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Save on driving costs – our top 25 tips

Just small adjustments can help you save thousands of dollars each year on your driving costs.

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Man driving car

Many of us use our cars without thinking about it. As long as the car takes us where we want to go, that’s all that matters. Yet in these uncertain economic times, we can potentially save thousands of dollars a year by making some adjustments to the way we drive, maintaining our car or finding services for our car.

We’ve taken the guesswork out for you. Read on to discover Finder’s top 25 tips for saving on your driving costs.

Shop around for car insurance

Don’t skip on car insurance. It’s an important part of having a car. If you don’t have it, you could lose a lot of money if the unexpected happens.

It’s worth shopping around for the right car insurance. Prices can vary greatly and you may be able to cut your driving costs by finding a policy that is better value for you.

Some things to consider:

  • Multi-policy discounts. Do you already have another type of insurance, such as home and contents? Most insurance companies will give you a discount if you have more than one type of insurance. Ask your current provider if they will give you a discount if you also take out a car insurance policy.
  • Pay your insurance annually rather than monthly. You can save a substantial amount of money by paying your car insurance in one lump sum rather than spread out over monthly payments.
  • Increase your excess. Your insurance premiums will be lower if your excess is higher. Just be aware that this could end up costing you more if something happens to your car.

For more on car insurance, check out Finder’s comprehensive guide.

Shop around for a car

Test driving your next car can be an exciting experience but don’t let your emotions get the better of you. A car is a significant investment, and you don’t want to end up with a car that isn’t right for you or faulty.

Some things to consider:

  • What will you use your car for? If you drive only in urban areas, you will want a different car to someone who lives on a farm or who travels out of town a lot.
  • Who will you buy your car from? If you’re buying from a private seller your car may be cheaper, but you have no legal rights if there is something wrong with the car. If you buy from a dealer, you will have protection.
  • Is your new car a Japanese import? If so, you can ask for the import/export sheet that outlines the car’s condition.

Use only a trusted WOF provider

For example, a local garage may have an incentive to fail you so they can quote for repairs. VTNZ does not carry out vehicle repairs, so their WOF checks are impartial. There are VTNZ branches throughout New Zealand so see if there is one near you.

Keep your driver licence up to date

If you’re caught driving without a current driver licence you risk being fined up to $400 (or $1000 for persistent offending), having your vehicle impounded and insurance claims denied. It’s worth making sure your licence is up to date to avoid any of these things from happening. It costs just $45 and takes less than 10 minutes to renew it by visiting most AA or VTNZ branches.

Keep your licence with you when you drive

This one is easy. Make sure you carry your licence with you every time you drive. The standard fine for driving without your licence on you is $55.

Don’t forget your WOF and vehicle registration

Most of us have let the due date of our car’s Warrant of Fitness or registration pass by unnoticed at some point. But if you are caught without a current WOF or your vehicle is unregistered you could be fined $200. The police will often let you off with a warning if your WOF or registration has expired within the last 28 days.

However, if you do cop a fine, you’ll have to pay it and still fork out for the WOF or registration.

A WOF costs $40–$60. The cost of registration depends on the make of your car and how long you are registering it for. You can work out the cost of registering your car here.

Challenge parking fines from private companies

If you’re pinged for a parking fine from a private parking company, a mall, a supermarket or the like, bear in mind that these are not legal parking fines. These are invoices, and these do not need to be paid in full. You have the legal right to offer a fair payment – for example, the cost of half an hour’s parking if you are half an hour over the limit.

Don’t use premium fuels

Unless you’ve been told by your car’s manufacturer to use a premium fuel, stick to the standard 91. Petrol companies will often promote premium fuels as being better for your car, but this is not necessarily the case. Premium fuels are considerably more expensive than 91 and can cost up to 60 cents more per litre.

Adjust the way you drive

You can save on driving costs by making adjustments to how you drive. Your car is at its most fuel efficient when it is at a constant speed. Try to drive smoothly and avoid sudden braking.

Avoid towing and clamping fines

However, towing is an aggressive business, particularly in larger urban areas like Auckland. If your car is parked illegally, such as in a reserved car park or on yellow lines, you could face a towing or clamping fee of $150 or more.

It’s simple. Don’t park where you shouldn’t, ever.

Fix issues before your WOF

Some inspectors or mechanics will warn you that your car has issues that mean it won’t pass its next WOF. If you receive a warning, fix those issues before your next WOF.

You can also do your own simple checks. Are the lights working? Is the tread on the tyres getting low? Is the handbrake not very responsive? If you notice any problems, see a mechanic before your WOF.

Shop around for tyres

The cost of tyres can vary greatly, so phone around tyre shops and mechanics to find the best deal. Don’t forget to ask if the cost of fitting and balancing is included in the price.

If you’re really looking to save money on your tyres you can also consider retread tyres.

Winter-proof your car

The colder months of the year can be tough on your car, especially if you live in the South Island or central North Island. There are a few things that you can do to help your car make it through winter intact:

  • Check your battery regularly. Your battery is more likely to die during cold weather, so make sure it is charged.
  • Check your tyres. When conditions are treacherous it’s important that your tyres are in good working order. This is an excellent guide to tyres and safety from the AA.
  • If you live in a very cold part of the country consider purchasing antifreeze to keep your engine running when the temperature drops below zero.

Keep your car in your garage or carport

If you’re lucky enough to have a garage or carport on your property, use it. It will help protect your car from the hot sun in summer and from rain, hail, snow and frost in winter.

Your car is also less likely to be stolen if it is kept overnight in a garage.

Don’t keep heavy loads in your car

Keep your car boot or back seat clear of junk or equipment. Why? Because hauling extra weight around in your car on a regular basis decreases your car’s efficiency.

Cut down on petrol costs by making your car as light as possible.

Minimise air con use

Using your air conditioning can increase your petrol consumption by up to 10%, particularly if you have an older car. If you’re travelling at low speeds, it’s better to wind down your window on a hot day.

When you’re travelling on the open road, keeping the windows down will create more drag and decrease fuel efficiency even further. This is when it makes more sense to use your air con but consider turning it off when you are going uphill.

Keep your tyres properly inflated.

Properly inflated tyres can increase fuel efficiency by up to 8%, so it’s worth checking your tyres regularly. Check the car’s manual or inside the driver’s door for the correct kPA/psi for your car.

A study by the AA found that 48% of cars had underinflated tyres.

Avoid heavy braking

Wherever possible, avoid heavy use of your brake. Anticipate slowing down and take your foot off the accelerator, which allows the car to slow naturally. Excessive braking can increase fuel consumption.

Use public transport

If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with a regular public transport system, consider using it. Public transport often works out cheaper than driving. Your car gets less wear and tear, which saves money.

An added bonus: By not using your car you’re helping to save the planet.

Have just one car

If you have a partner/spouse or family, it’s tempting to have more than one car for the sake of convenience. However, two cars means double the petrol, double the maintenance costs and double the costs for registration and WOFs.

Get creative and work out how your family can share one car.

Cut down on unnecessary driving

On a similar note, consider how much you use your car. Is it really necessary to drive to the dairy for an ice cream? Save on fuel costs and give yourself a healthy boost by walking or biking instead of driving.

Save on airport parking

While smaller regional airports offer free or very cheap parking, casual parking at airports can set you back upwards of $200 per week. If you need to leave your car at a major airport, book a spot before you fly – it’s much cheaper. Opting for uncovered parking compared to covered parking usually works out much cheaper for long stays.

To help you out, here are links to parking facilities in New Zealand’s four largest airports:

Avoid leaving your car idling

On cold mornings it can be necessary to warm up your car before driving. However, keep this to a minimum as it wastes fuel. Most modern cars need only a minute or two to warm up.

Rotate your tyres

Rotating your tyres lengthens their life by making sure they wear evenly. This guide from Bridgestone Tyres shows how tyres can be rotated and recommends doing this every 5,000–8,000km.

Learn basic repairs yourself

If you’re a handy sort of person you can learn to do simple repairs and maintenance on your car yourself. There are plenty of guides on YouTube, or check out your local night school programme to see if they offer car maintenance classes.

Just leave major repairs to the experts.

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