TMO tips: Driving down the cost of car ownership

With the sharp rise in the cost of living, and inflation hitting a 30-year high, there is an increasing squeeze on the wallets of consumers. The Motor Ombudsman is therefore providing motorists with a series of hints and tips to help reduce the expense associated with running a car, which can amount to around £2,000 a year on average (for fuel, insurance and servicing / repairs), excluding depreciation.


Your closest fuel station may not necessarily be the cheapest


With the price of petrol and diesel soaring at the pumps to over £1.60 for unleaded, and to in excess of £1.70 for diesel at the beginning of April, there are handy comparison sites online and smartphone apps which list live fuel prices by postcode. The cost per litre will often vary between fuel stations, even within a few metres of one another, so having this readily-available information to hand can make it easier to decide where to fill up.


It is worth bearing in mind that your closest forecourt may not necessarily be the cheapest, but also consider whether it may cost more in fuel driving to a petrol station that is further afield to save a few more pence per litre.


Get rewarded when you fill up and spend money on your car


Some credit cards offer a cashback facility, so you may be able to earn some money back when filling up your vehicle and when spending money on your vehicle. Supermarkets reward cards equally offer the chance to earn points on fuel, which can then be put towards money off the weekly shop.


Servicing a car can make all the difference  


Servicing a car in accordance with the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended full and intermediate intervals (at a given mileage or every 12 months) is an important part of keeping a car safe, roadworthy and legal, whilst also helping to maintain its value.


An incomplete or missing service history can affect the vehicle’s value


A missing or incomplete service history can reduce the resale value of a vehicle, which is estimated to be between ten and twenty percent when compared to a car with all services completed on time. For a vehicle aged over five years, the drop can be around five to ten percent. Therefore, it is recommended that services are done on time and not delayed or missed where possible.


A service plan helps spread out the cost of annual routine maintenance


Servicing a car can carry a significant cost, and often requires a payment in one lump sum that can reach a few hundred pounds, depending on the make and model. Taking out a service plan over a number of years to cover several services and/or MOTs, can be an effective way of spreading the cost of servicing in the form of affordable monthly payments. It also helps to protect against any price rises in the cost of servicing throughout the duration of the plan. Another advantage of taking out a plan is that you may be able to be carry it over to another vehicle if you choose to buy another used car of the same make.


Shop around before taking your car in


With the cost of servicing differing between an independent garage and a franchised dealership, it is worth shopping around to find the most suitable arrangement for your budget and location. It does not necessarily need to be the business where you bought the car. It’s also important that the price of the service and any additional repairs which may be needed are all pre-agreed in writing prior to being undertaken.

Businesses accredited to The Motor Ombudsman’s Service and Repair Code are listed on The Motor Ombudsman’s online Garage Finder.


Driving more efficiently can save fuel and money


The way you drive affect can affect the level of fuel consumption (measured in miles per gallon or mpg) or the range available on a single charge if driving an electric vehicle (EV). A heavy foot on the accelerator pedal will increase the use of fuel or battery charge available, so some handy tips to help make your journeys more economical include smoother acceleration, maintaining the same speed where possible, changing gear at lower revs, and looking ahead to anticipate the movement of traffic.


Running the air conditioning, and having gadgets plugged into the power socket can also affect fuel economy, as does the use of heated seats. Furthermore, it is worth running the engine for a short period to let it warm up before setting off, because engines are less efficient when cold. Similar for EVs, range can also decrease during periods of cooler weather.


Compare quotes from different providers when taking out insurance


Insuring a car is a legal requirement, and is designed to cover you for the associated costs of repairing a vehicle in the event of a collision or accident. Taking out an annual policy can represent another significant expense, and can often be paid in one lump sum or in more affordable monthly payments (with an added element of interest) via Direct Debit.


There are numerous comparison sites online, and it is still worth shopping around before accepting the renewal price quoted by your existing insurer. It is worth bearing in mind that, who you have on the policy affects the cost of the policy (e.g. age and years of driving experience), and if you have points on your licence, can drive up the cost of insurance.


Some safety checks can be done yourself


Keeping a car in a roadworthy condition is not just the sole responsibility of a garage. It is also down to you as the car owner to make sure that the pressure of all four tyres and the spare (where fitted), as well as fluids, such as the oil and windscreen washer liquid, are topped up to the vehicle manufacturer-recommended levels. For example, deflated tyres can increase fuel consumption.


If you need help performing any of the vital, but basic checks, it is worth getting in touch with your local garage to arrange a suitable time to take your car in.


Similarly, if a warning light appears on the dashboard, which can signify a problem with the engine, or low oil or tyre pressure levels, and you are unsure what it means, it is worth speaking to a professional before continuing your journey where possible to avoid any costly damage to the vehicle.


Consider whether it is really necessary to use your car


Of course one of the most effective ways of lowering the costs associated with running a car is to use your vehicle for essential journeys only. Instead, it may be worth looking at whether it is possible to reach your destination on foot or by bike, or catching a lift with a friend, family member or colleague who are heading in the same direction and splitting the cost of fuel.


If you do decide to use your car, there are various satellite navigation apps which map out the shortest and fastest routes, and indicate the best time to travel when there is potentially less congestion outside of rush hour.