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Using the car less
With fuel costs rising, cutting car use makes financial sense.
For many of us, a car is an essential part of day-to-day life. However much you rely on yours, it's almost always possible to reduce mileage and costs. Here are some of the options.
Advance planning can make a big difference to your journey, cutting fuel costs as well as travel time. Sophisticated services now make effective journey planning easy.
- Satellite navigation – getting lost can waste a lot of fuel, so invest in a satellite navigation system (satnav). They are easy to use and relatively inexpensive. You will arrive on time and stress free without having driven round and round in circles.
- Transport Direct - use the Transport Direct website to find car routes that take into account predicted traffic levels so you can decide when's best to travel. Transport Direct also lets you compare public transport options against your car route to see if they're practical.
- Traffic information - live traffic updates are available at the Highways Agency's sites: Traffic England, Traffic Scotland, and Traffic Wales
Most of us drive to work. Although most of our commutes are only on average 28 minutes long, this still adds up to around £240 per person every year in commuting fuel costs. Why not consider the alternatives?
- Car sharing - formal car sharing schemes and informal arrangements are an easy way to cut commuting costs by half or more. Find our more details in our section about Car Sharing.
- Working from home - more and more companies are offering this as an option so speak to your employer about making the change.
- Walking - There's no doubting the convenience of jumping in the car but walking can often be a practical substitute, especially in a town or city.
- Cycling - 75 per cent of people in the UK live near a cycle route - find out what's near you at the Sustrans website. Many employers offer the Cycle to Work scheme, which makes new bikes more affordable - get details of this at the CycleScheme website.
- Public transport - Let someone else do the driving! Using public transport is getting easier, thanks to new services that help you to find what's available and plan your journey. Advance planning can make a big difference to your journey, cutting fare costs as well as travel time.
- Transport Direct - go to the Transport direct website for door-to-door travel information for both public transport and car journeys. Compare car and public transport options to decide which is best, get car routes that take into account predicted traffic levels, estimate costs and CO2 emissions and buy tickets online.
- Traveline - use the Traveline site as a regional public transport journey planner. Find journey options online and link through to ticket purchasing. There's also a telephone service on 0871 200 22 33. Traveline's NextBuses mobile internet service includes apps for iPhone and Android smartphones.
Although shopping is often geared for car users, there are ways to cut your mileage:
- Online shopping - all major supermarkets - and many speciality food companies - offer delivery services, often in energy efficient vans.
- Co-ordination - doing big weekly shops or fitting shopping trips alongside other journeys .
- Shop Locally - support local shops if you're lucky enough to have them within walking distance.
Walking or cycling your children to and from school each day on average would save £160 each year compared to doing these journey's in the car.
- Walking - for ideas and information on how to make this easier, go to the walk to school campaign website.
- Cycling - there are often safe cycling routes to school, and many schools offer safe cycling lessons or have discount schemes with local shops for bikes and helmets. Get more information at Directgov.
- Lift-sharing - this sociable way of sharing the responsibility cuts costs and saves time.
Share a car journey with someone else and your fuel costs are immediately halved. Get more people in the car and you cut costs yet further, on average sharing your commute with two others could save you around £260 a year each. Car sharing is an easy way to save money and it has the potential to reduce congestion too. Here are some ways to go about it:
Sharing with a colleague or friend
Many companies now organise car sharing schemes that make it easy to find other sharers. Some offer priority parking spaces for car sharers too. Then of course there's informal car sharing - if friends or neighbours work in a similar place, it's an opportunity for everyone to make savings.
Car sharing schemes
If you'd like to share a car but are short of potential passengers or lifts, check out the Liftshare website, which matches registered users with other people making similar journeys. It's useful for journeys to events like festivals and football matches as well as commuting. Additionally, BlaBlaCar is a trusted community marketplace that connects drivers with empty seats to passengers looking for a ride and transports over 500,000 passengers every month.
There are also many local car sharing schemes: find details of these at Carplus's site.
Car clubs offer all the convenience of a personal car without the hassle and cost of ownership - 'pay as you go' driving. There's no need to pay for road tax, MOT, servicing, repairs or insurance.
There are car clubs run commercially and by communities. To learn more about car clubs and find out what's available in your area, visit the Carplus website.