10 Top Tips for Lowering Vehicle Running Costs

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It has been a pretty lousy fuel market in Adelaide of late. Reportedly around the country, relatively speaking. With fuel prices having taken a consistent 25% price hike for the past month we have seriously started conversations at home about how we are going to adjust our spending habits to bring the usage down so that the dollar value is closer to matching what it was before. Yes, that is a target of a 20% reduction of travel costs which, with a family, is a big ask. We are especially feeling that we has already put some measures in place to tighten our belts at the beginning of the year, before the price rises kicked in.

As part of that discussion, we have come up with our 10 Top Tips for Lowering Vehicle Running Costs.

1. Travel less.

Think about those times when you jump in the car to travel places. Do you need to do every trip? Or can you do specific travel journeys less frequently? Maybe instead of heading to the shops every second day it’s time to start planning what you need in advance? And does your employment allow you to work from home, even if it is just one day a week?

It is very easy to reduce costs if there are things that you can just elect not to do. It may take some active effort for a while to change your habits but can be one of the easiest ways to make an immediate impact. Kristy had a choice around this just this last weekend. She was hosting some friends for the afternoon and was mid-way through baking when she realised she did not have any dairy free spread to cater for the dietary needs of a friend. At that junction she has a choice as to whether to ‘duck to the shops’ or not. Before she did she hit up google and scouted the fridge and pantry, instead electing to substitute with other ingredients instead. Sometimes electing to travel less just takes a bit of creativity too.

2. Where you can, opt out of using a vehicle to get places.

The children make use of local footpaths to get home.

Where you can eliminate the use of the vehicle, do so. Assess your options, can you walk, can you cycle, can you take public transport? Yes, the trade off may be time but it might just be worth it.

By travelling by other means you might be able to take advantage of not having to focus on the road to invest your time in other things from reading a book or listening to a podcast or journaling. With walking and cycling you also get to take in your surroundings whilst racking up those minutes of active fitness time as well. It’s not bad when you can hit off 2-3 birds with one stone really.

This may be an opportunity to assess whether your household can ditch the ‘second car’ as well.

3. Avoid peak hour if possible.

Stop start driving isn’t fun. We all know that. It is marred by people who ‘duck and weave’, frustrated drivers, impatient drivers and drivers who from the stagnant road conditions are tempted into distracted driving by picking up their phones. It is a recipe for disaster that also chews up fuel with the extra idling and the constant acceleration and deceleration. As an alternative, can you take advantage of flexible working hours to either start an hour earlier at work also leaving earlier or by having a late start and late finish?

Yes, the Australian school system is also not very conducive to avoiding traffic. We have found that taking advantage of those extra 15 minutes before drop off and pick up and finding a park rather than idling in a ‘kiss and drop’ zone can save you a pretty sum. Kiss and drop zones were started for convenience, not to support your household budget.

4. Combine necessary driving trips.

Plan to run errands together and have an efficient travel route in mind. If you need to head to the shops during the day can you time it in with the journey to or from an existing appointment? Could you time your appointments to finish up just before or after the school run? Combining travel to a fixed journey not only minimises duplication of travel but it also sets you onto a timeline to get things done. Having a timeline might just help reduce incidental spending as well.

5. Practice driving more efficiently.

Driving smoothly can completely change the fuel economy you gain from your vehicle. To get the most fuel consumption advantage, move towards smooth acceleration, don’t speed, and maximise use of deceleration by anticipating traffic flow rather than using your brakes, down gearing also if you have a manual vehicle.

Also, take routes that minimise idling. For us that means that around shopping centres such as Modbury and Noarlunga we look to use access routes that use roundabouts rather than entering via traffic lights as well as avoiding peak periods. Another key to driving more efficiently is to keep the extra weight out of the car. Yes, when was the last time you emptied your car boot?

6. Embrace fresh air.

Running heating and cooling draws extra power and that comes at a cost. Have a go at enjoying the fresh air as much as the opportunity allows either vented or by popping down your window. Opening your window is the most efficient option until you are driving at high speeds as it then affects aerodynamics. Kristy here, when discussing this with the children on a car drive then turned around and asked if the car was going to be kitted out to fly. Sorry kiddos, we are a few generations of car away from that kind of design feature as yet!

7.Be functional about fuel.

There is a point where overfilling the tank of you car is pointless and really just leaves the extra to become fumes. Don’t be obsessive about gaining a complete fill. More importantly though, to get the best fuel efficiency it is really important to use the recommended fuel for your vehicle. I know it might cost more at the fuel bowser but it will help you keep off refuelling unnecessarily.

8. Keep your vehicle well serviced.

Yes, it is important to have your vehicle regularly serviced. In and above that too, there are regular checks that you can do to keep your vehicle running with peak economy. Make a point once a fortnight to check the fluid levels of your oil and coolant as well as brake and battery fluids. Also, when refuelling, make a point of checking your tyre pressure and checking the tyres for any wear and tear that needs to be addressed whilst you are down there. Rotation of tyres and balancing can keep the expense of tyre replacement on the back burner for long enough to make a financial difference.

9. Engage with a car pooling or ride share service.

Consider engaging in a car pooling service. In Adelaide, we have a dedicated car pooling service that is recognised by the State Government for the sharing of car rides. Be sure to check out the web site for more details of the requirements to be involved. Car pooling is also something that can be organised informally by having a chat with people who live nearby that you can share the work or school run with as well as share rides to sports and hobby commitments or to attend important meetings.

10. Price your car purchase on running cost as well as purchase price.

When selecting a replacement vehicle, look at the big picture costs of what you are purchasing. It is important to make sure that your vehicle is ‘fit for purpose’ and has the features you truly need and will make use of but it will pay to also measure up the running costs as well. Many standard passenger vehicles have options for the type of engine and the difference between an engine built for diesel versus unleaded 91 can be significant in torque (vehicle power) and in fuel economy as well as changing the necessities within the servicing schedule. Definitely shop around and ask questions to get the best deal for your vehicle needs. To compare vehicle running costs head to the resources of your State or Territory’s automotive club or motoring association.

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