Alternative ways to cut motor costs
Do your homework and save a tidy sum, says John Cradden
THERE is no shortage of tips about keeping down the cost of buying and running your car. In terms of running costs, for instance, some of the most popular tips include driving more smoothly and emptying your boot of heavy items to reduce fuel consumption, and shopping around for cheaper fuel.
But if you really want to make a much bigger dent in your motoring costs, here are some serious alternatives to think about:
1 Purchase a used car import
The number of motorists who are opting to source secondhand cars from Britain or the North rose a staggering 29pc last year to nearly 50,000. This compares with nearly 38,500 in 2012, while new car sales fell by more than 6pc over the same period.
The trade blames the rise in imports to the scarcity of good used cars on the Irish market, particularly given how few new cars have been sold since 2009.
But there's no doubting that savings can be made. A recent Irish Independent investigation showed that drivers can save up to €4,500 by buying used cars from Britain, particularly on high-end models.
"Even though the exchange rate against sterling isn't great, VRT (vehicle registration tax) rates for some of the most popular models have dropped, especially for more recent models, due to improvements in emissions levels across most makes," said Michael Rochford of Motorcheck.
However, there have been reports of the Irish market being used as a dumping ground for dodgy or clocked UK cars, so doing a car history check is essential.
2 Shop around for car insurance
The most recent survey by the National Consumer Agency showed that shopping around for your car insurance could save you up to €1,335. Search for quotes online, then pick up that phone and haggle.
3 Carry out basic DIY maintenance
As cars get more complicated, DIY maintenance is being perceived as something of a dying art form, but the basics of car servicing can still be done by yourself, even on the most modern cars.
This includes changing or topping up the oil, changing or topping up the coolant and screen wash, checking the state of your tyres (and keeping them properly inflated) and replacing wiper blades, electrical fuses and headlight and tail-light bulbs.
However, this doesn't mean you should skimp on more serious car servicing, but these items count as preventative maintenance that will help ensure your car remains in good shape as well as save you a little on the final garage servicing bill.
4 Try a dose of Bangernomics
Bangernomics is the term given to the 'art' of buying a good, older used car for as little as possible (ideally less than €2,000), but it's an art form that is becoming increasingly popular among Irish motorists.
According to British motoring journalist and author of 'The Bangernomics Bible', James Ruppert, a large part of the bangernomics logic is that, once a car is five years or older, it has already lost most of its value and is therefore close to the bottom of its depreciation "curve".
But it still has plenty of useful life left in it, as long as it has been reasonably well-looked after.
As well as following all the usual steps in checking out a used car, a good rule of thumb is to consider less popular makes and models. For example, why not buy a Kia Rio instead of a VW Polo?
5 Consider converting your car to run on LPG
LPG stands for liquid petroleum gas, an alternative to diesel and petrol that has been around for a number of years, but which is now becoming more widely available thanks to growing demand from Irish motorists, particularly those with large and relatively thirsty petrol engines.
LPG costs about 80c a litre, compared with about €1.50 a litre for petrol, which means switching to LPG will nearly halve your fuel costs.
Of course, you have to convert your car to run on LPG, and conversion prices start at about €1,000, depending on the car.
But you will make back that cost in fuel savings in a little more than a year if you do the average annual mileage of 16,000km in a car that does 8l/100km (or 35 mpg).
The downside is availability, as there are still only a handful of places around the country that offer LPG. But if you run out of LPG, it will switch back automatically to run on petrol. Check out the ILPGA website for outlets and conversion specialists.
6 Utilise your local car-sharing clubs
Not to be confused with car pooling, car sharing is a new and growing category of 'pay as you go', high street-based, short-term car hire that may prove very attractive to city dwellers who don't do huge mileages every year and may allow them to do without a car, or at least a second car.
Fast-expanding car sharing club GoCar now has more than 30 locations in Dublin city and Cork city.
Case study: Car sharing clubs
JONATHAN Larbey (28), a company director at digital voice tech company T-Pro used to own a five-year-old BMW 3 series.
But he decided to sell it not long after becoming a member of car-sharing club GoCar, a little more than a year ago.
GoCar is a pay-as-you-go, short-term car hire service with more than 30 locations in Dublin and Cork, and a pool of more than 50 cars.
"I was aware of similar systems in London, which my friends were using, and they convinced me of the benefits of car sharing.
"There was a GoCar base right outside the apartment I was living in at the Gasworks (near Ringsend) in Dublin 4, so I saw the service in action every day.
"After looking at what I was spending on running a car that I rarely used, I decided to become a member a little more than a year ago. It was literally as easy as signing up online and I have been using it ever since."
He estimates he is saving up to €300 a month.
"As it stood, I was spending more than €500 a month.
"I now rarely get a bill for more than €200 and I would use the GoCar service between seven and 10 times a month.
"People forget that you save as well with the free parking in the city, too." Since joining, Jonathan has been recommending it to anybody he can.
"Our offices are located in the city centre, so my work colleagues are now using it, as is my old housemate.
"As well as that, I have friends who have a young family and have just bought a house in Rathmines, Dublin, and I know they will use GoCar as a second vehicle rather than having two cars parked up in the city."