Time to slash £4,600 annual motoring bill before winter sets in

It’s enough to make even Clarkson wince.


The average yearly bill for motoring is now £4,600 and that doesn’t include buying the car in the first place. Yet as we pay piecemeal rather than it coming through the letter box it’s easy to forget the cost. Winter’s coming, so it’s time to financially kick some tyres.

Fight unfair parking fines. If you get a ticket you believe is unfair whether due to bad signage, or over-zealous attendants, you don’t have to accept it. The key things to know are:

- Private parking firms CAN’T fine you. Tickets from supermarkets, hospitals or other private car parks do better impressions than Rory Bremner. Dressed up like fines, some are even called Parking Charge Notices to mimic council Penalty Charge Notices. THEY’RE NOT FINES, JUST INVOICES. 

So if you get an unfair one like any invoice, reply explaining why and that you won’t pay. It can’t hit your credit record or send bailiffs without the time and expense of court action. For how to fight them and template letters see www.mse.me/parkinginvoices 

- Unfair council tickets can be appealed. The key is to persevere if right is on your side. Of those whose appeal is turned down by the council at first, 50 per cent win if they keep going to the final stage. For help to appeal unfair council tickets see www.mse.me/parkingtickets.

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Now you MUST combine car insurance comparison sites. The competition authority is planning to ban comparison sites from having agreements with insurers not to do cheaper deals elsewhere as a condition of being listed. This was most used by Comparethemarket, which scoops up the lion’s share of motorists thanks to its meerkat dolls, so was happy to have all the comparison sites have similar rates - rather than competing on price.  

This means these sites are likely to morph from pure comparisons to marketplaces - with different sites cheaper for different insurers. For a long time I’ve suggested combining comparison sites to get a wider search, now it’s even more important. For my current list of which sites to combine see www.mse.me/carinsurance. 

Then add the insurers that don’t allow themselves to be listed on comparison sites; primarily www.aviva.co.uk, www.directline.com and www.zurich.co.uk

Got more than one car? Comparison sites only check one car at a time, so you miss out on multi-car insurance discounts. The big one’s Admiral Multi-car, but also Churchill, Direct Line and Privilege do it. They don’t always win but they can for some, as my forum user Trixxibell says: “Our renewal quote was just over £2,000 and I got a multi-car deal for £980”.

Secret ‘no repairs’ MOT centres can mean fewer fails.  It’s not the cost of doing an MOT that’s the big threat – it’s the £100s or £1,000s in repairs. 

If your motor’s like new make sure you find the cheapest test and always get several quotes for repairs. However, if your car’s on the cusp of needing repairs and you’re unhappy with your current centre, check council-run MOT test centres usually for buses or taxis, but they open to the public too. They don’t do repairs so have no interest in failing you.

I’ve had lots of anecdotal successes on this eg, “Huge thanks. Previous year got ripped off for £400 repairs, today passed at council centre with only the test fee to pay”. For a list of over 90+ UK Council MOT centres go to www.mse.me/councilMOTs

Check your photo licence – it’s a £1,000 fine if it has expired. Photocard licences need renewing every 10 years and more than 2m are out-of-date. There’s a £1,000 fine if you’re caught - so check the date printed on section 4b of your card now.

Three counter-logical car insurance savings. It’s not just finding the cheapest provider, most savings can be made, if you ignore common sense.

- Third party’s not always cheapest. Bizarrely merely selecting comprehensive makes some insurers see you as a lower risk – which can cut the price. So always check both.

- Adding a responsible 2nd driver can cut your costs. This can bring down your risk average and price - of course it must be someone who may drive your car. As Mazzyb5 tweeted: “Took your advice and added mum - saved £500”.

- Tweaking your job description can cut costs. I’m not saying lap dancers should call themselves cabinet ministers (or vice versa, heaven forbid). But these days many people have such specific job descriptions car insurers don’t list them, as Fabsternation tweeted: “Thanks. Changing from creative director to marketing manager saved £300”. 

Cut fuel costs by a third. Of course driving less or getting a less thirsty car makes a huge impact. Even if you can’t change those, there are other ways:

- Soup DOWN your car. It’s all about making it more efficient, so it uses less petrol to push it. Check tyre pressure, dejunk your trunk to get rid of excess weight, take off roof racks. 

- Change driving technique to save up to 30 per cent. It’s less about slowing down, more about gradual acceleration, shifting up a gear sooner and using road positioning to reduce braking. 

- Find the cheapest forecourt. This is about tools to find the cheapest station near you - there can easily be a nine per cent difference in an area use www.petrolprices.com to compare.

- “I got £100 back on fuel spending.” Spend on the www.santander.co.uk 123 credit card and each month it gives three per cent cashback on fuel (max £9/mth) plus two per cent in department stores and one per cent in supermarkets.  Just ensure you repay it IN FULL each month to avoid the 16.5 per cent representative APR.  

There is a £24/yr annual fee (though Santander 123 bank account holders get this wiped in the first year) but serious drivers should easily offset it with cashback earned, as Glenn Hobbs tweeted me “I have so far had £100.53 cashback mainly for diesel and a few groceries. Better than nowt.” 

Argos £5 off £35 toy exchange

Take an unwanted toy to your nearest Argos or Barnado’s shop by Tuesday, November 25 and you’ll receive a £5 off £35 toys voucher, to spend on items in the toys and games section till Christmas Eve. Argos will then donate your unwanted toy(s) to Barnardo’s shops for the children’s charity to sell on. For more info see www.argos.co.uk.

All Bar One £5 off £20

Register online with All Bar One and you’ll get a voucher for £5 off your bill when you spend £20 or more. You must buy at least one food dish to qualify. The deal’s valid every day, one per person, at all restaurants until Friday, October 31.