Reducing monthly outgoings is likely to be high on the priority list for people who are struggling to cope with rising living costs – and cutting your travel bills can be a good place to start.
Petrol and diesel prices remain painfully high, and rail fares increased in March, but there are still plenty of ways to potentially lower the amount we spend on getting around.
Here’s our rundown of some of the options you may want to consider.
- Cut your car insurance costs
- Shop around for cover
- Find the cheapest fuel
- Change how you drive
- Consider car clubs
- Think about switching from four wheels to two
- Take advantage of travel discounts
- Get your money back from season tickets
- Buy a flexi season ticket if you commute part-time
- Find out if you’re eligible for a car insurance refund
- Claim for train delays
- Reduce flight costs
Cut your car insurance costs
If you’re struggling to afford your monthly insurance payments because your other living costs have risen sharply, get in touch with your insurer as soon as possible. They might be able to amend your cover, for example, by removing any added extras which you could do without. Alternatively, they might be able to reduce your payments temporarily, or allow you to pause them until you’re able to get back on track.
Bear in mind though that these changes may be recorded on your credit report, and might affect your ability to borrow in future. Your insurer will need to tell you if the measures they’ve suggested will have an impact on your score. It’s vital that you don’t just stop paying your monthly premiums without letting your insurer know, as this means you won’t be covered and you won’t legally be able to drive.
Shop around for cover
If your car insurance policy is up for renewal soon, don’t just sit back and wait for your existing insurer to auto-renew your policy. Car insurers are now unable to charge existing customers more than new customers. Insurers would previously offer lower premiums to new customers to generate business, then increase the cost of cover over the years. The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) introduced the new rules in January 2022 after finding that 6m UK customers who stuck with their provider had overpaid by over £1 billion in 2018 alone.
However, don’t just renew your current policy without seeing if you can find cheaper cover elsewhere as insurers may still get away with charging existing customers more, based on when and how you apply. Switching can still potentially save you hundreds of pounds a year. Read more in our article Car insurance: why loyalty still doesn’t pay.
You can compare car insurance costs quickly and easily using our car insurance comparison tool or if you’re not ready to renew just yet, let us know your renewal month and we can send you a reminder nearer the time.
Compare car insurance quotes from over 110 providers
Remember that some of the big insurers such as Direct Line and Aviva don’t feature on comparison sites, so it’s worth getting quotes from them too. Find out more about reducing insurance costs in our article 10 practical tips to reduce your car insurance premiums.
Find the cheapest fuel
The Government has cut fuel duty by 5p a litre until 23 March 2024, but prices are expected to jump when the reduction comes to an end and can take a big chunk out of your annual budget if you drive frequently. Fuel costs vary widely depending on which petrol station you visit, however, so it pays to shop around.
You can search for the cheapest fuel prices in your area at Petrolprices.com, which has data for nearly 8,500 petrol stations across the UK. According to the site, you could save more than £200 a year by comparing prices before you buy and using the cheapest petrol stations near to you.
Many companies offer cashback schemes and loyalty cards to encourage customers to use their services. If you already have a supermarket club card, such as with Tesco or Sainsbury’s, you can swipe it when you buy fuel from their stations. Similar cards are also generally offered by fuel companies such as Texaco and BP. Supermarket fuel tends to be cheaper, however.
Change how you drive
You can help reduce your fuel consumption by making sure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure. The recommended pressure should be in your vehicle’s handbook, or in the sill of the driver’s door. If the tyres are improperly inflated, you’ll use more fuel due to increased friction between the tyres and the road.
Try to keep your revs down too, for example, by making sure you drive in the right gear, as this can also help you save on fuel. Some newer models come with gear-shift indicators, which can tell you the most economical time to change gear. Avoiding hard breaks and driving smoothly should also help.
If you use a Sat Nav app to get around, it may be able to recommend the most fuel-efficient route for you to take as well.
Consider car clubs
Ditching your car altogether and signing up for a car club could be one way to substantially reduce your annual travel costs.
Car clubs typically charge an annual fee, usually between £60 and £100, and then an hourly rate, typically starting from around £5.
According to CoMoUK, the charity for the public benefit of shared cars, bikes and e-scooters, if you drive less than 6,000-8,000 miles a year, joining a car club could save you up to £3,500 a year compared to running your own car, and you don’t have to worry about servicing or repairs. However, this option will only really be practical if you live in a town rather than a rural area and can easily walk or cycle to your nearest club car. You can check if there’s a car club service operating near you
Car clubs are ensuring cars are thoroughly cleaned after each use to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Costs to join a car club vary depending on where you live and which provider you choose, but there’s typically a one-off joining fee of between £25 and £60, with hourly costs to rent a car ranging from about £3.50 to around £6. Car clubs in the UK include Zipcar.com and Enterprisecarclub.co.uk.
Think about switching from four wheels to two
Cycling is not only free, but has the added benefit of being better for the both environment and your health, than driving.
If you don’t already have a bike and are thinking about getting one to commute with then you might be able to benefit from a tax-free bike through Cyclescheme, an employee benefit that saves you 25-39% on a bike and accessories. Find out more about how this scheme works here.
If you’re self-employed, you can still sign up for the scheme provided you receive a salary through the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system. That means if you run your own limited company as a director, you’ll be able to apply, even if you’re the only employee, but you won’t be able to join the scheme if you’re a sole trader.
If you’re thinking about getting into cycling for the first time, you can also check out our Beginner’s guide to cycling for some tips on how to get started.
It’s worth considering bicycle insurance too, as this can cover all of the things that can happen while you’re out and about cycling, or when your bike is locked up away from home.
As with any type of insurance, it’s a good idea to compare different deals to find one that covers all of your concerns for a reasonable price. You can compare bicycle insurance deals from several different insurers with this free comparison tool. All you need to do is enter your details to get a quote.
Take advantage of travel discounts
If you’re using public transport to get around, make sure you take advantage of any discounts you might be eligible for.
For example, if you live in London and meet the age criteria, you’ll be eligible to apply for a Freedom Pass which gives you free travel across the capital and free local bus journeys nationally. The eligibility age for the Freedom Pass is rising in line with the women’s state pension age – you can find out when you’ll qualify for yours by using the eligibility checker here.
If you’re aged 60 or over and travel regularly by train, you may want to consider buying a Senior Railcard, which costs £30 for one year or £70 for three years and entitles card holders to a third off rail fares. Find out more here.
If you’re under 60 and regularly travel with a partner a Two Together Railcard could be a good option, which costs £30 for one year and offers a third off train tickets when you both travel together. Find out more here.
If you live in Scotland and travel regularly by train and are aged 50 or over, you can sign up for a ‘Club 50’ card costing £15, and this will save you 20% on Advance and Off-Peak tickets with ScotRail. You’ll also get a 50% discount on hot and cold soft drinks from the catering trolley. Learn more about Club 50 here.
Some regional rail operators offer their own scheme too, so it’s worth checking if yours does. For example, Greater Anglia runs a Club 50 scheme which costs £20 a year and you’ll get 20% savings on Off-Peak and Advance fares online, plus 2 for 1 entry to over 150 of London’s top attractions. Find out more here.
In England you can get a free bus pass when you reach State Pension age. In Wales, all over 60s are entitled to a free bus pass. Find out more here.
The government’s £2 bus fare cap currently limits the price of single tickets to £2 or under on certain routes from participating bus companies. The cap was originally meant to rise to £2.50 in November 2023, but the Prime Minister has pledged to extend the £2 cap until December 2024.
Get your money back from season tickets
If you’re no longer travelling to work, perhaps because you’ve recently become self-employed or have been made redundant, it may be possible to get a refund for any rail ticket that is no longer required, so contact the train company or the website you bought the ticket from to find out how much you might be entitled to.
There are 28 major UK train operators, each covering different geographical areas. You can find their contact details here. If you bought your ticket online, and no longer need it, you’ll usually be able to request a refund online too. If you bought it at a ticket office, you can either return it to any ticket office managed by your train operator, or you may be able to send it back by post if your operator offers a refund form you can download, print off and send to it with your ticket. Use National Rail’s Station Finder to look for information specific to ticket offices near you.
To qualify for a refund, you must have at least seven days left unused on a monthly or longer season ticket, or at least three days remaining if you’ve bought a pre-paid weekly ticket. If you have an annual ticket, some operators require that you have three months remaining in order to be able to claim a refund. Refunds are worked out from the date you hand the ticket in and are the difference between the amount you originally paid and what you would have paid for a season ticket ending on that date.
You can also get an Oyster card season ticket refund if you’ve got six weeks left on an annual ticket, seven days left on a monthly ticket or three days left on a seven-day ticket. You can apply for an Oyster refund by calling 0343 222 1234 (the line is open from 8am to 8pm seven days a week and call charges may apply). Find out more at the Transport for London website.
Buy a flexi season ticket if you commute part-time
If you only travel to the office occasionally, you may want to consider buying a Flexi Season ticket. This is a more flexible kind of season ticket that allows eight days of travel within 28 days, at any time between two stations. It’s ideal if you need to travel to work a few times a week in peak times from Monday to Friday. The ticket offers a minimum of a 20% discount on a monthly season ticket. Find out more here.
Find out if you’re eligible for a car insurance refund
If your mileage has fallen significantly in recent months, because you’ve been working from home more, it’s worth contacting your insurer to see if they might offer you a refund.
Many insurers offered refunds during Coronavirus lockdown periods to reflect the fact people weren’t driving much, but no longer do this now that life has returned to normal. However, certain insurers will still provide a refund if your mileage falls substantially for any reason. For example, under Direct Line’s Mileage MoneyBack scheme, you submit your annual mileage as close to the start of your policy as usual. At the end of the policy year, you submit a new mileage reading. Direct Line will refund 2% of the cost of your insurance for every 1,000 miles you didn’t drive, up to a maximum of 20%.
Claim for train delays
If your train is delayed by 15 minutes or more and the train company is signed up to the ‘Delay Repay’ scheme, you can claim compensation, except when delays are caused by planned engineering works.
You’ll need to apply for compensation online or via post within 28 days of your delayed journey. Online is the quickest and easiest way to apply for compensation. You’ll need proof of travel (either the original ticket, or a receipt, for example), and the amount of compensation you’ll receive depends on the length of the delay. For example, you’re entitled to at least 25% of the single fare paid if you’re delayed by 15-29 minutes, rising to 100% of the cost for delays of 60 to 119 minutes. You will also get a full refund if your train journey is cancelled.
The majority of major train operators are signed up to Delay Repay, and you can find out how to apply for compensation via the scheme on the relevant company’s website.
Reduce flight costs
There are plenty of ways you can keep flying costs down, including travelling mid-week when flights are cheaper, and packing light, so you don’t rack up hefty fees for taking baggage.
One of the best ways to find the cheapest available flights is to use a comparison site, such as Google Flights, Kayak, Skyscanner or Momondo, all of which can help you find the cheapest dates and times to travel to your chosen destination. Alternatively, if you can be flexible on timings and where you’re going, you can use any of these platforms to look at flights from your chosen airport to destinations across the world to see where and when is cheapest. Learn more about keeping holiday costs down in our guide 13 ways to reduce holiday costs.