Drive down motoring costs

Published: February 25, 2022 at 12:11 pm

Car owners are facing a double whammy of record high fuel prices and rising insurance premiums, but there are ways you might be able to drive down costs.

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Here are our top tips to keep your motoring bills to a minimum.

Fuel prices

The website petrolprices.com can help you find the cheapest fuel in the area you live.

You should also make sure your car is as light as possible, so clear out any heavy items that you might be carrying around unnecessarily. If you have a roof rack but aren’t using it, you should take this off to reduce drag and relieve the pressure on your engine. These steps will help cut down on the amount of fuel you use.

Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “More of us are having to give serious thought as to how we use our cars, and how we can cut back on fuel. Big lifestyle changes, like switching to public transport or making fewer journeys, are incredibly effective, but are never easy. If you can’t cut back how much you drive, you can make a big difference to fuel efficiency with some easy maintenance, like ensuring your car is serviced regularly and that your tyres are properly inflated. Driving styles make a big difference too: driving more slowly, in the highest appropriate gear and accelerating more gently.”

Car insurance

Car insurance premiums have risen by £76 year-on-year in the first two weeks of February alone according to comparethemarket.com, pushing the average annual motor premium across all age groups to £689.

When buying car insurance, never just automatically accept the renewal quote from your current provider without seeing if you can find a better deal elsewhere. Around 17m motorists let their car insurance auto-renew last year, according to comparison site

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MoneySuperMarket.com, at a cost of £830m. Loyalty to existing providers led to an average price increase of £49 a year in 2021, up from an average increase of £42 in 2020.

Under rules introduced earlier this year by the Financial Conduct Authority, insurers must highlight customers’ previous year’s premiums so they can see how these compare to their renewal price. However, nearly half of drivers said that they didn’t recall seeing these notifications. Sara Newell, car insurance expert at MoneySuperMarket said: “It’s important that drivers don’t rely on such measures to reduce their premiums. We’ll monitor the impact of the FCA’s new measures over the coming months, but the fact remains that shopping around is always going to be the most effective way of keeping your costs down.

Remember, however, that when choosing cover, cheapest isn’t necessarily best, and it’s vital to read the small print of any policy you’re considering buying so that you fully understand what is and isn’t covered.

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Analysis of 49 comprehensive car insurance policies from 34 different insurers by consumer association Which? found that although almost all policies had some provision for a courtesy car as standard, only a fifth offered a temporary replacement vehicle if yours is stolen or written off.

Some policies also don’t include cover for all personal possessions if they are damaged whilst in or stolen from your car. Which? found that four in 10 policies with personal possessions cover exclude mobile phones, while only two policies out of the 49 it looked at protected cash and documents.

Jenny Ross, Which? Money Editor said: “Our research shows that motorists risk facing hefty bills when things go wrong as a large number of policies don’t cover incidents or possessions you might expect. With the cost of living biting, this means car problems could be disastrous for those on low incomes, or with limited savings.

“We would urge drivers to read the small print. If you’re comparing two similarly prices policies, the bills you can rack up by falling foul of car insurance loopholes could dwarf the amount you’d pay for the more expensive cover.”

Check your excess carefully too – this is the amount you’ll have to pay yourself if you need to make a claim. The excess is made up of a compulsory and voluntary excess amount, and you can alter the voluntary excess so that it’s at a level you’re comfortable with. Ryan Fulthorpe, car insurance spokesperson at GoCompare, said: “Knowing the excess you will need to pay if you need to make a claim is really important as excess amounts can vary significantly. If you think you’re only paying £150 but then the excess bill comes in at £500, how could you afford that?”

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