Looking to buy a new car this year? You may have your heart set on a particular make or model and you might have explored the new and second hand car prices on the internet and have decided that you can afford to purchase the car of your dreams, but a question you have to ask yourself is can you afford to run it?
Previously you may have asked yourself this question in passing and not really given it any real thought, but with the changes in Vehicle Excise Duty in 2009 and spiraling fuel and maintenance costs, coupled with the Credit Crunch and the through of recession for the next few years then running costs become much more important, therefore compromising and picking a car that you not only like, but will save you money in the long run is a sensible thing to do.
What about the changes in Vehicle Excise Duty? Now cars are classed by how much Carbon Dioxide they emit, therefore more environmentally friendly cars will be charged less Vehicle Excise Duty than more polluting vehicles. At the time of writing the least polluting cars will be exempt from paying tax at all, where as the most polluting cars (class M) such as large, big engined 4×4 vehicles will have to pay £440 per year. Come 2010-11 then this cost increases further to £455 per year.
If you’re looking to purchase a brand new car, then there will be another shock for your wallet and it has been dubbed the ‘showroom tax.’ If you’re looking to drive that Class M car out of the showroom, you’ll also have to face a bill for a one off ‘showroom tax’ payment of £950.
To help you pick the right car in this current environmental and financial climate we’ve compiled a top ten list of cars and car related schemes to consider that could save you money.
1. Buy a Small Family Hatchback. Small family hatchbacks are generally more economical to run and are usually big enough to meet most people’s needs. For example the VW Polo Bluemotion 1.4 Tdi is an economical runabout which falls into the Group A tax band. Not only do you not have to pay any tax on this vehicle, you can also avoid paying the showroom tax as this diesel car is so economical it is exempt. This car also boasts around 70mpg which makes it super cheap to run.
2. Buy a Diesel. When it comes to economical cars, vehicles with diesel engines are first to spring to most people’s minds. Whilst historically this was typically true, with the cost of diesel at the pump increasingly outstripping the cost of petrol, buying a diesel may not be the best way to save money. For drivers who typically need to drive a lot of miles each year then a diesel will still be more cost effective than its petrol equivalent. However if you do not drive many miles then this may not be true. You’ll need to do the maths before you take the plunge in buying a diesel car. On the plus side, the miles to the gallon of a diesel vehicle is typically much higher than petrol cars, so you will at the very least be doing more for the environment. Diesel vehicles are also typically classed into a lower tax band saving money on Vehicle Excise Duty.
3. Bi-Fuel Cars. Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) as a method of running a car or van is becoming a popular way of running a vehicle more environmentally friendly and economically. Although you can buy a bi-fuel car from new many people pay to convert their current car to support LPG. The cost to convert a car is typically around £1500 and a real saving of around 30% on fuel costs can be made with each fill up at the pumps. Finding a petrol station that sells LPG may be one of the more difficult aspects of owning a LPG vehicle, with at least 10% of forecourts now stocking this alternate fuel type.
4. Electric Cars. – For many years electric cars have been pitched as the salvation to spiralling fuel costs and saving the environment from car pollution. Unfortunately in reality the electric vehicle hasn’t really lived up to the hype, with slow vehicles and short battery life limiting range. There are a few vehicles on the market which may be suitable depending on your circumstances. If you live in the centre of a large capital city such as London then a vehicle like the G-Wiz may be the right vehicle for you. Owning a G-Wiz in London could make perfect sense as they are exempt from paying parking charges in Westminster, do not have to pay the Central London Congestion Charge and are free from both road tax and petrol costs. However there are some catches. The G-Wiz is a tiny vehicle and feels very cramped inside. The car has a top speed of 50-60 miles per hour, which may not be the end of the world in a city where traffic barely moves faster than a snail pace. Another limiting factor is that the range of the vehicle is just 70 miles and it takes a while to recharge the batteries, which is not quite as simple as filling up at a petrol station! A less extreme version of the G-Wiz is the Toyota Prius, a hybrid electric vehicle which predominately runs off petrol, but uses electric power at low speeds and recharges the batteries at faster speeds. The Prius can do around 65 mpg making it an extremely economical car to drive.
5. Large Cars For the Family and Dog. If you’re single and want to save money on your car running costs or do your bit for the environment then you have a lot more options than families who need a larger vehicle to fit everyone in. Whilst smaller cars are more likely to be economical there are some larger vehicles out there which have been designed with both space and economy in mind. Take the Ford Focus C-Max 1.6 TDCI LX- a MPV which has been designed to give plenty of room inside. This is a five seat car which boasts a 1620 litre boot space and a top speed of 115mph. With fairly low emissions, helping to save money on Vehicle Excise Duty and decent economy with 58mpg this vehicle is a good bet for a family looking to save money.
6. Sports Performance in a ‘Green Car’. Traditionally being green means that you also have to sacrifice something. However car manufacturers being aware of this have been trying to come up with a compromise- a car with good performance, yet can also give a decent MPG return. For example the Honda Accord 2.2 I-CTDI Sport is one of these cars with 52.3 MPG and a top speed of 129 miles per hour, a great combination of efficiency and performance that can meet all your expectations.
7. Buy a Classic Car. If you’re scared that you’ll loose a lot of money on the value of your car then buying a classic car may be the best option for you. Try to avoid fashion trends such as the one for VW Beetles and Camper Vans which inflate the cost of these vehicles short term for them to only crash at a later date. Instead pick a car that pure enthusiasts hanker after, as most classic cars tend to hold their value, or indeed increase over time as long as they are looked after. Maintenance costs are likely to be much higher with a classic vehicle and they may not be the most economical on the market, but for pure return on investment if you pick the right vehicle then you will likely get your money back when you come to sell the car.
8. Car Sharing Schemes. Those looking to save money on their everyday running costs of their cars could consider car sharing schemes. Basically car sharing schemes are set up for people to take turns when they drive, saving themselves money on fuel, plus gaining the benefit that they do not have to drive all the time! There are plenty of car sharing schemes out there, such as ones set up for parents doing the school run to a scheme for members of the Met Police Force in London. Explore the options in your local area and you may find that car sharing is a great way to save money. Perhaps if you want to get even more involved you could consider setting up your very own scheme.
9. Time Share Cars. You’ve heard all about time share villas in the Costa del Sol, but you don’t necessary have to be scared of time share car schemes. These schemes can range from clubs where you get a share of a Ferrari or Bentley to drive at the weekend every so often, to pay-as-you-go car schemes where you can join a club, and simply book a run-around for as long as you want from an hour to a day. For those who tend to use public transport predominately and can’t really justify owning a car then a pay-as-you-go scheme may be the perfect way of having access to a car without having to pay expensive rental costs. Live in a city and fancy a country jaunt once a month? No problem, book a car online and pick it up, swipe your membership card on the dashboard and you’re away! Generally fuel costs (up to a point) are included and insurance is also taken car of.
10. Car Finance Packages. In the current economic climate taking out a car finance package makes perfect sense as you can split your payments over many months allowing you to fully budget for your vehicle. If you are considering buying a car in cash over a forecourt you may be concerned about the recession and redundancy. Having a nest egg in the bank can help provide comfort and piece of mind. Spending that nest egg in the current climate may not be the most sensible thing to do therefore buying a car on a car finance scheme can be the smart move. Also you will likely be able to afford a better car on finance than you might if you were to buy a car outright. The newer the car the more likely your maintenance costs will be reduced, again saving you money in the long run.