Driving costs: how to save on petrol, insurance and more

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Find the cheapest fuel

The cost of running a car is rocketing, with UK petrol prices soaring to an average of about 167p a litre. But there are small changes you can make to save money, such as using the free PetrolPrices app or website to find the cheapest fuel in your area.

According to the consumer group Which?, it is usually a few pence a litre cheaper to buy petrol from supermarket forecourts. Supermarkets sometimes run petrol promotions with money-off vouchers if you spend a particular amount on a shop, too, so check for these.

View image in fullscreenThe cost of fuel is soaring. Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Wherever you buy fuel, sign up to the supplier’s loyalty scheme. For example, you get one point for buying one litre of fuel with Texaco’s Star Rewards scheme. Each point is worth 1p, and once you reach 500 points, you get a £5 voucher.

Cut cover costs

Insurers can no longer offer new customers cheaper premiums than they are quoting those who renew, after a shake-up of the industry rules. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t save by shopping around for a policy. According to Comparethemarket, you can save about £300 a year on average by switching your car insurance 20 days before your existing policy ends, although the cost varies over the year.

MoneySavingExpert has launched a car insurance comparison tool that offers bespoke tips for driving down the cost of a policy, such as whether it would work in your favour to add a responsible additional driver. Other comparison sites to compare quotes include, Comparethemarket, and GoCompare.

You may be tempted to buy third-party cover, which is the legally required minimum level of insurance, but it’s not always the cheapest. Alex Hasty, a director at Comparethemarket, says: “These policies provide less cover for claims but can cost more as insurer’s risk modelling anticipates that drivers with third-party cover are more likely to claim, and there’s also less competition in this market.”

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View image in fullscreenYou can save money by shopping around for a policy. Photograph: Panther Media GmbH/Alamy

Check out clubs

If you drive fewer than 6,000 miles a year, joining a car club could save you thousands of pounds a year over running your own car.

You can usually hire a car by the day, or hour, so you don’t pay when you are not using the vehicle.

The big clubs have parking spots in different places, so check if there’s one near you before joining. Clubs include Zipcar, Enterprise Car Club (London), and Co Wheels.

You pay a fee to join, then pay each time you hire the car. You need the car club’s phone app or membership card to open and use the vehicle you have hired. Zipcar has various membership options: for example, in London you can join for £6 a month, and use a car from £6.50 an hour, or £59 a day. The cost depends on the plan you are on, the city you are in and the vehicle you are driving.

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Drive carefully

“Ways to keep fuel consumption low include driving smoothly, changing gears early to avoid revving the engine, sticking to a lower speed, turning off fuel-sapping equipment and emptying your boot before a journey,” says Adam French, a consumer rights expert at Which?.

Turlough Downes, a professor of mathematics and astrophysics at Dublin City University, recently suggested driving at 50mph was the sweet spot for motorists looking to reduce their fuel use. According to the AA, driving at 80mph uses up to 25% more fuel than driving at 70mph, for example. You can find more information on how to improve your fuel efficiency on the organisation’s website.

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Travel light

Downes’s calculations suggested leaving a roof box on his car for a journey had increased his fuel use for one trip by 50%, so take yours off if you are not using it. Similarly, not carrying round unnecessary loads will reduce how much fuel your car uses and the associated cost.

View image in fullscreenRemove the roof box from your car if you are not using it on a journey. Photograph: Justin Kase z12z/Alamy

Check your tyres

Regularly do a tyre pressure check to ensure yours are sufficiently inflated. The lower the tyre pressure, the more fuel a car will need to use to keep moving.

You could consider fitting eco-tyres: these decrease your car’s resistance on the road, so they require less engine power. “But they are only effective if you replace all your tyres with this type, and this is a heavy upfront cost unless they all need changing,” says Erin Baker, the editorial director at Auto Trader.

View image in fullscreenThe lower the pressure, the more fuel a car will need. Photograph: Phil Rees/Athena Pictures

Share journeys

Ask around at work, or sign up to carsharing communities such as Sites such as BlaBlaCar offer one-off journeys, if you have got a long journey coming up and you are happy to share the trip.

If you are the person driving, check with your insurer that you are covered for the number of passengers you’ll be taking. Depending on the size of your car, some policies may specify that you cannot have more than three passengers, for example. If you have a large number of people in your car, it’s important they each have a seatbelt.

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View image in fullscreenYou don’t pay vehicle tax on electric cars, which will save you an average of £155 a year. Photograph: Huw Fairclough/Getty Images

Go electric

Electric cars are more than a third more expensive to buy outright than petrol or diesel models, according to Auto Trader. However, with government incentives and tax breaks available, it could be cost-effective to pay the higher upfront price in return for lower running costs. You don’t pay vehicle tax on electric cars, which will save you an average of £155 a year. Plus, you may be able to get a government grant of up to £1,500 to buy one with a recommended retail price of less than £32,000, including VAT.

If your employer is signed up to a salary sacrifice scheme, you may be able to halve the cost of leasing a new electric car, and if you live in a flat or rented accommodation, you may receive up to 75% of the cost of installing a charge point at your home through the electric vehicle homecharge scheme. Electric car drivers also don’t pay the congestion charge for driving in city centres. You can see if you can save money by switching to electric using the Comparethemarket calculator.

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