. When buying a car, you might account for monthly costs like fuel, vehicle tax and insurance. However, there are also other less evident costs like regular serving and maintenance. While these may not be at the top of your mind when you think of cost-cutting, they are still essential to consider.
Knowing the actual costs associated with car maintenance can help find ways to be more frugal with your automobile expenditure. This guide will help you understand how you can reduce motoring costs as a car owner in the UK.
Public Transport vs Buying A Car
First – is it even worth buying a car? According to a recent study by Travel & Leisure magazine, the UK ranks 9th for railroad density, making it one of the world’s easiest countries to travel around by train. What’s more, older citizens in the UK can avail themselves of several concessions on public transport, making it quite economical to travel within cities by bus, train, and metro. For example:
- Free transport passes which allow you to travel free on local buses in England.
- The Senior Railcard, an annual discount card that saves you a significant amount of money on rail fares in the UK.
- The London Freedom Pass that allows discounted travel in London on trams, tubes, buses, and river services in London.
- Further discounts on transportation for disabled and elderly citizens.
However, a few drawbacks of public transport are that:
- It can be more expensive, especially during peak hours.
- Connectivity issues mean that public transport may yet entail a fair amount of waiting and walking, which can be prohibitive the older you get.
- Smaller towns tend to be less well connected than big cities, making it challenging for citizens living in these areas.
Pay Less for Fuel
Pre COVID-19, it felt like fuel costs were on a neverending growth curve. However, the average monthly price of fuel as per the earlier estimate by the Car Expert can be close to £70. Depending on your car usage, you might spend significantly more. There are several ways to reduce how much you spend on fuel – from choosing which type of fuel to buy to developing driving habits that can help you be more fuel-efficient.
Which Type of Fuel Should You Choose?
Diesel cars have historically been known for being more fuel-efficient. Though the price of diesel may seem higher at the pump, the overall fuel economy of a diesel car means you will end up paying less over time.
However, partly because of the pollution they cause, diesel cars are more expensive to buy. Diesel cars are also more costly in tax in the first year of car ownership compared to other vehicles. Another factor to consider is hybrid cars. Although hybrids were initially considered less fuel-efficient, technological developments now put them almost on par with diesel cars in terms of fuel economy.
To best assess which may work better for you, we would suggest using a fuel cost calculator. Here’s a simple one from the RAC that will give you an estimate of how much you might spend on fuel for an average journey.
Finally, the government plans to ban diesel cars by 2035, giving way for electric vehicles. It may be best to invest in an electric vehicle in the long run!
How to Cut Down on Fuel Consumption
Apart from choosing the right fuel, making your car more fuel-efficient could help you save money in ways you never thought of. A few things you can do to save on petrol are:
- Reduce your use of air conditioning - only use it when necessary.
- Rash driving can not only put you at risk of losing your life but also cost you in terms of fuel. So, if you want to save fuel, drive at cruising speed, for which slowing down does not require you to press down hard on the brakes.
- Make sure the petrol cap is on tight to reduce the potential loss of fuel from your tank.
- Cruise along wherever possible instead of constantly accelerating and braking – this will help you stop burning excess fuel.
- Keep your car aerodynamic by closing windows, removing the roof rack, and reducing the weight of your vehicle by removing unnecessary items.
Keeping Vehicle Costs Low
Costs associated with vehicle maintenance, such as vehicle tax, insurance, and MOT penalties can run up your monthly motoring costs. Here are some ways to keep these to a minimum.
Car Insurance Costs
As per the Association of British Insurers (ABI), the average cost of car insurance in the UK for comprehensive cover costs £485 a year. Many factors that determine the cost of your insurance, like your age, location, and years of driving experience are beyond your control. However, finding the correct car insurance provider or a good deal on insurance can help save you a significant amount of money on car insurance each year. Other ways to cut down on your car insurance are:
- Choose the right model – specific types like sports cars and those with larger engines are seen as more high-risk than trusty older models.
- Estimate your mileage correctly – the less you use your car, the lower your insurance premium, as you are less likely to have accidents. However, lying about your mileage may result in your insurer not paying out in case of an accident later. Track your car usage regularly and use your MOT certificates to give accurate estimates of your mileage.
- Install a black box – this small device, installed by your insurer, helps them learn more about your driving habits. Based on this data, they can automatically adjust your insurance premium, resulting in significant cost savings. What’s more, the black box is a way of tracking your car, which makes it easier to find if stolen.
- Protect your no-claims bonus – for every year you drive without making an insurance claim, you earn a no-claims bonus, which you can protect for a small fee. This bonus not only can save you up to 80% of your insurance costs but also help you save more in case you ever need to make a claim (since you would otherwise, lose your accrued discount).
- Pay insurance upfront – instead of opting for monthly instalments and accruing interest, you can choose to pay your entire annual cost upfront. This could save you up to 20% of your total insurance cost, depending on your provider.
Reduce Emissions for MOT Certificate
The MOT test assesses the safety and exhaust emissions of your vehicle. Increasing regulation around MOT emissions means that it is even more challenging to obtain a valid MOT certificate. The penalty for driving around without a valid MOT can be a fine of up to £2,500, three penalty points and a driving ban. It is, therefore, in your interests to ensure your car is well-maintained. Some of the ways you can do this are:
- Carry out regular oil checks on your vehicle.
- Ensure that issues related to exhaust repairs are carried out quickly.
- Carry out system cleanups that will reduce your exhaust emissions.
- Install a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) or a Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) – two technology systems that help to control emissions.
- Use premium fuel, which can prevent the buildup of soot and debris.
Reducing Your Vehicle Tax
Most cars in the UK are subject to Vehicle Excise Duty, calculated in different ways, depending on when your vehicle was registered. Cars with the biggest engines can expect to pay up to £1,000 per year, which is why it is essential to know how this tax is calculated for your particular vehicle. We would suggest using the calculator provided on the GOV.UK website to see how much tax you are likely to pay.
It is equally important to note that certain types of cars are exempt from vehicle tax. This includes electric cars, vehicles driven by the disabled, and agricultural vehicles, among others. Make sure you are aware of the latest exemptions to prevent overpaying your vehicle tax.
Cost of Depreciation
Like any significant asset, a car has a depreciation cost attached to it, meaning your vehicle will reduce in value a little every year. You need to know how to reduce these costs to be sure that it will be in acceptable condition should you wish to resell it or pass it on.
Choosing the right make or model can go a long way in helping you maintain it. For example, smaller cars typically have lower running costs and depreciate slower than larger cars. However, nothing beats looking after your vehicle and driving it well to ensure it stays in the best condition to avoid any significant depreciation in its value.
We hope that this guide has given you a better idea of what you can do to reduce your motoring costs. Always be sure to carry out a lot of research before making a significant decision regarding your car. Happy driving!