It’s not yet time to hoot the horn in celebration, but things are looking a tad better for drivers.
There was no Budget petrol tax rise, and a supermarket price war sees costs now at an average £1.29/litre – that's 13p less than the peak, while insurance prices have come off their peak too.
Yet if the Stig's helmet had eyes, even they'd probably still water about the fact that car running costs alone are an average £3,500/year.
So I want to help you rev up your motoring savings.
1. New, up to 20p off fuel for Tesco shoppers.
If you're a driver who shops at Tesco, its new Fuel Save scheme is a must. You get 2p/litre off petrol and diesel at Tesco forecourts for every £50 you spend in-store or on groceries online.
For example, £220 in a month is 4 x 2p/L off discounts. Simply present a Clubcard when you pay. Up to 10 can be combined in one go to get 20p/L off. The key here is that you needn't spend the £50 all at once. Full details at www.tesco.com/fuelsave.
Also note the free website PetrolPrices.com lists the day’s cheapest petrol stations in your area for unleaded, diesel, LPG and other fuels.
2. Hidden council MOT centres can mean fewer fails
40% of MOTs fail first time, often for trivialities such as bust light bulbs or poor windscreen wipers. So always do a quick walk-around and, where possible, fix before.
For the test itself, if you've a long-term trusted garage, great. If not, little-known council MOT test centres generally don't do repairs, so have less incentive to fail you.
The feedback on these is great, with many saying they get far fewer fails. There’s a full list at www.mse.me/mots
3. Has the PHOTO on your licence expired?
You risk a £1,000 fine. While the licence itself may be valid, the photo needs renewing every 10 years. Two million have expired, so check your card's section 4b date and if it’s expired, go to www.gov.uk/renew-driving-licence to renew.
4. Car insurance deals comparison sites miss
There's no one cheapest insurer, so the aim's to get as many quotes as possible. Yet different comparison sites cover different insurers, so always check at least two for a wider spread. Then check the ones they miss – including biggies www.aviva.co.uk and www.directline.com Yet it’s also about understanding the counter-logical ways to save.
Third party's not always cheapest
Even though it’s meatier cover, the mere fact of selecting comprehensive insurance makes some insurers consider you a lower risk, which outweighs the cost for the bigger cover. So if you’re looking for the cheapest, always check both.
Got more than one car?
Comparison sites only do single vehicles. Manually check www.admiral.com’s multi-car policy deals and, if time, www.churchill.com and www.directline.com discounts.
Yet really slicing down insurance costs takes a touch of work. For a full list of tips to try, see www.mse.me/carinsurance.
5. Young drivers, try adding parents as second drivers
Strange as it sounds, adding a responsible second driver to your policy can bring costs down. This is because insurance is about risk, so they can bring the average down. It's a case of trial and error with different firms.
Of course you can’t just add David Cameron to your policy (not sure if you’d want to, anyway) - it needs to be someone who’d realistically drive the car. As Faevouritexox told me: “As a young new driver my insurer wanted £5,000, but after adding mum and dad it dropped to £1,900."
Yet never put someone as the main driver on the car unless they really are the main driver. Doing this falsely is called fronting; it’s illegal and can invalidate your insurance. Full help for under-25s car insurance costs in www.mse.me/youngdrivers.
6. Private parking firms CAN'T fine you
Parking tickets from supermarkets, housing estates or any private car park do better impressions than Rory Bremner. Some even call themselves Parking Charge Notices to mimic official council Penalty Charge Notices. Yet they're not fines, just invoices.
If a ticket's unfairly slapped on your windscreen (eg, there were no signs), reply explaining why it's unfair and that you won't pay. It may huff and puff, yet it can't "hit your credit record" or "send bailiffs" without the time and expense of court action.
If it's an unfair council ticket, don't just accept it - you have rights. Of those appeals already turned down by councils, 50% win if they keep going to the final stage. Full help and template letters at www.mse.me/parking.
7. Get breakdown cover for just £20
Breakdown renewal rates tend to be hugely inflated. Yet 90% who tried haggling with the AA, and 78% with the RAC, report success.
New customer offers can be even stronger though. It’s often possible to effectively get RAC and AA basic cover for £20 or less if you get it via cashback sites, such as www.topcashback.co.uk. For example, at the time of writing www.theaa.com cover is £30, but go via Topcashback and you get £15.75 back, making it £14 all in. But rates change daily, so always double-check.
Alternatively www.autoaidbreakdown.co.uk gets home start and onward travel for £39 a year – a great price but it’s a “pay and claim” firm (it sends a local repair firm, you pay it then send your receipts in to claim the cost back).
8. Cut fuel use up to 30% by driving more efficiently
This isn’t about slowing down (though that can help if you’re a boy or girl racer). The real keys are:
a) Change gear up earlier to keep revs down.
b) Treat the accelerator like a money pump - the harder you press, the more fuel flows.
c) Slow naturally rather than ramming the brakes to use up the car’s momentum.
If possible, also reduce your vehicle’s weight and drag, then it needs less fuel to travel. So dejunk your trunk - many carry unnecessary weight in the boot, correct your tyre pressure and more.