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10 ways to cut the cost of motoring

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 Prices may be rising at the pumps but you can still cut your motoring costs.
There was more pain at the pumps for drivers this week when fuel duty increased by 2p per litre; the third increase in petrol and diesel tax
in nine months.

Once VAT is included, this latest duty rise will total 2.3p per litre – pushing the average price of petrol across the country to 105p per litre.

And with oil prices continuing to rise, analysts predict petrol and diesel prices will rise by a further 3p per litre in coming weeks – costing the average families an additional £120 a year.

And this is unlikely to be the last duty rise this year. At the end of December the temporarily reduced VAT rate of 15pc will revert to the standard 17.5pc rate.

When VAT was reduced last November, in a bid to kick-start the economy, fuel duty was increased to counteract this measure. In other words, while the cost of Starbucks' coffees and M&S jumpers were marginally reduced, petrol prices remained level.

As yet there has been no indication whether similar measures will be introduced when VAT goes back up. Given the strapped state of Government finances, most industry experts are expecting put-upon motorists will have to dig deeper into their wallets again.

Although the price of filling up your car is still less than it was a year ago, when oil prices peaked, many families are now in a far worse financial situation.

Recession has forced many companies to lay off staff and reduce working hours. These price rises will also affect those on fixed income, such as pensioners.

Many retired people rely on savings to supplement a pension income, but with interest rates plummeting to an all to low, their disposable income has shrunk substantially.

But help is at hand. Motorists can do little about these stealth taxes, but can reduce the overall cost of motoring by following our tips below:

1 FILL UP FOR LESS

Prices may be going up but there can be significant differences between retailers. Supermarket chain Morrisons, for example, is freezing prices at forecourts and absorbing the latest rise in fuel duty. To find the best prices in your area, log onto  petrolprices.com ,

Once registered this free site will provide information on the cheapest unleaded, diesel, super and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in your area. You can will also get regular updates on local price changes.

2 DRIVE MORE EFFICIENTLY

Once you have filled up, make the fuel in your car last longer. You don't have to own an expensive hybrid car to drive "greener" and more efficiently.

The AA recommends slowing down and driving more smoothly – so keep a good distance between the car in front, and you will have to do less accelerating and braking. Driving at 70 miles per hour for example, consumers almost 25pc more fuel than driving at 50mph.

Edmund King, president of the motoring organisation said: "The harder you press your right foot, the more money you burn." Other eco-tips include switching off air-conditioning when possible and changing gear as soon as possible.

Insurers Aviva, recommends changing gear at 2000 revs on diesel cars, and 2500 for petrol ones. Similar if you are stuck in traffic switch off your engine to save on fuel, if it safe to do so.

In total the AA estimates that drivers who drive more efficiently will save in excess of £300 a year.

3 LOOK AFTER YOUR CAR

Don't scrimp on services as keeping your car in good working order will improve its efficiency. However, do ring around to get the best price, although make sure this does not invalidate any warranty.

Check type pressure regularly, as low air pressure can dramatically increase fuel consumption. In a similar vein check oil, coolant and brake fluids regularly to avoid future problems and big repair bills. And keep an eye on what is stored in, or on, the car.

Families often fit roof bars and top boxes for holidays, but leave them on when they return.

Similarly many drive around with golf clubs, tools or kids bikes in the car. These will weigh it down, increase fuel consumption and make the car less aerodynamic. If it's an effort for you to lug it to the garden shed, it's an effort for your car to drive it round on a daily basis –

but if it's the car doing the work it will cost your money.

4 SHOP AROUND FOR INSURANCE...

Most drivers know they could save money by shopping around for an insurance quote. According to price comparison site Moneysupermarket.com, the average drive saves up to £157 simply by switching provider. You can further cut costs by paying upfront.

Most insurers charge interest at up to 24pc if you pay monthly by direct debit.

5... THEN TRIM INSURANCE COSTS STILL FURTHER

But don't just look to change insurers, take a closer look at the policy details to check it is still suitable. Have you paid for overseas cover, for example, even though you had a "staycation" here in the UK this summer?

Do you need to pay extra for a courtesy car, or would you be able to use public transport if your car was off the road?

Likewise you could reduce premiums by switching to third-party only cover (although younger drivers may pay more for this), including a spouse as a named driver, removing any teenage children or increasing the excess. Beefing up car security can further reduce premiums – so install approved alarms and mobilisers.

6 REDUCE CAR TAX BILLS

Buy your tax annually rather than every six months and you'll save £40 a year. That's almost enough to fill a typical car's tank with petrol.

7 OBTAIN FURTHER DRIVING QUALIFICATIONS

Young drivers can cut insurance costs by more than a third, according to Moneysupermarket.com, if they successfully complete the Pass Plus scheme.

This course, which takes a minimum of six hours, gives them experience of motorway driving, night driving, and driving in inner-cities and on rural roads. Insurers who will reduce premiums for Pass Plus drivers include Zurich, Aviva, Royal & Sun Alliance, Tesco, Direct Line, Churchill and the AA.

8 CONSIDER JOINING A CAR CLUB

Car clubs are becoming increasingly popular in urban areas and there are now more than 40 running in towns and cities across the UK.

According to carplus.org.uk , those who drive less than 6,000 miles a year should save between £1,000 and £1,500 a year by joining a club.

The club owns a fleet of cars that are booked by members, either hourly or daily. The club cover tax, insurance and maintenance costs.

Typically membership is £50 a year, with rates starting from £4 an hour or £50 a day. Different rates will apply to different vehicles.

Rates vary though, so compare costs if more than one club operates in your area. Also, be careful to scrutinise each car carefully before you pick it up – or you may be billed for damage done by the previous driver.

Popular clubs include Whizzgo (www.whizzgo.co.uk ), City Car Club (www.citycarclub.co.uk ) and Streetcar (www.streetcar.co.uk )

Alternatively simply enter the name of your town plus "car club" into an internet search engine.

9 REVIEW YOUR DRIVING HABITS

Are you clocking up many motorway miles each month, or is it mainly short trips doing the school run, the weekly shop and a short commute? Could these be reorganised to reduce car use?

Those that live in cities and commute on public transport need to ask themselves whether it is cost effective to tax, insure and run a car that is sat on the driveway for much of the year. Renting a car could prove cheaper for holidays, weekends away and one-off trips – even when compared to car club rates.

Alternatively look to cut costs by car pooling. Ask colleagues at work about sharing trips, or check whether your local council operates a

scheme. Carplus, a charity that promotes responsible car use – lists many local schemes. See www.carsharing.carplus.org.uk for more information.

10 INVEST IN A SATNAV OR IMPROVE YOUR MAP-READING SKILLS

Thousands of gallons of fuel are wasted each year by motorists who got lost or failed to take the most direct route. The RAC estimates that over the course of a year, this wasted fuel would fill more than 250 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Plan your journey before you start, with sites such as www.rac.co.uk/routeplanner

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