It is that period in January when the weather turns bad and the credit card bills start arriving. Yes, everyone, welcome to the post-Christmas blues. It’s a time of year when almost all of us start to look at tightening our belts, both financially and physically, so it’s a good time to have a long hard look at how much money our motoring is costing us.
Inside the car
The first thing to consider, and I know it’s not spring yet, is a good spring clean. Have a good rummage around the boot, under the seats, in the glove box, in the door pockets – everywhere really – and take out anything you don’t need. Excess weight is the biggest single driver of fuel consumption, so removing as little as a single kilogram of unnecessary clutter from your car can make a difference, even if only a small one. Still, lots of small differences add up to one big one and all that.
While you’re at it, why not give your car a good clean, or treat it to a valet? I know – it won’t stay clean for long at this time of year, but it will do two things – it will make you feel better about driving it, and it will, by removing any grime, allow you to more easily see any dents and pockmarks on the body or scuffs and scratches in the cabin. If you can spot them more easily, you can deal with them more quickly and while that might not save you any immediate money (in fact it might cost you a few quid) it will pay dividends at resale time.
Under the bonnet
It’s also a good idea to get a winter service done. We’re heading into what will likely be the coldest period of the year now, so making sure that oil, water, anti-freeze and windscreen wash are all topped up and filters are all nice and fresh will help boost reliability, and also help drive down fuel consumption. On both safety and economy grounds, it’s definitely worth having your tyres checked and inflated to the correct pressure too.
Improving the driver
Then there’s insurance. The woes of the insured drivers of Ireland certainly aren’t going away, and the determination of the insurance companies to squeeze us until the pips squeak is alarming, but there are things you can do to bring that premium down. How about taking an advanced driving course? Or you could try and bring your policy down from full comprehensive to third-party, fire and theft (if such a reduction in cover suits you).
Change the car you drive
Or you could change your car for something more modern, more frugal, safer and cheaper to insure. Now, this is a drastic move as the rule of thumb says that it’s almost always cheaper to keep an old car going than to buy something new or even nearly-new. But it is only almost always, so it’s worth doing the sums. There are online tools to help you with this (such as the ‘Carculator’ on Renault’s Irish website) but a good sit down with a paper and pen and a sense of self-honesty will also help you here. Given the expensive cost of road tax for older cars and insurers’ (them again) crackdown on older cars, it can actually work out beneficial to switch to a new car, especially as it can bring down the cost of tax, insurance, servicing and more.
Of course, you then run into depreciation, still in spite of the spikes in insurance the biggest single cost in motoring, but there’s a way of sidestepping that too. A recent survey of a major used car website showed that around 18 per cent of the cars on offer had fewer than 160km on the clock, meaning that there are some nearly-new bargains to be snapped up, doubtless as a result of many dealers and importers hitting the pre-registration trail to shore up their sales numbers as 2016 came to a close. Buying a nearly-new car means you get an effectively new car at a hefty discount, wiping out much of the pain of first year depreciation, and the only potential downside is the extra name in the logbook (which can have an effect on value further down the line, but it tends to be a minor one, especially if the first registered owner is clearly a garage or dealership).
Switching cars altogether might be something of a drastic measure to bringing down your motoring costs, but if done carefully and with a level head, there are benefits there to be had. In the meantime, break out the bin bags and the sponges and get cleaning…