Making Cents: Play it smart and reduce cost of running the car

According to the AA’s recent survey of motoring costs, the average cost of running a family car for a year is €10,691.37. 

Some good news for motorists regarding car insurance was cancelled out by the recent spike in fuel prices.

“In 2018, it appears that fuel prices has jumped to the fore as the greatest concern for average motorists,” said AA consumer affairs director Conor Faughnan.

“The continued climb in pump prices which we have seen on a near monthly basis is leaving a significant hole in wallets across the country.” 

The total is an increase of €20.25 on the same figure for last year, according to the AA’s calculations.

Irish families, particularly those where two adults are commuting by car, will not be surprised by the findings.

Between buying, taxing, insuring, repairing and refuelling cars, being an Irish driver is an expensive business. 

The bad news is there is very little an ordinary motorist can do about the price of crude oil or the Government’s tax policies, which both impact the AA’s final figure.

But there are still a number of ways to help ensure you are keeping your driving costs to a minimum.

The good news for the sensible among us is that safer drivers are also more cost-efficient drivers.

Hard braking, aggressive acceleration and speeding all drain a car’s fuel tank. 

Research for the US Department of Energy suggests this type of driving could increase fuel consumption by 5% when driving around town and by 33% at higher main road and motorway speeds.

Aim for a steady, controlled driving style, changing up gears as soon as possible and anticipating stops well in advance. 

Similarly, if you find yourself speeding regularly, try and set out on your journey a little sooner, that time pressure is costing you in fuel.

Extra weight also costs fuel. Only have a bike or luggage rack attached to the car when necessary and try and keep your boot space clear. 

Even if you are a golfer, do you really need your clubs to hand when you are going to work? 

In a family car in particular, it is easy to let bags and junk accumulate but you are paying to drive it around with you.

The other way to save on fuel is to pay the best price. Most of us pass multiple petrol stations in the average week, take a note of prices as you pass and fill up where you know you are getting good value.

You can also check your tyre pressure at the petrol station and it is worth doing so on a regular basis, as having the correct pressure will improve the mileage you get from fuel. 

It also reduces the risk of a blowout, which could be dangerous as well as costly. 

The correct pressure level for your car is in your owner’s manual and will usually also be printed on the driver’s door jamb.

Air conditioning is also often highlighted as a drain on fuel but in the heat of summer, most drivers will accept paying a little extra for comfortable driving. 

There is certainly no point leaving the air conditioner off and opening windows at high speeds, they only create drag on the vehicle. 

If you want to minimise usage, use the window down at low speed and switch to air conditioning as you speed up.

One of the best ways to reduce costs is to share them. If you have a colleague who lives nearby maybe you could take turns driving or share costs. 

If you don’t have a colleague nearby consider seeing if there is someone living nearby who shares your route. 

A weekly contribution toward fuel adds up to a lot in a year.

The other major motoring cost is insurance. It is worth making an effort to shop around when your policy is due for renewal. 

One option is to see if bundling insurance will save you money. 

Some insurers offer discounts if you also take out home and/or travel cover, just do your homework to ensure you really are saving money.

If your car is old or not worth much, make sure you are not overpaying unnecessarily. 

If it costs more to fix than replace, maybe third-party, fire and theft makes more sense than comprehensive cover.

Deal of the week

The new academic year is weeks away and Lidl has offers for third-level students, particularly first-years, to get ready for college.

The special offers range this week will kit student houses out with everything from kitchen equipment to bed set covers.

A Silvercrest combination oven and grill is on sale for €39.99.

The neat unit comes with a timer, three cooking combinations and includes grilling rack, baking sheet and tongs.

There are also a number of grill options on sale and an air fryer for €59.99 reduced down from €89.99.

In addition to duvets and bedlinen, students can also sort out all their entertainment needs for their room, with a 32in Smart LED TV on sale for €209.99 and a bluetooth speaker set available for €39.99.

For their actual study needs, there is a wide range of office supplies and stationary included in the range, and a Lenovo 14in laptop for €249.99.

All are on sale at the moment.

If there are any consumer issues that you’d like Gráinne to address or if you have problems that Gráinne could help with, she can be contacted at makingcents@examiner.ie.

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