Saving Money on Motoring

Five years ago, I purchased a five year old Zafira. This is a great car for a family – it is a 7 seater, but it is really easy to put the back seats down and just have a big boot. This is great for transporting the family, and having a big boot space has been invaluable on many occasions. It has been brilliant for our many cheap camping holidays, as well as for collecting a freebie fridge and two bootloads of hardcore from fellow Freecyclers.

carHowever, it isn’t a Vauxhall Zafira, but an Opal Zafira – identical apart from the name. It appears it was purchased new in Ireland and imported to the UK. The first year I had it I insured it with the AA, no problem. When I came to renew it, however, they advised that they no longer insured imports. You would think that getting reasonably priced insurance on a regular family car would be easy enough, wouldn’t you? No!! Since then I have struggled to find insurance that hasn’t cost more than the car was worth. This year, I have it insured for third party, fire and theft only, and it still cost me £450!

So why, you are asking, have you kept this old car when it is costing so much in insurance? I have explored selling it and buying something else, but the fact is that I can only afford an old car. If I sell this one I will be lucky to make £400 on it. I know my old banger – it is useful and reliable and has so far cost very little to maintain. If I spend my £400 on someone else’s old banger I don’t really know what problems I will inherit. So I will hang on to the old girl for a bit longer and take the hit on the insurance.

What I try to do to mitigate some of the cost is watch my fuel consumption. The car has an on-board computer that tells me what my instant diesel consumption is. If I put my foot down hard the number of miles I get to the gallon plummets. If I am light on the accelerator I can see that I am getting more miles for my money. Simple really. I also try to change gear exactly when the car needs it rather than when the engine starts to complain. If I need to go out in the car, I try to get all my errands done on the same trip.

But I think I could do more. According to the AA, you can save up to 10% on your fuel if you get your car serviced regularly to keep the engine running efficiently. I am sure this is right, but it actually costs quite a lot to get it serviced. This year there was a deal at the garage near to where I work to do the MOT and a mini service for £75 so I gave it a go, but for a couple of years the car wasn’t serviced at all.

The AA also advises you check your car manual to make sure the tyres are at the correct pressure, as under inflated tyres use more fuel. I had two new tyres fitted recently so they were checked then, but I will make a note to do it again when I get some more diesel.

I have a friend who always keeps a barrel on the top of her landrover as it is handy storage. This is a no-no, according to the AA, as roof boxes and storage containers add wind resistance, therefore increasing fuel consumption. Ditto carrying heavy loads around in your boot. This is not a good place to store all your garden tools!

Other tips from the AA:

Cut down on the air-con as this increases fuel consumption. So if it’s a hot day open the windows rather than turn on the air conditioning. Also turn off anything electrical in the car when you aren’t using it: heated windscreens, fans and headlights. If you get stuck in a traffic jam and it looks as though it will be a while, turn off the engine. Stick to speed limits: the faster you go the more fuel you will use. You may also get a speeding ticket which will cost you a fine and is likely to increase the cost of your insurance.

 ‘Driving at 70mph uses up to 9% more fuel than at 60mph and up to 15% more than at 50mph. Cruising at 80mph can use up to 25% more fuel than at 70mph.’ – The AA

These small things could add up to a big saving, particularly if you use your car a lot.

I always try to refuel at the supermarket as they are cheaper, in my experience, and I pass the Asda petrol station on my way to work so it makes sense.

I found another good money saving motoring tip from moneysavingexpert.com a few years ago which I have used a couple of times. Most councils have their own MOT testing centres for council vehicles that are open to the public. They generally provide only the MOT test and do not carry out any remedial repairs, and therefore they have no vested interest in diagnosing anything other than genuine faults. My ex-husband got an ancient old banger through its MOT on three occasions when it would certainly have had the mechanics at any other garage sucking their teeth and rubbing their hands with glee at the faults they could find!

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