Revealed: how you can cut the cost of motoring next year - and every year
The Irish Independent's Consumer Affairs Editor and author Charlie Weston outline ways and means of curbing your bills
If you own a vehicle, you are supporting all manner of costs. One you may not think of regularly is the benefit of simple maintenance and the cost that not doing it incurs.
Assume that you spend about €50 a week on fuel. If that is the case you are spending €2,600 a year on it.
What many of us don't realise is that there are factors that will increase your fuel consumption, either because of how you drive or because of certain aspects of the vehicle you use.
When was the last time you checked your tyre pressure? During winter months the cold air contracts and your tyres can lose a few pounds of pressure.
Did you know that not having your tyres properly inflated can make you lose about 5pc to 10pc fuel efficiency?
A study carried out in the USA by Carnegie University put the figure even higher, at 20pc.
That means that for every €20 you put in you are throwing away anything from €1 to €4 for no good reason at all.
Some estimates say that keeping your engine tuned makes a difference of 4pc to your fuel consumption. That's about €1 for every €20 you spend.
How you drive also matters. If you drive fast it can be dangerous - particularly in poor driving conditions - but it will also cost you more.
Accelerating a lot or inefficient driving uses more fuel.
In the same way, hitting the brakes a lot means that your vehicle loses momentum.
If you are driving sensibly you don't need to go from high to low speeds a lot.
That is before we consider the additional costs of this to things like your brake pads and discs.
Driving with your windows down is also a fuel burner as it creates more drag.
Another thing people do unawares is keep things like storage boxes or racks on their car when they are not in use for months at a time.
That may be handy for when you do use them, but it's definitely being paid for several times in the process by creating more drag.
Getting your air filter changed at tune-ups is cheap, and a dirty filter can lower your fuel efficiency, as can using air conditioning.
One of the advantages of smartphones is that you can use them to find the cheapest fuel prices.
Petrol prices vary by up to 5pc based on where you buy the fuel.
A phone app like Pumps.ie will give you prices and geolocation so that you can get the best deals around.
If we take it that your tyres aren't fully filled, you've skipped car tuning, and there are some other factors affecting your vehicle's fuel efficiency, such as the way you drive, you'd be paying 2pc more for fuel than you could have, then we can deduce that savings of about 15pc are possible.
The best thing of all is that most of these money-saving tips are painless and nearly costless to implement.
Fuel apps are free, as is getting your tyre pressure right - anybody can do these things. Use your own situation to figure out your own potential savings, but if you are in the €50 per week camp you could save up to €390 a year, or just over a euro a day, on costs associated with fuel purchase.
This is not something you want to drive by (forgive the pun).
Here are some ways to fight back against the savage premium rate rises and save money.
If you are claims-free, it makes sense to regularly switch insurer. Compare rates from different insurance companies by ringing them or going online. It is worthwhile using a broker. It won't cost you any more than going directly to the insurer as the broker is paid by the company.
You may be entitled to a discount if you have more than one type of insurance policy with the same company.
Also ask if there are other discounts you might be able to get.
Don't over insure
Other tips to keep the costs down include being conservative with the car's value.
This is important as you can only claim what the vehicle is deemed to be worth by the insurance company's assessor.
People often overvalue their car. Check car sales adverts to get a good market indicator of your motor's value.
Alternatively, the Revenue Commissioners website (www.revenue.ie) has a valuation tool for each model and year of manufacture, put in place for vehicle registration tax purposes.
Check the excess
Be careful about the excess. This is the amount you have to pay before you can make a claim.
Lately, insurers are imposing higher and higher excesses.
This reduces the risks for them, but means you end up not claiming for small accidents.
Excesses of €500 are not uncommon, but when they get to that level, they rather negate the value of having insurance.
Get a discount: use telematics
Telematics is a way of monitoring the location, movements, status and behaviour of a vehicle.
You can do it with a smartphone.
Insurer AIG offers discounts of up to 20pc on motor cover for using an app that monitors driving style.
AIG says it aims to reward better driving behaviour with potential savings of up to 25pc on car insurance premiums.
Customers who use the app will be given a 20pc discount on their premium immediately and further discounts of up to 5pc will be applied to the premium after three months' use, subject to the scores achieved.
Men, get insured with Its4women
Online insurer Its4women markets its motor insurance at women, but the law means that it cannot refuse to cover men.
Because most of its customers are women, who are safer drivers and have fewer claims, it tends to be more competitive than motor cover sold equally to both sexes.
A recent European Union gender directive, which became law in this country, means that men and women can't be discriminated against in terms of the price of insurance.
Dublin student Shane Spain was able to reduce the cost of his cover from €810 to €500 by opting for Its4women.
Avoid modifying your car, unless you are increasing its safety.
Even a small modification to your car, such as new alloys, can cause your premiums to shoot up.
Any changes should be discussed with your insurer first.
However, any modification that increases safety, such as installing an alarm or immobiliser, can help you cut costs.
Choose your car wisely. The more expensive your car and the bigger its engine, the more you are likely to pay.
You may also have to pay more if your car is imported or if there are more theft claims on your model of car.
Check with your insurer before you buy a car, so you can estimate insurance costs.
Pay for your cover annually if you can afford to do this.
Paying for cover monthly is the same as taking a high-interest loan from your provider, with interest as high as 20pc imposed on top of the premium for paying by instalments.
Charlie Weston and Karl Deeter are authors of 'This Book Is Worth €25,000', published by Gill and costing €11.99.