Recently a friend introduced me to a car costs calculator they found online to prove their point to me about how expensive cars cost to run each year. I was astonished to find, after using the calculator myself, that our little run-around is hitting us for over £2,000 a year – taking into account fuel, depreciation, tax, insurance and maintenance.
It felt like rather a lot, and immediately made me want to sell up and stick to public transport for the rest of my life. But obviously when you have a family, such a simplistic, inconvenient cost-cutting measure just isn’t practical. So I decided to do the next-best thing: find some ways to reduce the hefty effect being a car owner has on our living budget. Here are five ways I found of doing just that…
1) Make your driveway a money spinner
Chances are that if you have a driveway with potentially-available parking space, and you live in a city or near an important station, you’ve struck gold! You can rent out your space and look to earn as much as £200 a month. There are a couple of handy tools out there to help you determine what a fair price to charge is – whether that’s for short stays (eg: a day at a time) or long stays (eg: a month at a time).
2) Haggle on tyres
Tyres are one of the most expensive parts of maintaining a car, but it’s very important that you look after them properly. How do you know when they need replacing? Quite simply, if you put a 20p coin in the tread and can still see the outer rim of it (or more), then your tyres are illegal. But when replacing them, be savvy. Shop around for quotes, and don’t be scared to play one company against the other – they won’t want to lose your business. A bit of bargaining can really save you a fair whack – especially if you’re replacing more than one tyre.
3) Be smart with MOTs
If you’re absolutely convinced your car will pass its MOT test, simply go to the cheapest garage you can find, or even one of the few that offer cashback deals. However, if you’re less certain but still think your car is in good working order, why not go into a council-run MOT centre? Given that they don’t generally do repairs themselves, they have no incentive to fail you. Remember, it’s the cost of the repairs from failing that really ends up stinging, not that of the test itself.
4) Save on fuel
Yes, the petrol price may be nice and low at the moment, but this is still the biggest cash burner of the lot. If you do regular trips on the same route, why not look into organised carpooling? Alternatively, if you need to have your own wheels at all times, get more bang for your buck by decluttering. The extra weight of strollers, car seats, sports equipment and more can really make a difference to fuel consumption, even if taking them in and out of the car every day can be a hassle. Finally, do the little things right. Drive in the correct gear, don’t rev too much, and accelerate and slow down gradually. Every little helps!
5) Good finance, bad finance
In their haste to get the ‘ideal’ car, people will often rush into financing it. Over 40% of vehicles in the UK are bought on car finance of some kind, which is understandable given that not everyone has thousands of pounds lying around to buy one outright. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be shrewd about it. Banks and dealers will seldom offer the best rates – nor repayment plans – so it’s well worth taking the time to do some price comparisons, especially among online lenders. After all, this a cost that could stick with you for some time, so don’t make it any more of a burden than it needs to be.