Driving is an ongoing education. Back when you first passed your test, your instructor most likely told you that your learning curve had not ended… but had just begun. At the time, you were probably too intoxicated by your newfound sense of freedom to pay too much attention. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not true. When we spend years driving without anyone to supervise us or hold us to account, we need to be very disciplined and adhere to the lessons we were taught. Otherwise we can form bad habits. And even the best of us, take Richard Hammond for instance, has them. And these bad habits can be bad news for our relationship with driving in a number of ways.
At worst, bad habits can endanger your safety. But even at their most innocuous, they can still prove a blight to your relationship with motoring. They can cause disproportionate wear to your vehicle, use an unnecessary amount of fuel (the cost of which spiked sharply in June after enjoying a profound dip at the start of lockdown), and generally cost you more money than you should be spending. Getting the most out of driving means getting the performance and responsiveness you need on the road without having to endure a financial hangover. The good news is that you don’t have to completely alter your driving style to do this. It’s just a case of correcting a few bad habits.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some motoring habits that can wind up costing you a great deal more than you should be spending as time goes by…
Being a spendthrift when it comes to your tyres
Any driver worth his or her salt understands the importance of good quality, well-maintained tyres in keeping fuel costs manageable. The more you drive, the more your tyres accumulate wear. And this can not only have huge safety implications, it can make motoring more costly. Worn tyres increase stopping distances, making motoring less safe. They also can’t get as much traction and generate as much friction as their newer counterparts. This means that your engine has to work harder and less energy is transferred into forward motion. So the longer you hold out on replacing your tyres, the more every trip will cost you in fuel.
But there’s more to cost-effective driving than simply changing your tyres regularly. You also need to be discriminate when it comes to what kind of tyres you buy. Opting for the cheapest rarely gives you the longevity or fuel-efficiency you need. And don’t be suckered in by seemingly irresistible deals on part worn tyres. It’s often a false economy.
Instead, spending a little extra on a set of fuel-saving tyres will be beneficial for your bank balance and the environment. These tyres are built to maximise rolling resistance, giving you better traction, greater fuel efficiency and fewer CO2 emissions. The small premium you can expect to pay for good quality tyres is certainly worth paying when you compare it to the 4.2% you can save on your fuel costs.
Letting your car insurance rollover
We have so much to worry about (especially in the current climate) that we’ll often gladly sacrifice our disposable income for a quiet life that’s (relatively) free of worry. Yet, we can often wind up paying for convenience in a number of ways.
Take your car insurance, for instance.
The very mention of car insurance probably makes your skin crawl. It makes you wish you were doing anything other than thinking about car insurance. And guess what? Insurance providers know this. Heck, they’re counting on it. As such, when your insurance policy is about to roll over, they’ll send you a reassuring email telling you not to worry and that you’ll still be covered after your contract ends and that you may be subject to a slightly altered tariff. What they don’t tell you is that your premiums could skyrocket if you allow yourself to become complacent.
While there is talk of cracking down on insurance price hikes, insurers have still been known to increase premiums by 300% when they rollover. Until firm and immutable legislation arises to prevent drivers from being ripped off by insurance companies we’d advise never to let your policy rollover. Incidentally, the crackdown on this abhorrent profiteering was supposed to come into effect for UK drivers this year but so far… not a peep! So, when you receive that reassuring email from your insurer, take it as a red flag and start carrying out as many price comparisons as you can to get your hands on a better deal. And remember that some companies keep their best deals off price-comparison sites, and only give great deals to drivers who approach them directly.
Oh, and don’t make the mistake of assuming that you have to wait out a bad contract. Many insurers are so desperate to get new members that they’ll happily arrange your switch even if you’re partway through your contract. They may even pay the small fee that’s needed to escape your contract early. Even if you’re lumbered with that fee yourself, it’s almost certainly a snip when compared to the cost of renewing your policy and enduring a huge price hike.
Just remember that like streaming services and energy companies, car insurance providers will never, ever reward your loyalty.
Ignoring variable speed limits
We’ve all experienced that familiar frustration. We’re on a long-distance journey and our satnav assures us that we’re making good time. But overhead on the motorway, we see that the variable speed limit sign has changed, reducing the speed that we can travel by 20mph or more. This inconvenience throws the timing of our journey into disarray.
It’s frustrating, for sure, but don’t make the mistake of assuming that variable speed limits are optional. Or that they’re not policed as rigorously as regular speed limits. While you may see some plonker speed through a variable speed limit sign at 80 miles per hour, this is not an invitation for you to do the same. If you do, the very least that you can expect is a £100 fine and 3 points on your license. Or, if you’re really lucky, spending a day on an extraordinarily patronising speed awareness course. This article has some useful advice on speeding fines and when it’s best to contest them, and when its best to simply take the hit.
In some cases, fines can get as high as £2,500 and driving bans may be issued. While it’s unlikely that this will happen when passing through a stretch of motorway with a variable speed limit (they tend to be there for a reason), it’s not a risk worth taking.
So don’t fall into the habit of assuming that variable speed limits are voluntary.