Skip to main contentSkip to footer

9 expert ways to save money on car running costs

With the cost of living crisis, it's more important than ever to make savings

how to save money on car
1 November 2022
Share this:

Running a car is expensive, and in the current economic climate it's more important than ever to make savings wherever possible. Fuel, insurance, road tax, plus servicing and repairs, are likely to be your biggest bills. Other expenses include breakdown cover, parking fees and permits, and tolls.

READ: How to save fuel - and save money in the process

MORE: 10 of the cheapest family cars

Studies vary, but annual car running costs can average out at around £2,000, before you factor in depreciation - the difference between a car’s value when you buy it and when you come to sell it.

From tips to save you hundreds of pounds, to a few pennies, one thing is for sure – every little helps.

1. Cheap fuel

Every penny you can save on a litre of petrol or diesel adds up, so it's worth shopping around for the cheapest fuel. claims its average member saves £200 a year on petrol and diesel by using its app which find the lowest prices near you. Broadly speaking, supermarkets tend to be the cheapest places to find cheap fuel.

fuel in car

Save on petrol with loyalty schemes and by shopping around

It's also worth signing up for loyalty cards at service stations if you use them regularly, because the points are accumulated and can be exchanged for discounts later. Finally, if your car uses unleaded petrol, don't pay the extra for premium unleaded unless it's specified for your car.

2. Drive smoothly

Whether you drive a conventional petrol or diesel car, a hybrid or an electric vehicle (EV), sensible driving is the best way to increase your car's fuel economy.

Smooth steering plus gentle acceleration, gear-changing and braking will put less stress on your pride and joy, resulting in more miles per gallon or more miles from the battery in your electric car. Use the 'eco' setting on your car, if you have it, helps too. On the road, try to anticipate what’s going to happen in front of you by watching the road well ahead to avoid unnecessary braking and acceleration, and stick to the speed limits.

3. Save on car insurance

Car insurance is one of the biggest motoring costs, especially for younger drivers. When you're approaching your renewal date, use a price comparison site to gets quotes from other providers. So don’t simply accept your auto-renewal quote, give your insurer a call to see if you can haggle and reduce it.

It's also worth checking that you have not overestimated your mileage. If you hardly use your car, dropping the allowance from 12,000 to 6,000 miles may cut your premium. It's worth remembering that adding your partner as a named driver on the family car can reduce your premium, but adding a young or inexperienced driver could increase it.

4. Car maintenance

A well-maintained car is much less likely to rack up painful garage bills or break down than one that hasn’t been looked after. Basic checks should be carried out every few weeks. When your car is parked on level ground, the ignition is switched off and the engine is cold, check your coolant, oil and screen wash levels, and top up if necessary. Now check all four tyres for damage and tread depth, and make sure they’re inflated to the correct pressure.

Legally, the tread depth must be at least 1.6mm but, but for peace of mind, 3mm is recommended. Regular checks can flag up problems and lower the risk of punctures and dangerous tyre blowouts on motorways. If a warning light comes up on your dashboard or you hear an unusual noise, get it checked out as soon as possible. It may be tempting to leave it in the hope it goes away, but catching a problem early will save you money in the long term, and may even avoid a breakdown or an accident.

READ: The dashboard warning lights you should NEVER ignore

electric car charging tips

There's plenty of easy ways to save on charging your electric vehicle

5. EV charging tips

With soaring electricity prices, running an EV isn't as cheap as it used to be, so the more cost savings you can make the better. If you have a home wall box, this is still the cheapest way to charge your vehicle. Just remember, it's usually cheaper to charge EVs overnight during off-peak hours, usually from midnight until 7am.

If you're in any doubt about your off-peak hours, check with your energy supplier. Also, take advantage of free charging stations, at supermarkets, for instance.

Use the filter on the Zap-Map website to look for free charging points (select 'Payment', then 'free to use'). If there aren't any free chargers near you, try to avoid using rapid and ultra-rapid public chargers, because they may be fast, but they are also the most expensive. 

6. Regular servicing

Stick to your car's service schedule for a safer and more reliable driving experience. Most cars require a full service every year, and aside from reducing the potential for big bills further down the line, a newly serviced car with clean oil and fresh filters will run more efficiently. Also, a service book full of stamps will add value to your car when you come to sell it and a full service history will also make your car more attractive to prospective buyers.

The good news for the future is that electric cars have fewer moving parts than petrol and diesel vehicles and they are generally cheaper to maintain. Studies vary, but it's estimated that service and maintenance costs of an EV are around 25-30% cheaper and the gap widens over time and mileage as conventional cars require more replacement parts.

However, EVs still need regular servicing, though the recommended service intervals tend to be longer.

SEE: The best new cars 2022 with the new 72-reg plate

RELATED: Electric cars vs hybrid vs petrol - which is the best one for you?

7. Wash your own car

It may be tempting to use one of the many hand car washes or automatic drive-thrus , but at £5-10 a time, a regular visit can add up to as much as £200 a year.

Doing it yourself will also help you keep on top of the condition of your car (eg rust) and rectify any problems before they become more expensive or devalue your vehicle. It's especially important to clean your car in the winter months because salt and grit can be very damaging.

Woman washing car at home

Try washing your car at home to save on car costs

Don’t forget to use a hosepipe or pressure washer to rinse the underside of your car. Also, clean off bird droppings and tree sap immediately because they can damage paintwork if left.

SHOP: The best cordless vaccuum cleaners with top reviews

MORE: 10 ways to prep your car for its MOT - and save money

8. Choose an efficient car

It sounds obvious, but the more economical your car, the more you will save on fuel or charging. Electric and hybrid cars are expensive to buy brand new, but they are now becoming available on the second hand market.

If you'd prefer to stick with a petrol or diesel, think seriously about your needs and choose one with economy in mind. If you can charge from home, but you're not ready to switch to a 100% EV, then consider a plug-in hybrid which will typically give your around 30 miles of electric motoring from a full battery (more than enough for most people's daily commute).

But here’s the thing - PHEVs can also tackle long journeys when required because they also have a conventional engine in reserve.

9. Car sharing

Do you need to run your own car with all the associated servicing and insurance costs? Could you car share with a colleague for work commuting? Could you share the school run with other parents? These are all questions you should be asking yourself as the cost-of-living crisis bites.

Car clubs usually let you reserve cars via an online app, and you can often borrow them for anything from half an hour to a couple of days, and many clubs cost as little as pennies per mile or £3 an hour.

Or, if you'd prefer to keep your car, consider car sharing. According to the people behind the Liftshare app, five-day-a-week commuters across the UK could save themselves more than £97 a month by simply car sharing with a friend or colleague by splitting the cost of fuel.

It even makes financial sense for those workers only in the office a couple of days a week (£284 fuel per year if you car share with another motorist compared to £565 if you drive on your own).

Like this story? Sign up to our HELLO! newsletters to get other stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

More News

See more