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17 ways to save money on driving

If you're lucky enough to have a car as a student, you'll know just how expensive they can be to run. We've got some tips on how to cut costs!

save money on driving

Credit: Disney Pixar

When your only income is your student loan – and maybe a part-time job to supplement that – it can be a massive drain on your finances to run a car as a student.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that depending on where you live and if you're having to commute to uni, having a car is simply a necessary expense that you need to fork out for.

Thankfully, there are loads of ways you can cut down on your monthly motor outgoings. Studies have even found you can save upwards of 30% on petrol costs if you make a few small changes to your driving habits. And who wouldn't want that, eh?

If you're looking to save even more on the cost of running your car, take a look at our guide on how to save money on car insurance.

Top 17 tips for saving on car costs

  1. Keep your tyres inflated

    keep tyres inflated fuel economy

    Having low tyre pressure increases 'drag' (it's a physics thing – please don't ask us to explain, because we can't). This causes your car to use up more fuel, not to mention the fact that it's pretty dangerous.

    By making sure your tyres are inflated to the recommended pressure (you'll find this in the user manual or the display on the inside of your car door) you can save yourself about 3% on fuel costs.

    Believe it or not, air isn't always free and some petrol stations will charge a fee for tyre inflation, so make sure you suss out where to fill-up beforehand! You don't want to waste cash on something you can get for free elsewhere.

  2. Slow things down

    drive slower save petrol

    As fun as it may be to pretend you're the next Lewis Hamilton, driving fast will cost you a hell of a lot of money. And, of course, going over the speed limit is dangerous, illegal and could see you fined too!

    Driving at 80mph can use up to 25% more petrol than at 70mph, while driving at 70mph uses up to 9% more fuel than at 60mph. Maintaining a more consistent speed rather than constantly speeding up and decelerating also saves on petrol consumption (plus, it's also a lot less annoying for everyone around you).

  3. Don't brake it up so much

    brake less when driving save petrol

    Credit: Warner Bros.

    While we definitely wouldn't advise you to avoid using your brakes, be aware that over-use can increase fuel consumption. Staying a safe distance from the driver in front and anticipating a junction means you can ease off the accelerator, rather than slam on the brakes.

    Also, avoid using your brakes a lot at speed bumps. Braking hard, then accelerating quickly over speeds bumps uses up loads of petrol. Try to maintain a steady 15-20mph over speed bumps, as not only will it improve your fuel economy, but it'll feel a lot smoother too.

  4. Don't get fined

    how to avoid driving fines

    Credit: 20th Century Fox

    This might sound pretty obvious, as of course you want to avoid getting fined! But there are a few small things you might forget about that can put you at risk of getting slapped with a driving-related charge.

    For example, you're legally obliged to update your licence photograph every ten years, regardless of how little your appearance has changed in that time.

    Keep an eye on the expiry date of your photo card licence – if you drive with an expired card, you could end up with a £1,000 fine. And with passport pics up for grabs at 15p, you've really no excuse!

Got a parking ticket? Reckon you didn't deserve it? Find out how to appeal your parking fine.
  1. Pay your car tax annually

    pay car tax annually save money

    Credit: Walt Disney

    You have a few different payment options available for your car tax, and some are cheaper than others.

    If you chose to pay by direct debit every six months or monthly, you'll incur a 5% surcharge. Paying by direct debit annually is the cheapest option.

    If you can't afford to pay it all up front, another option would be to set up a standing order to pay your folks instead of the tax man, and ask them nicely to pay it up initially on your behalf.

    Obviously this option won't suit everyone, but if you put it to your folks that you're suggesting this in order to avoid the 5% surcharge, they might be willing to help you out!

  2. Be MOT-savvy

    get car MOT checked

    As you may or may not know, legally you need to get your car MOT'd on its third birthday (four if you live in Northern Ireland) then each year after that. The experience of an MOT can be extremely painful, or completely pain-free, depending on how you play it.

    For a start, give the car a once-over before you take it in to see if there's anything that's broken that you can fix yourself – use the car's manual as a reference. Even the smallest issues can cause you to fail your MOT, meaning you'll have to pay to have it redone once you fix things up.

    It's also true that some garages that offer MOTs may say you need work done while another will say you've passed – it just depends if they're having a quiet day or are in need of the extra business.

    Your best option is to take the car to a smaller, government-run MOT centre that doesn't do any repairs in-house. As they don't benefit from squeezing extra money out of you, they're more likely to be honest when telling you what condition your car is in .

  3. De-clutter your car

    clear out car save petrol

    Credit: tcb613 - Flickr

    Yes, we know we sound like your parents on this one, but having a car that doubles as a bin isn't only gross, but it adds unnecessary weight and means you'll use more petrol when driving it around.

    Fuel efficiency is reduced by up to 2% for every extra 45kg you carry, so empty that boot and that backseat right now, ok?

    If you're an outdoorsy type with a roof rack, consider unscrewing it when it's not in use, as even that can add to the weight your car is carrying.

  4. Learn how to change gear properly

    how to change gear properly save fuel

    Credit: BBC Worldwide

    We know you've probably got the whole gear thing down on account of passing your test and all, but changing up sooner than feels natural will help cut your costs even more.

    Don't labour your engine. As a rough guide, try to stay under 3,000 revs and everything will be just dandy.

  5. Look out for the cheapest petrol deals

    how to find the cheapest petrol

    Credit: 20th Century Fox

    Perhaps the most obvious way to cut down on costs is to make sure the petrol you buy is cheaper in the first place!

    PetrolPrices.com is a free website that locates the cheapest car juice in your area, but obviously don't drive too far out of your way to get a good deal, as this completely defeats the point.

    Buying petrol at night or early in the morning is (apparently) also more cost-efficient. As these are colder times, the petrol in the pumps is more dense and therefore you get more for your money.

    You should also avoid filling up on main roads or motorways – price reviews have continually found these garages to be more expensive.

    Some petrol stations will offer a range of deals and loyalty schemes. For example, Tesco often run promotional offers whereby a certain spend in-store will get you a discount (usually 5p-ish per litre) at their petrol station.

    All of the big fuel brands have loyalty cards too, so make sure to sign yourself up. While you shouldn't go to a more expensive station just to use a loyalty card, it's a good idea to have as many cards as you possibly can – they don't cost a thing, and you never know when they might come in handy.

  6. Make sure you've got the right insurance policy

    how to get the cheapest car insurance

    Credit: 20th Century Fox

    As our complete guide to spending less on your car insurance will elaborate on, it's really easy to end up in a situation where you're paying out way too much.

    For young people, it's true that car insurance is notoriously expensive, but choosing an alternative policy like Pay as You Drive (PAYD) will knock hundreds off your payments.

    Also, don't forget to take out some decent student breakdown cover, otherwise you'll be shelling out big bucks should disaster strike. Just make sure you read both of our guides on these subjects thoroughly before taking out any policies with insurers!

  7. Don't go into the red (or the top of the tank either)

    how to improve fuel economy

    For many student drivers, seeing how far you can get with your petrol gauge in the red is a useful skill to master but, perhaps unsurprisingly, it's not a great idea! Driving with low petrol causes it to run out even quicker, and that's never a good thing (let's hope you have breakdown insurance!).

    It can also cause damage to your car's fuel pump, as it's having to work far harder to suck petrol out of the tank.

    Similarly, don't fill your tank right up to the top if you can help it. Fuel is heavy, so the more you have the more you'll burn. Stick to a 1/2 or 3/4 full tank and your car will run much more efficiently.

  8. Mix it up with the A/C and windows

    Windows air conditioning save money

    Credit: 20th Century Fox

    It's the classic catch 22: using your air conditioning (if your car is flash enough to have it) can use up to 5% of your fuel. Equally though, having your windows open will increase the drag on your car and do some serious harm to your fuel economy.

    If you really can't handle sweating it out, the best method is to use your AC when you're driving at high speeds and open the windows at low speeds.

  9. Claim for pothole damage

    how to claim for pothole damage

    Credit: Robbie Sproule - Flickr

    If you've been unlucky enough to experience damage to your car due to potholes in the road, don't fret - your insurance doesn't have to pay for this!

    You'll be owed compensation by whoever is responsible for maintaining the roads, which varies depending on where you are and how big the road is. This official government page tells you exactly who you need to contact to claim for your pothole damage.

    If the pothole you hit is more than 40mm deep, you're laughing; if it's less than that, you can still claim but it might be a bit harder to fight.

    Note that in order to get them to cough up the cash, you'll need photographic proof of the pothole, plus written proof from a mechanic to show that the damage was definitely caused by a pothole.

  10. Stop petrol evaporation

    prevent petrol evaporation

    Credit: 20th Century Fox

    This is a depressing fact, but petrol can actually evaporate right out of the tank – believe it or not!

    To prevent this from happening, ensure your petrol cap is screwed on tight. Also, park in the shade when possible as petrol evaporates quicker when warm. Bet you didn't know that!

  11. Try to avoid traffic jams

    avoid traffic jams save fuel

    We're sure avoiding traffic jams is something you probably do anyway, for your sanity more than anything else. But to add insult to injury, a small car stuck in a traffic jam can use up to a litre of petrol in 60 minutes!

    Try to avoid congestion by planning ahead and avoiding rush hour times and busy roads (duh). You'll sometimes find that using A and B roads will get you where you're going faster as they're more likely to be jam-free, and the lack of traffic means you'll brake less and use your fuel more efficiently.

    If you do get stuck in a pickle and think you'll be stationary for more than two minutes, turn the engine off.

  12. Ditch the car

    don't use car at uni save money

    If you don't need to drive regularly, then it's definitely worth considering joining a car club instead of forking out cash to run your own wheels. You could even make some extra dough by renting out your private parking space!

    Car clubs allow you to pay a membership fee in order to gain access to cars in your area, and you only cough up cash on a pay-as-you-drive basis.

    If you're planning a long distance trip by car, it might be worth trying a car share scheme like Blabla car, where you can offer to drive others who are headed in the same direction in exchange for a fuel contribution, and vice versa.

    If you do use your car daily to get to and from work or uni, why not do some research and find out if there's someone else you know doing the same journey each day and offer to share petrol prices for a lift? It's better for the environment, too!

  13. Look for alternatives

    cycle to save money

    Nipping out in your motor for a few quick errands is a nice luxury, but continually warming up your car for short journeys drains petrol like you wouldn't believe.

    Next time you need to pop out, try walking or taking a bus whenever it's an option, or invest in a bike to get around on. It can also be a good excuse to get fit so is much better for your health – everyone wins!

These tips should help drive down your petrol costs (promise we're done with the car puns now!). We'd also love to hear any tips you've got to share – let us know in the comments below!

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