How to Cut Car Running Costs
PLAN YOUR TRIPS
You know the saying ‘time is money’? With cars it’s not time, but distance, that costs you money. And that means you save 100 per cent of the fuel you would have used on trips you don’t make. You also save 100 per cent of the tyre wear, brake wear and other service-related costs.
Most Australians never really consider this – so the car gets used as a yo-yo between home and the next pressing assignment. Instead of going home-school-home-coffee-home-shops-home-school, why not try home-school-coffee-shops-home? You’ll save a significant amount of distance – which means money.
It’s more efficient to get as many things done as possible in the one outing than it is to achieve the same result via a greater number of shorter trips. Same thing applies for businesses.
Your accelerator is connected to a tap that empties the fuel tank. It’s that simple. The harder you press, the more the tap opens – and the faster the tank empties, costing you money.
There are two strategies here to achieve better tap control: first, take off more gently when the light goes green. Second, shut the tap earlier when the lights ahead go red. Lift off the accelerator and coast to a stop rather than powering up to a red light and braking harder at the last minute.
On the highway, drive at a constant speed – perhaps using the cruise control if your car has it.
The fuel saving alone here could be as much as 20 per cent.
DON’T BUY A BRAND NEW CAR
If you think fuel is expensive, consider depreciation. A new car loses around 30 per cent of its value in the first two years of ownership. Say you buy a $40,000 car. The depreciation is $12,000 in the first two years. That’s $6000 annually, or $120 a week – which is more than the fuel in many cases.
Solution? Buy a two-year-old car. It’ll still be under warranty for a year (the average warranty is three years, but Mitsubishi and Hyundai offer five) and the heaviest depreciation will be behind it. In many cases it will be exactly the same as the new model currently on sale.
Cars in Australia travel, on average, 15,000km a year – so you should be able to find a quality two-year-old car with around 30,000km on the odometer for around 30 per cent off the price of the brand new equivalent.
SHOP FOR SERVICE AND PARTS
Prices on servicing and parts are all over the shop in the car industry. Dealers are free to charge whatever the market will bear on both – so it’s essential to shop around on both counts.
You should also be aware that it is not necessary to get your car serviced at the dealership you purchased the car from to maintain the new-car warranty. Nor is it necessary to use genuine parts. According to the ACCC, the person doing the servicing needs to be qualified, and the parts need to be fit for the purpose intended, as opposed to genuine (ie manufacturer’s brand).
If you put your car in for a standard service and get an unexpected call telling you major repairs are required, don’t just blindly accept it. Ask them the estimated cost, broken down into labour and parts, tell them to hold fire, and shop around on the telephone until you’re certain you’re not getting ripped off.
GET YOUR CAR SERVICED
Sounds crazy, but replacing (say) brake pads before they’re down to bare metal and ruining your discs is the better deal. So is replacing a timing belt before it breaks and trashes the top half of your engine.
A regular service, say once every six months if you drive average kilometers, will ultimately save you thousands – by heading off major disasters with preventative maintenance – as well as keeping engine wear low via regular oil changes.
MAKE FRIENDS WITH COMPRESSED AIR
Four tyres on an average family car are a $600 investment. On a prestige car or performance car, they could be worth thousands. Tyre wear accelerates rapidly if tyres are under-inflated, and the compressed air at petrol stations is free – a happy coincidence.
What a pity more people don’t use it more often! People driving with under-inflated tyres are contributing disproportionately to the profits of Dunlop, Bridgestone, Pirelli, Michelin, etc. Their cars also don’t stop and corner nearly as well, which can be a major liability in an emergency.
Once a fortnight (or every second time you fill the tank) check your tyres (including the spare tyre). The manufacturer’s recommended operating pressure is on the tyre placard, which is usually inside the driver’s door frame of the car. It could boost the life of your tyres by 50 per cent … and it might also save your neck (or someone else’s).
Taking it easy in corners and while accelerating and braking will also help extend tyre life, as will getting the tyres rotated to different corners of the car during each service.