/ Motoring

How can you cut the cost of motoring?

Model car on coins

Running a car is one of the biggest drains on a household budget, so we’ve been searching for the best cash-conserving ideas. What are your top money-saving tips for drivers?

We had loads of great money-saving suggestions from Which? members – some sensible and some wacky. But here are the top five car-related examples as chosen by us. 

A big thank you to everybody who sent us a tip.

1. Michael encourages careful driving

‘Plan your driving to minimise the use of your brakes. This means anticipation and, among other things, leaving a two-second gap to the vehicle in front on the motorway. It’s a safe way to drive that saves me more than £100 a year in fuel and maintenance costs. And it will probably lengthen your life by reducing driving stress.’

2. Jeff thinks you should take the IAM driving test

‘Take the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) driving test. Not only will you be less likely to have an accident in the first place, but you can also get insurance through IAM Surety, which cost me £100 less than the cheapest quote I could get from price comparison websites. The policy also had a smaller excess.’

3. Emma rents her parking space

‘If you have a spare parking space that you don’t use, you could make money from it – especially if you live near a station in a town centre. A commuter rents my driveway from Monday to Friday for £20 a month. You need to pay a small fee to register on a website such as ParkatmyHouse or ParkonmyDrive. After that, the cost of renting out the space is up to you.’

4. Tom wants you to challenge annual renewals

‘When you get your annual renewal for insurance and breakdown cover, get a quote direct from the company’s website and also run your details through a price comparison site. Then phone and ask why the price is showing as lower on the website for new customers. The AA will normally match without much fuss and you can always cancel and buy as a new customer if they don’t. I have saved £50-£70 on my AA renewal for the past few years.’

5. John shares a tip to cut your car insurance excess

‘When buying car insurance online, the insurer usually includes a voluntary excess. I always change this to zero and invariably find that the premium quoted remains the same or only very slightly more. It will save you money if you do have a prang.’

If you can think of any other money-saving motoring tips to share with other drivers, we’re all ears! Or if you’ve used any of the tips above, how did you get on?


Avoid huge depreciation by keeping your car for several years. My car is now 100 000 miles and 8 years old. Be prepared to spend money on replacement bits, but it’s likely to be significantly cheaper. If you start with a one or two year old car with a reliable history, even better.

Avoid changing cars frequently. Unless major repairs are needed, the cost of depreciation of a new car will be far greater.

Push for goodwill payments or repairs. Car manufacturers are good at producing unreliable vehicles but dealers are at the forefront of providing support for customers who have problems, sometimes well after the warranty has expired.

Do as much of your own maintenance as possible. Some will tell you that it is not possible to do any DIY work on modern cars and that is simply not true.

Shop around for parts. Motor factors are frequently cheaper than motorists’ shops for spares. Avoid panic purchases – for example replace a car battery that is obviously weak before it lets you down and the only convenient option is a very expensive or dubious quality replacement.

Avoid fixed penalty fines. These can put up insurance costs substantially, as I found when I informed my insurance company that a named driver on my insurance had picked up a speeding fine. I don’t know how long insurance companies increase premiums for, but it is not just one year.

Cut down the amount you drive by combining journeys. For example, a day out can be combined with an essential journey.

I must agree with Malcolm and Wavechange. Looking after the car well and keeping it for several years make very good economic sense. Keeping it in a garage helps with this and it might also prompt you to walk for short distances [or postpone the trip] whereas a car ready and waiting invites you to drive somewhere. Route planning and timetabling can also be worthwhile; a slightly longer but uninterrupted journey is better for the car [and the driver] than a route through town with all its hazards and hold-ups.

1st cut your speed why accelerate to the Traffic lights when they showing Red and have to Brake hard to stop its very silly&dangerous if you approach the Traffic lights slower you save petrol you might go through them without stopping also you will not wear out Brake linings as quickly.I am in favor of Motorway speed increase to 80 MPH for those who want to go at that speed i personally cruise at around 58/60 MPH so i get reasonable economy.

I find your cruising speed the most uncomfortable of all. You will find you have to overtake the slower commercial traffic quite often. On the other side of the problem you may find you are forcing the faster commercial traffic to overtake you. I think changing lanes on motorways can be a real hazard and much prefer the 80 mph approach and be prepared to move in when the faster boys (or girls ) want to pass.

Totally disagree with John. Always select the highest excess your insurer offers to reduce the cost. If you make a claim on your policy, even with protected no claims discount, the cost of renewal will go up and it will cost you more to insure your car for the next 5 years than if you hadn’t claimed. I’d never make a claim for less than £500 as with two cars in our household the total cost of increased premiums outweighs any advantage in making a claim.

Always protect your NCD. If you have a major prang your insurance premium will rise. Say your insurance is £300 now and you have a 50% NCD so you’re paying £150. If you have a prang your insurance could go up to £500 which means you’d pay an extra £100 a year after NCD. Without protecting your NCD you’ll pay an extra £350 a year!

Protected NCD is a mostly a con. The insurance company may let you keep your NCD at renewal but that doesn’t stop them hiking the basic premium to match your risk. Premiums are based on risk and if you have had an accident, statistics prove that you’re likely to have another – so the premium goes up if the NCD stays the same.

I partially agree about selecting the higher excess. If you are in a high risk group and drive a sports car, you have high premiums, the extra discount for a higher excess is well worth having. If you’re a mature driver with many claim-free years driving a 1.4 diesel Fiesta, then your premium is low, so the saving for choosing a high excess is minimal. So it’s swings and roundabouts and down to each individual to decide.

Terry – you’re missing the point.

The cost of your policy will go up if you have an accident – potentially even if you’re not at fault as I found out after I got smashed into twice in one year!

If you lose your NCD then you’ll pay the full amount of the increased premium without any discount which is a double whammy. Protected NCD is *not* a con but an insurable risk which you can choose not to cover.

The point about the excess is not that you’ll save a tenner from your policy but that you need to work out what it will cost you to claim on your insurance and that includes the increased premium you’ll pay following a claim and choose the excess that’s apppropriate. That’s an insurable risk that you can choose to self insure.

TIP 1 is excellent and really will save money on fuel and servicing whilst reducing stress. Your passengers will love you too.

However, remember that the 2 second rule should be extended to 4 seconds if the weather conditions are bad (longer stopping distance and lower visibility) or if there’s an idiot tail-gating you (you need to leave time for the idiot behind to notice the emergency and respond before flooring the brake pedal).

I know that your 2-second safety gap will frequently be filled by idiots squeezing in front of you, but it is better they die than you.

Loosing your 2 second gap is a constant problem ad I don’t know any answer.

peter roy newbrook says:
7 December 2012

other small tips to help fuel consumption.keep your tire pressures at the correct pressures 24/7 and make sure they are in good condition.check regularly that your brakes are not binding.carry as little weight as possible.use your brakes as little as possible.when accelerating miss out the last but one gear.eg.with a 5speed gearbox change from 3 to 5.this is especially easy with the power of modern engines.keep the car properly serviced.

To check that brakes are not binding, feel the temperatures of the discs/drums after driving without heavy braking. One side will be warm compared with the other side if the brake is binding.

Martin Goffe says:
8 December 2012

When you travel makes a difference. After years of doing uni treks from London to the North and back we have found Saturday evenings a good time to travel. When in towns read the times on bus lanes. Many of them are open to all traffic between 10am and 4pm. . I often go carefully up the inside overtaking lines of traffic. At weekends (less lorries) the slow lanes on motorways are often emptier while the middle and outer lanes are full of people tailgating the cars in front. Lorries overtake each other slowly causing traffic to bunch so look ahead, anticipate and either overtake before it happens or drop back. All these are stress and money savers.

I agree about the times of day. We travel from the North-West to Essex twice a month to visit family. The best time to travel is early morning Saturday or early morning Sunday (240 miles in 3 or 4 hours). The worst time is Friday at any time! (240 miles in 5 or 6 hours).

derekhek You like to speed i do not have any problem with that but you’re fuel consumption really drops at high speed i prefer to be flexible with my cruising speed I said 58/60MPH but i adjust according to Traffic i do not weave in and out and annoy Truckers.So my Cruising speed can be lower if
you are on the e.g.M6 i see Cars go flying past in the fast lane only to catch up with those same cars
when there is Roadworks or a Bunch of cars that have had to slow down because of Lorries overtaking each other if one is Driving 100 miles by lowering you’re speed you save fuel also it can save you’re life
as you have a shorter braking distance more anticipation time to make that vital decision.

“Only a fool breaks the two second rule; if it pours make it 4.”
Personally I always make it 4 seconds on a motorway.
Cannot agree more about taking an advanced driving test but don’t wait until you hit 70 as I did. I realised I was entering the second ‘most accidents’ age and wanted to be as best a driver as I could be.

Like other subscribers I have reviewed and removed all unused weight from the car and was surprised how much it all weighed.
I seldom use the extra mid height shelf in the back of my SUV so that has come out. I don’t use the storage tray under the passenger seat either so that’s come out . I don’t use the removable ash trays (or even the cigar lighter!) so they have come out. Moreover I don’t need to keep my service book and all the bills etc in the car (except for the annual service) and I only take the heavy road atlas to the car when I need that – which is practically never! Obviously the sat nave is treated likwise. If anyone has the older Honda CRVs with the heavy picnic table in the boot which is never used – replace it with a light wooden panel ….. I must get out more……

The AA&RAC should make a point of Advising members of carrying unused items in their Cars etc;etc Most new Cars do not come with a spare wheel just an emergency one.You all make a very good point about carrying items around that you do not use of-tern&using more fuel than you need.If every motorist did this fuel consumption would fall so would the TAX the government get from sales which is a very sore point with me the Americans only pay an average of £2.11pence per US gallon in other words 64p per litre approx

I chose not to have a spare wheel when I purchased my last three cars because I cannot remember the last time I had a puncture (other than one that 2 weeks to drop 2 lb/in2). Wheels are a very heavy extra. It wouldn’t surprise me if the majority of spare tyres spent most of their life perishing in the boot well! And how many are actually kept at the correct pressure!

You’d also be surprised how heavy car seats are. Maybe manufacturers should look at rear seats that can EASILY be removed and stowed when not in use.

But there has to be a limit to how far you go to save weight or we’ll all be driving 150cc tuk-tuks with their canvas sides and plastic windshields! I got nearly 200 mpg driving one down 3000 km India. The tyre wear cost more than the fuel.

PS £2.11 per US gal is 55.7p a litre (3.78541 litre per US Gal).

I’ve always opted to carry a spare. I only do 10k miles a year but I’ve been unfortunate enough to have 2 punctures, both of which the ‘gunk’ would not have fixed. I think the extra £100 was well worth it as I was back on the road in minutes.

I agree with Kremmmen i think its wise to Carry a spare although i did my self go without one for a while until i changed my Car most recently i think everyone should carry a Warning Triangle in Case of Breakdown or Picture how many times on TV have we seen people Killed while changing their wheel.

Sorry but your argument is counter-productive. If so many people are killed whilst changing a wheel at the side of the road, it only strengthens the reasons NOT to have a spare wheel. I’ve tried to find out the real number killed this way but I cannot find statistics because they include people hit by another vehicle or by the car collapsing through incorrect fitting of the jack. Even with all the ‘side of road’ fatalities included, it doesn’t justify everyone carrying around a heavy object for the whole car’s life. That’s millions of wheels being lugged around in the boot of most vehicles which will never be used. It just doesn’t make sense.

My recommendation is to make sure that your breakdown cover includes puncture repair/ tyre replacement and leave it to the professionals unless you are experienced at changing wheels. Most of the big Tyre service companies now include at least one mobile van in each of their locations.

Many company car drivers’ policies now state that the driver is forbidden to change the wheel and must call the breakdown services. Possibly that’s ott but that’s life.


I have changed many a wheel for myself and other motorists, starting when I was a teenager in the 1960s. I have always used commonsense – a very effective form or risk appraisal – and never had any accidents or near misses, and I have never had a vehicle fall off a jack even though I have done car maintenance for over 40 years.

A decade ago, we learned that tea cosies and laundry baskets are responsible for a considerable number of injuries and hospital visits. Life is not without risk.

You are welcome to be stranded at the side of the road, waiting for someone to come and change your wheel. Me and others will just get on with the job.


I have always change my own wheels too. I just recently switched from my summer-shod alloys to winter-shod steels, so I consider myself fully capable of changing a wheel. However, it’s not something I’d like to do on the hard shoulder of a busy motorway.

The point is that in almost 49 years of owning and driving a car, I have never had a puncture (other than the ultra-slow I mentioned previously). I just don’t see the benefit of carrying around all that dead weight never to be used. The disadvantages are:

it wastes a significant space in the boot
it adds weight to the vehicle
it is invariably never used and perishes
most are probably never checked and are under-inflated

If I do get a puncture and have to wait a couple of hours for rescue to arrive and fit a new tyre, then so be it. Two hours lost versus 49 years of dragging around unnecessary weight plus the extra cost of the wheel. It’s a no-brainer to me.


I can see your point, but I doubt that the AA, RAC or other breakdown recovery service will be able to change a tyre at the side of the road, though though obviously they can change a wheel. I’m not up to date because last time I had to call the RAC was in 1989.

For thirty years I have had a succession of punctures. My employer, a university, had contractors on site almost permanently and the place was littered with screws and nails. I have had many punctures and had I not regularly checked my tyre treads, I could have had a few more. I have not had a puncture since I retired over a year ago and I have not had a single puncture, and I hope I may be as lucky as you in future.

I check the pressure of my spare tyre regularly and I have never seen any sign of deterioration of the rubber. It is in the boot and protected from sunlight.

Hi Wavechange

Some breakdown services will send out a ‘tyre’ van if they know that is the problem. These vans are fitted with full pneumatic tyre change gear. I usually use the similar mobile tyre services when I need new tyres. They are competitively prices – usually about £5 more than going to fixed station. Worth it as they come to your house or property saving you time and travel cost.

I can highly recommend Event Tyres who I have used several times.


Thanks for this information, Terry. No doubt the number of cars without a spare wheel has created a need for a mobile tyre changing service.

That is a new one to me breakdown cover that includes puncture repair/ tyre replacement interesting but premiums already high because so many now choose not to pay insurance the especially the young their premiums far to high how i would address that would allow young drivers to drive up to 1.000cc only until a certain age and not allowed on parents policys.What about a damaged wheel Terry Farrel? with the state of our roads they do get Damaged especially Alloys all the time we see Road Repairs with no-one actually working on them and manholes protruding up one cannot always miss them plus pot holes there are areas of the country where they constantly appear and sometimes its just like driving on a practice Bombing Range than a road.

The tyre repair or replacement isn’t free. Only the service is part of the comprehensive breakdown cover. Just like if one of your hoses burst, the breakdown service will attend and change the hose, but you have to pay for the new hose.

I’ve never had a damaged wheel in 49 years and I don’t believe I know anyone who has (though it’s not exactly regular pub conversation).

I’ve not damaged a wheel in 43 years, but my mileage is below average and I am cautious when I see a road that is in poor condition and could have potholes. Damaging a wheel or tyre is expensive, but the biggest problem is invisible damage to tyres, which could cost your life if you have a blowout.

If alloy wheels are more readily damaged then perhaps we should go back to good old-fashioned steel wheels, and cut the cost of motoring.

To cut the cost of motoring, why not drive less? A very significant minority of journeys in the UK are of 5 miles or less – why not take a walk or use a bicycle more often? Sure, this isn’t always a possibility, but almost everyone can find one or more regular or occasional journeys where they don’t really need to use the car.

By ‘almost everyone’ I presume you mean those without disabilities preventing them from doing so.

I’m 32yrs old and my arthritis has got worse over the last year which means I can no longer nip to the shop without driving. I agree that some people take their mobility for granted and really should be walking more, but you never miss what you have until it’s too late.

Even most disabled people can ride a bike. I know a man with one leg who cycles happily. Even you might be able to cycle still – there are bikes you can propel by hand, e-bikes, etc. Try these guys – http://www.getcycling.org.uk/special-needs.php – or have a look in your area. Warrington Cycle Campaign (if they’re at all nearby) may be able to advise.

Nope again, knowing one disabled person doesn’t mean “most disabled people”. It’s like saying all able bodied people should be able to run like Usain Bolt.

I have arthritis in my spine, hips and hands – can you please manufacture a bicycle that I can use without causing me too much pain?

I used to cycle 20 miles to work before I became disabled (at 26), I now struggle getting up the stairs – how do you think I’d cope on a bicycle?

BTW I’m not looking for sympathy, I just don’t like being told “most disabled people can do” when I know full well they can’t – I’m a Disability Champion and do lots of voluntary work with people with disabilities as well as holding down a full-time aeronautical engineering job.

Actually I’d like to apologise, you are probably correct in that a percentage of people with disabilities could ride a bike, but please refrain from using the term “most” as that isn’t fair on those of us who can’t.

There’s no need to apologise – i oould have been more sensitive, and clearer. You’re right that I don’t know that many disabled people who cycle, but it was my understanding that there are a wide range of adaptations available for disabled people who are interested in cycling.

As you correctly observe, that doesn’t mean everyone, and it may even mean that someone with less obviously severe disabilities may struggle to cycle as well. (My autistic nephew has a trike, but absolutely no road sense at all, meaning that it’s virtually impossible to find somewhere that it’s safe for him to use it.)

So, my apologies – ‘most’ was a little throwaway, and the subject deserves more considered debate.

Slimknott says:
11 December 2012

I like all the comments and adopt most already, but not the loss of spare tyre, car’s that is! The walking and cycling is top of my list, at 64 I have returned to two wheels, lost 2 stone, sugar levels down from 82 to 53 so its a win win situation. Don’t forget the oldies bus pass and in Tyne and wear we have an excellant Metro service, £25 per year gets unlimited use of the system. Keep the car on the dive as much as possible.

At the end of the day it’s all down to personal preference. I will always carry a spare, if possible, for peace of mind. Murphy’s law will kick in and you will get a puncture and shredded tyre in unsocial hours and you will be at the roadside for 2 hours+ which could have been considerably less. Even then it might end up on the back of a truck because they can’t find a tyre or repairer during those hours.

If you only travel locally in ‘working hours’ then you would probably get away with the gunk. Motorways, like I use daily, will inevitably end up with a shredded tyre.

ps: I have a large hi-vis coat in the boot just in case.

I carry a HiVis XXL vest that can be slipped on over a thick coat in winter as well as over a t-shirt in the summer. I also carry a triangle and two space blankets. All are compact and are extremely lightweight.