It’s January, and inevitably the looming post-Christmas credit card bill is dragging on your finances, so it seems like a good idea to try and reduce one of the biggest areas of expense for any household – motoring ones. Here’s a quick checklist to see how you can better use your car to save a few cent in the coming months.
Changing car isn’t necessarily cheap, but if you’re still driving a big, heavy, old petrol car (for instance) then it could be worth thinking about a bit of downsizing to bring costs such as fuel, insurance and tax down. A pre-2008 family car with a 1.4- or 1.6-litre petrol engine can cost a fortune in fuel and tax compared to a more recent and smaller car using either a diesel or a compact turbocharged petrol engine, so it’s certainly worth thinking about, especially as advances in car design means you won’t necessarily lose all your cabin space.
2. Make the most of what you’ve got.
If buying a newer car isn’t an option, then you need to maximise the efficiency of what you’re already driving. Thankfully, this is easier than it sounds. When was the last time you cleared out your boot, for instance? Excess weight is one of the biggest culprits of excess fuel consumption, so heave out all those unnecessary passengers in the cargo space. You should also check your tyres, as, if they’re underinflated, that can add as much as ten per cent to your fuel consumption (you should keep an eye on your tyre pressures for safety reasons too).
3. Get a service.
Again, this is spending money to save money, but it’s money well spent. Wear and tear is a major driver of fuel consumption, so making sure that your engine is in good order and has a fresh set of filters and oil can make a massive difference to how much fuel you’re using. Regular maintenance can also catch emerging issues with your car before they develop into full-blown problems, and that usually means that they’re cheaper to fix, so it’s well worthwhile.
4. Trim your insurance costs.
Many of us will be facing into insurance renewal at this time of year, and in recent times in Ireland that has been a disaster. Insurers, in spite of public and government pressure, are still ramping up prices so it really does pay to have a good shop around at renewal time, or consider trimming down from fully comprehensive to third party, fire and theft. It also refers back to our point about downsizing – Irish insurers still rate cars and drivers according to engine size, so switching to a car with a smaller engine can really trim your insurance bill.
5. Switch off the air conditioning.
Many cars now come with air conditioning as standard, and it can be a real drain on fuel economy. OK, in January you may not need to chill the air coming in too much, but it’s still helpful for keeping screens clear on wet days. It’s a good idea to be a little more rational in your air conditioning use, though. Most of us just switch it on and forget about it, but using it a little more sparingly can make for real savings at the pumps.
6. Shop around for parking.
It’s not unusual for city centre car parks to charge as much as €4.50 for a single hour’s parking, so make sure you get to know the various car parks in your area and make doubly sure you use the cheapest one possible.
7. Plan ahead.
Too often, too many of us use our cars as a tool of convenience, when we should actually put a bit of forward planning into our journeys. Instead of taking the car to run three separate errands, why not (when possible) combine those three errands into one journey, saving both time and fuel? It’s also a good idea, as much as you can do, to try and plan your journeys around rush hour and traffic black spots, which again saves both fuel and time.
8. Drive better.
It may sound a touch harsh, but many of us are poor at driving, especially when it comes to driving economically. Driving to save fuel is actually every bit as skilful and as difficult as high performance driving. Essentially, it involves using inputs to the throttle and steering that are as gentle as possible, knowing what the correct gear to be in at all times is and looking as far ahead as possible on the road to anticipate the traffic flow and make the most of your momentum.
9. Take the bus.
No. Forget we said that…