Monday 20 August 2018

This is how you can save thousands on the cost of your commute

You could pay twice as much to travel to work if you don't take advantage of tax breaks and discounts when you use public transport, says Louise McBride

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Louise McBride

Louise McBride

Commuters could knock thousands of euro a year off the cost of their travel to work by leaving their car at home and taking up tax breaks and other deals available on public transport. With traffic returning to boom-time levels and rising house prices pushing more house buyers into the commuter belt, it is time to seriously consider taking these steps if you take the bus or train to work. Otherwise, your daily commute will soon hit your pocket even harder.

Here are seven steps which should help you to cut the cost of your daily trips.

Use Taxsaver

Take advantage of the Taxsaver scheme if using public transport, as this could save you more than €1,500 a year.

For example, let's say you're commuting from Gorey to Dublin every day. Your bus fare for the year will cost €1,416 if you get a Leap annual Taxsaver (orange zone) ticket with Bus Eireann - assuming you're a higher-rate taxpayer and are getting the maximum tax relief available under the Taxsaver scheme. However, if you don't buy this ticket under the Taxsaver scheme, your fares will cost you €2,950 - that's €1,534 more.

You don't have to travel with a State-owned public transport operator to be able to take up the Taxsaver scheme - you may be able to do so on a private bus, if the bus operator has a licence to provide a public bus passenger service and is set up to offer Taxsaver tickets.

For example, you can take up the Taxsaver scheme if travelling with Wexford Bus - a private operator that runs a bus service between Wexford and Dublin. An annual Taxsaver ticket for travel from Gorey to Dublin with Wexford Bus costs €1,540 (assuming you're a higher-rate taxpayer) - without Taxsaver, that ticket would cost €3,020.

You don't need to be on a long commute to save with Taxsaver. For Dublin commuters, an annual Luas ticket (all zones) costs either €510 (if you pay tax at the higher rate of 40pc) or €710 (if you pay tax at the standard rate of 20pc) under the Taxsaver scheme. Otherwise, an annual ticket costs €1,000 - as much as €490 more.

With the Taxsaver scheme, your employer applies for the ticket on your behalf - and the cost of that ticket is then taken out of your salary. (Your employer could also give you a Taxsaver ticket in place of a cash bonus.) You can buy an annual or monthly Taxsaver ticket - though some employers only offer them at certain times of the year.

Avoid the train

Train travel is usually more expensive than other modes of public transport. A commuter travelling from Gorey to Dublin, for example, will pay hundreds of euro more a year if travelling by train than by bus. An annual Taxsaver ticket for travel from Gorey to Dublin costs €1,973.70 with Irish Rail - €558 more than it does with Bus Eireann. However, some commuters find it more comfortable to travel by train than bus.

Leave the car at home

You could save thousands a year in fuel bills by taking public transport and leaving your car at home. For example, the weekly petrol bill for the commute from Gorey to Dublin (or any other commute that involves a return trip of around 176km) could easily come to €55 a week - assuming the car uses 4.7 litres of petrol per 100km. Over a year, that fuel bill will be €2,640 (assuming the individual has four weeks' annual leave a year and thus only commutes on 48 weeks). That commuter would save more than €1,000 by taking the bus instead - as long as they buy an annual Taxsaver ticket.

Of course, public transport isn't always an option for commuters - particularly those living in rural areas off the beaten track.

Buy a fuel-savvy car

Should you have to drive to work, buy a car which will consume no more than 4.7 litres of petrol or diesel per 100km (the modern equivalent of 60 miles per gallon), advises Conor Faughnan, director of consumer affairs with the Automobile Association. This should avoid you running up too high a fuel bill over your commute.

The amount of fuel a car burns per 100km should be outlined in the car manufacturer's brochure. "Have a healthy scepticism of the claims of fuel efficiency that are made in car brochures," warns Faughnan. "Lop 20pc off the brochure's fuel efficiency figure to get a more accurate idea of the fuel efficiency of the car."

Cars which burn no more than 4.7 litres of fuel per 100km include various petrol hybrids such as the Toyota Prius and Yaris, and the Hyundai Ioniq.

Be careful about buying a diesel car -particularly for short commutes.

"Diesel is only efficient if you're doing decent-sized journeys," said Faughnan. "However, those with a long commute should be aware that diesel is going out of fashion. For such people, a petrol-electric hybrid is ideal."

Electric cars, such as the Nissan Leaf, would also slash your running costs - but be sure they're practical for your commute. "The electric car is a perfect city car - but it's not suited to a long commute," said Faughnan. "The electric car is close to being a viable solution for a medium-distance commuter and it's certainly very cheap."

Pay by month or year

Avoid paying by the day or week for your travel to work if you're taking public transport, as you could pay twice as much for your fare than you would by paying monthly or annually.

Get a Leap card

A Leap card could knock hundreds of euro (or more) off your annual travel costs, as Leap fares are usually about a fifth cheaper than cash fares - and in some cases, even cheaper.

For example, an adult ticket on the 15a Dublin Bus route costs €2.70 for a trip from Dame Street to Rathgar Park if paid in cash - but €2.05 with the Leap card. So in this case, the fare with the Leap card is almost a quarter cheaper than the cash fare - and the commuter would save €312 a year with the Leap card (assuming he makes a return journey on the bus five days a week and travels to work on the bus for 48 weeks a year).

However, Leap cards can only be used in certain counties and public transport services. In Dublin, it can be used on all Dublin Bus and Luas services - and on Dart and commuter rail services in Dublin's 'short hop zone'. (The 'short hop zone' includes all stations in the Dublin area - from Greystones to Balbriggan; and commuter stations from Dublin city centre to Maynooth, and from Dublin Heuston to Sallins.) It can also be used on Bus Eireann buses in Dublin and surrounding counties, and on a number of privately-owned buses, such as Wexford Bus, Swords Express and Ashbourne Connect.

Outside Dublin, the Leap card can be used on Bus Eireann city services in Cork, Galway, Limerick, Waterford - and on all Wexford Bus services in and around Wexford. The card can also be used on Cork commuter rail services on the Cork-to-Cobh, and Cork-to-Midleton lines.

Dublin commuters who use the Leap card also have the advantage of fare capping - where they won't be charged any more than a set limit if they make a number of trips on Dublin Bus, Luas, Dart or commuter rail services in a day or week.

Watch out for deals

Keep an eye out for deals on commuter routes - particularly if you don't have an annual travel ticket or if you must vary your route occasionally.

Since September 17, Bus Eireann has cut fares on its Navan-to-Dublin service - from €14.30 to €10 for a single ticket and from €22.40 to €15 for a return. These fares will be available for a limited time however, according to a spokesman.

Irish Rail will be putting together a discounted parking offer for holders of annual rail Taxsaver tickets towards the end of this year - so keep an eye out for this offer if you travel by train and need to drive to, and park in, the train station. Under last year's offer, the charge for parking in any Irish Rail car park for the year was €220 - and as the normal charge is €360, those taking up the offer saved €140.

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