Servicing: as mentioned earlier, depreciation is the biggest single cost most car owners face. One way to help stem these losses is to get regular servicing stamps in your car's handbook.
Such servicing isn't cheap, but it can be a good investment not only because it helps to keep your car running reliably and prevents more expensive faults developing, but also because a good service history will mean you get more for your car when you sell it.
If you have a nearly-new car still under warranty, you now don't need to take it to a franchised dealer for regular services to keep the warranty valid. While the garage you choose instead must meet certain requirements - like using original parts, following the authorised service instructions and being registered for VAT - this freedom to shop around a wider number of garages should help cut your servicing costs. But this only applies to standard servicing - not repairs under warranty, which must still be done by a franchised dealer.
Labour rates: if having your car repaired at a garage, the cost of parts your car needs is likely to be more or less the same wherever you take it to get the job done.
What can make a big difference to the size of bill you ultimately get is how much per hour the garage charges for doing the work. Garages will have a standard labour rate and apply it to every job, and it can vary hugely. So when looking for somewhere to get a repair done, ask what their labour rate is. And shop around to find the lowest.
Parts: don't just head for your nearest franchised dealer for parts you need when your car goes wrong. It doesn't always follow that the more expensive a part is, or just because it has a car-maker's label on it, the better quality it is.
Small service items for most cars, like lamp bulbs, engine ignition parts, engine belts, wiper blades, brake parts and oil or air filters can be conveniently found at high street or out-of-town stores like Halfords and MotorWorld.
For more complex parts, consider using an independent parts retailer. The major car makers don't manufacture every single part for their cars themselves. They use a range of approved 'original equipment' suppliers, who will also supply the parts they make to independent parts retailers. These will be cheaper and, likelihood is, exactly the same part you'd get from a main dealer. Just minus the nice box and manufacturer's label. Try suppliers like Euro Car Parts, AutoSpares, Car Parts Direct or an 'Auto Factor' near you.
MoT test: If you're worried about garages finding faults with your car that don't exist just to cash in on the repairs, consider taking it instead to a council vehicle depot. These often have MOT testing facilities which must be open to the public too. Yet they don't carry out repairs for the public, so there's no incentive for them to invent faults. The standard MOT fee will also be the same.
On the downside, if your car fails, you will have to find a garage to do the work rather than be able to leave it for repair. That'll take more of your time, and possibly too long for you to qualify for a free re-test. A re-test is normally free if you bring the car back to the test centre within 24hrs, or if the same garage tests and repairs your car. But re-test fees are up to the individual test centres, so check with your nearest one. Click to find a list of council MoT depots.
Tyres: Suggesting buying retread tyres for your car is often met with a sharp intake of breath. Yet these days it's more than likely many of those heavy juggernauts on the motorways and even airliners are wearing retread tyres. Saving cash on replacement tyres by fitting cars with quality retreads is catching on.
Retreads won't last as long as a new tyre, but makers expect them to do 80% of the miles a new tyre would. Of course, the payoff is they're considerably cheaper - often less than half the price of a new tyre. And as retreading recycles a tyre and cuts back on the need for new tyres to be made, they're much more environmentally friendly.
Of course, with tyres safety is a top concern. So you should always be sure to buy a reputable brand of retread, which must be made to high safety standards. You can find your nearest retread retailer using the map on the Retread Manufacturers Association web site, or check your local phone book.
If you'd still rather buy brand new tyres, shop around thoroughly. The same applies when buying an exhaust. The big out-of-town chains aren't necessarily the cheapest just because they have the biggest advertising budgets. Your local independent tyre/exhaust fitter may well offer a better deal and just as good a warranty.
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