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5 ways to cut your motoring costs

Last week's fuel duty increase has sparked anger and despair among British motorists, with haulage firms and drivers’ groups outraged by the rise. Effective from midnight on 31 August, the measure has seen the price of both petrol and diesel jump by 2.3p per litre.

It is the third fuel duty increase to take effect since December 2008, and has pushed the average price of a litre of petrol to £1.07.

Amid fears that the rising oil prices could see the cost of petrol and diesel climb even higher over the coming months, now is the perfect time to reassess and reduce your car costs.

Here are five useful tips that should help you.

1. Cut your annual mileage

From time to time, all of us drive distances that, in reality, are short enough for us to walk. In situations like these, travelling on foot instead of by car is not only better for your health and the planet - it should also have a welcome effect on your wallet.

If you drive your car less each tank of fuel you purchase will last longer. In addition, your car insurance company may offer you a discount for committing to an annual mileage cap.

While setting a maximum yearly mileage in stone may not suit everyone, it is certainly worth considering if you are part of a two-car household.

In this situation, it is likely that one of your vehicles is already used far more than the other - so you should look into whether you could make an easy saving by capping the annual distance your family’s second car will travel.

2. Make your vehicle more fuel efficient

Making your vehicle more fuel efficient doesn’t have to involve an expensive technological transformation. In fact, taking the following simple steps should help you avoid wasting petrol or diesel unnecessarily.

* Don’t use your air conditioning unless it’s really necessary. Air-con can rapidly eats its way through a tank of fuel, so only switch yours on in dire need.

* De-clutter your car. If your car is weighed down by a rarely-used roof rack or is full of stuff that ought to have been binned months ago, it's time to clear up. The heavier your car is, the less fuel efficient it will be.

* Ensure your tyres are fully inflated. If your tyres are squashier than they should be, you'll need to put your foot down harder each time you accelerate. This wastes fuel.

* Plan ahead. If you accelerate and brake too abruptly, each sudden change in your vehicle’s speed will waste fuel.

* Drive in the correct gear. If you drive in the wrong gear your car’s revolutions per minute (RPM) won't be kept at the correct level, and your engine will not work as fuel efficiently as it should.

3. Shop around for fuel

While filling up now costs more than it did a few weeks ago, it's important to remember that fuel can differ significantly in cost depending on where you are when you purchase it.

It is well worth shopping around for the cheapest petrol or diesel in your area, and the website PetrolPrices.com could be an invaluable help if you’re looking to do so.

The site will require you to enter your postcode and specify how far you’re prepared to travel in order to find cheap fuel, but will draw you up a list of the lowest-priced pumps in your area. Best of all, its service is free.

Also, don’t forget to look at what deals your local supermarkets are offering on petrol and diesel - Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury's have all recently run special promotions.

4. Stay safe and within the law

Driving carefully and within the law is crucial if you’re keen to keep your motoring costs under control.

If you have an accident and need to make an insurance claim, not only will you have to fork out whatever sum has been set as your voluntary excess; your insurer is also likely to hike your future premiums.

Likewise, if you commit a driving offence such as using a mobile phone at the wheel or breaking the speed limit, you’ll probably face a fine and have penalty points added to your licence - but you may also be forced to pay an increased price for next year’s car cover.

5. Don't accept your insurer's first offer

At this time of year, many motorists receive renewal quotes from their car insurance providers. Whenever yours arrives, remember: the cover on offer from your existing insurer is unlikely to represent the cheapest deal available.

This is because insurance companies tend to reserve their most competitive products for new customers who switch to them, leaving existing customers with higher premiums for the same standard of protection.

Before signing on the dotted line for another year, make sure you shop around and compare a range of car insurance policies based on price and the level of cover they provide.

Compare car insurance at Independent Compare

Laura Starkey is from BeatThatQuote.com