Tips to drive for less and save money


Colin Avery

Some benefits of having a car include warm cruising during winter, having a mobile umbrella on rainy days, and riding drop-top down the motorway during the summer. If it is true that nothing good in life comes free, then that saying must also apply to these good things that's come along with the luxury of driving. Juggling day-to-day expenses can be a bit of a challenge, so how do you then manage after throwing the seemingly unending costs of a car into the mix? If you learn about the most cost-effective way to acquire and maintain a car from start to finish, you may feel that the extra expense is a little less of a burden. We've put together a handy guide for how you can drive for less using some of the most practical tactics.

Savvy car buying

Once you've passed your test, it will be time to look into getting a car. It's tempting to go out and get the latest car within your budget, but you should consider whether it will be cost-effective in the long run. After all, you don’t want to end up borrowing via online loans to meet your costs. There are many factors to consider when you're thinking of buying a car and some include fuel consumption, insurance, mileage and maintenance.

Consisder the MPG

MPG? Yes miles per gallon. Basically the more fuel efficient the car the less you will have to fill up and therefore the less damage to your wallet. Smaller cars are said to be lighter and get better mileage which will be useful when you want to sell it. Smaller super mini's for instance, are lighter and have smaller engines. They also tend to be the cheapest Green cars to buy and have low running costs. Other perks include lower road tax rates, cheaper insurance, and spending less on fuel.

Car dashboard

Automatic vs. manual

It is reckoned that automatics use 10% to 15% more fuel than manuals. That is a significant enough figure to help you in your decision making, but bear in mind that efficient semi-automatics are becoming more popular as well.


The government is aiming for almost all cars and vans to be zero-emission by 2050 so they've given incentives such as zero road tax for cars that have zero carbon dioxide emission. They also cost from around 2p a mile to drive.


With quite a few car manufactures committing to ending the sale of fossil fuel driven cars in the not too distant future coupled with a pretty sizable government subsidy, electric cars are gaining in popularity. As the technology is still relatively new the price is high compared to an ultra-low emission petrol car however this cost is falling. With more and more charge points and rising fossil fuel costs the benefits are starting to outweigh the negatives.

From theory to licence

The first step to driving for less is actually learning to drive and passing both your theory and practical driving tests. The whole process is an investment that could cost well over a thousand pounds before you reach the finish line. There are some ways that you can cut costs which include:

  • Ordering your provisional licence online instead of by postal application saving yourself £9
  • Finding the best bargains for driving lessons which include free introductory lessons
  • Taking driving lessons on weekdays before 16:30 instead of evenings and weekends
  • Getting lots of practice to avoid re-takes of theory and practical by using the official DVLA theory test kit and putting some quality time in behind the wheel
  • Speaking to experienced drivers to gain as much knowledge as you can prior to taking lessons and tests to shorten learning time
  • Block booking instead of lesson-by-lesson booking as it can work out cheaper

Financing a car purchase

Getting finance for a car has its pros and cons as with every form of long term borrowing. Before you think about taking out a loan, consider all options available and whether the monthly payments are affordable and can flex for certain events such as losing your job or if the interest rate is a floating one, an interest rate rise.

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Hire purchase

Hire purchase is a method of purchasing a car on finance, where the loan is secured against the vehicle. As a result, you will not own the car outright until the last payment on the loan has been made. Typically, this form of finance is available on the forecourt of the car dealership but not always. Make sure to check the fine print and whether the repayments are affordable now and in the future.

Personal contract plan

A variation on hire purchase, this type of finance often results in lower monthly payments. Basically, you agree to pay the difference between the car's sale price and its price for resale back to the dealer instead of paying for the car outright. A PCP involves a forecast of annual mileage over the term of the agreement. At the end of the agreed term you can trade the vehicle in and get another one, pay the remaining cost to keep the car or just hand it back.

You should do a little more research to see which option works best for you if you're taking this route. Remember to keep up with payments on specialist finance plans to avoid repossession, pay higher deposits to get lower interest, and not to exceed the mileage in personal contract plans to avoid early repayment and other charges.

Car dealership


There is no way to escape insurance as legally, all cars must be insured unless they have an (SORN) which declares the car will never be driven, or happen to have been untaxed prior to 31 January 1998. The next step is to find out which is cheapest and most suitable plan for your needs. You should know that there are three different types of car insurance which are:

Third party only

This type of insurance covers the minimum. Coverage includes any damages to other vehicles in addition to treatment costs related to injuries endured by the other party and passengers in your vehicle if you happen to get into an accident. However, if you're responsible for the accident, the insurance won't cover damages to the car or any injuries you endure. It also will not cover costs for a stolen car.

Third party fire and theft

In addition to doing all that third party only insurance does, third party fire and theft also replaces your car if it's stolen, covers damages that happen to the car during the theft, as well as any fire damages.


This type of insurance offers the widest coverage out of all listed. It usually covers fire, theft/vandalism, accidental damage, any injury to both parties, and loss of personal effects. You may also be able to drive other people's car with their consent. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) data for quarter two of 2017, comprehensive cover costs an average of £484 annually

Your insurance costs can be brought down by considering the following:

  • Research a wide range of insurance providers to find the best quotes and benefits. You can do this using comparison sites
  • See if you can haggle to get your insurer to reduce your auto-renewal quote
  • Add a second driver to your licence as it may cut your costs. Someone who is a much lower risk should help bring down the average risk

Cost cutting

Cutting ongoing costs are going to be your biggest wins. Maintaining your car is where a large chunk of your money will go to, but if caution is taken, you can keep your expenses minimal. Here are a few tips that should help in your quest to driving for less.

Fines are on of the most frustrating expenses as they are pretty much avoidable. Take note of these points to save hundreds of pounds in fines. Whether a driver or passenger, smoking in a private vehicle with someone aged 17 or under inside could get both the driver and/or the passenger a £50 fine. You could be fined up to £1,000 for driving with an expired photocard. You could get a £100 fine if you're driving through Paris, Lyon or Grenoble without an emissions sticker. Stickers cost €4.80 and can be bought on the French Environment Ministry website. Feel free to appeal unfair tickets, you may win. You normally have the right to appeal the body that issued the ticket twice. Always check road signs to ensure where you can legally park. Be very cautious of rules in private car parks and always display permits or tickets. There are apps to help you find the cheapest parking spaces within your area.

All tyres have an EU tyre label which states the tyre's efficiency rating. If you can go for tyres with an "A" rating as it means they decrease the energy lost through the tyre. Try to avoid ones with a "G" rating as they're said to be the worst performing and cause increased CO2 emissions and fuel consumption. By checking tyre pressures regularly, you can improve fuel consumption by up to 2%. In addition, it is also recommended that you top up the air in them every few weeks to the car manufacturer's recommended pressure when the tyres are cold.

Apparently, running a car with less than a quarter tank can result in shorter life of the electric fuel pump, or destroy the pump altogether. Fuel efficiency is reduced by up to 2% for every extra 45kg, so keep your car as light as possible.

Pre- MOT Check

To avoid failing your MOT which creates a ripple effect of additional costs, there are some simple checks you can do at home such as testing the horn, the tread on your tyres and the efficiency of your windscreen wipers.

Check your garage

Why not try MOT centres that don't do repairs for the most part. You may find peace of mind that there is no or little incentive to fail your car.


The more you know about your car and how it works, the better. You would be surprised at how many things in your car you could just fix on your own to save money. There are several ways to learn basics about your cars including books, videos, information online and short courses.


It is hard to deny the convenience that accompanies driving, so we hope this guide has taken you a step closer to saving more when you're on the road. If knowledge truly is power, you should have more control over your car expenses if you manage to apply some of the cost saving measures mentioned. If you want more information on our loans, check out our Questions page.

What do you find to be most expensive about driving? Share some of your personal tips on managing costs on our social media page. Feel free to share if you found this useful and check out the car pages at the RAC website.