Simple ways to reduce the cost of owning a car

Woman packing car


Posted March 27, 2024

Cut down your driving costs with these easy and efficient money-saving tips.

Transport costs, such as owning a car and commuting via public transport, account for around 10 per cent of household spending in Victoria, so it's worth considering some easy ways to save money. 

Andrea Matthews, Motoring Editor at RACV, says simple measures such as being aware of your driving behaviour and being proactive with car maintenance can result in savings in the long run.

From regular servicing to fuel savings, here are some simple ways to save on car running costs and avoid costly repairs. 


Save money at the bowser

Shop around for the best fuel price 

Petrol prices can vary significantly in the same street and suburb, so it can work out cheaper to research before filling up.  

The fuel finder function on the free arevo app provides personalised fuel alerts to let you know the cheapest fuel prices based on your preferences and location.

Prices are updated with customised alerts, so you know the best price and station near you.  

Use fuel discount offers

Using receipt and loyalty member discounts on petrol can save you money. Save more per litre when you combine the RACV Member fuel offer with Woolworths and EG Ampol discount offers. 

Find out more about saving on petrol with RACV here.

Keep track of the fuel pricing cycle

Fuel prices can operate on a cyclical system, where the prices go up and down over certain periods. This fuel cycle can be impacted by factors such as holidays, oil prices, taxes, competitors, and worldwide events.  

Fuel cycles normally last four to six weeks, so if you need petrol, you can consider buying the minimum you need until prices decrease at the bottom of the cycle again.  

Choose the correct fuel type to save money

Always use the best quality fuel available. You may think your car is running OK on cheaper 91 RON (Research Octane Number) petrol, but if a manufacturer specifies 95 RON then you should use it. 

If your vehicle states it needs 95 RON, you should only use that,” Matthews says.

“Long term use of 91 RON fuel in a premium engine may cause significant engine damage and end up costing a lot more down the track.”


Putting petrol in car

Save on fuel with discount offers and by using the correct fuel type. Image: Getty

Keep your car well maintained

Service your car regularly

Regular car maintenance can have a dramatic impact on your vehicle’s fuel economy compared with a car that has been neglected. Matthews advises that regular servicing avoids bigger costs later. 

“Don’t ignore that niggling engine light,” she says. “It may be indicating a running issue that could cause the excessive use of oil or fuel. Or it may be indicating an issue that’s going to worsen over time.”

She also recommends servicing your vehicle according to the manufacturer’s recommendations at an accredited auto car centre to avoid missing critical servicing intervals. 

“A car service should include a full inspection, which can identify any issues that may need to be addressed,” says Matthews. 

“Faulty components can cause a car to run poorly, cause excessive tyre wear, wear on other components or poor fuel consumption. All of which can be more costly in the long run.”

Maintain recommended tyre pressure

Make sure your tyres are the best ones for your car and kept at the recommended pressure, according to the owner's manual. An underinflated tyre creates more drag on the road, which increases fuel use. 

“Having the correct tyre pressure ensures your tyres do not wear prematurely and you get the maximum life from them,” says Matthews. 

“Underinflated tyres will wear earlier on the edges and will increase the rolling resistance of the tyre – contributing to engine wear and higher fuel consumption.”

Properly inflated tyres also keep you safe on the road. Low tyre pressure can cause erratic wear and tear, which can lead to tyre failure and expensive replacements. 

Maintain proper wheel alignment for longer tyre life

When you check your tyres, it’s a good idea to check the wheel alignment too. 

“Getting a regular wheel alignment check will ensure your tyres last as long as possible,” says Matthews. 

“A poor alignment can cause premature wear, meaning you will need to pay to replace your tyres more frequently than needed.” 

Lighten the load to save fuel

Don’t use your car to store goods and other heavy items unnecessarily.

While items, such as an emergency car kit, are important, you shouldn’t use your  car for storage. Consider clearing out your boot when wash your vehicle. 

The heavier your car, the harder the engine needs to work, resulting in a higher consumption of fuel. Think about lightening the load for everyday use.

Remove roof racks when not in use

While handy, roof racks can create wind drag, particularly if there's a heavy load and/or additional height to the vehicle. This increases fuel use  and your costs. 

“To keep costs down, remove the roof rack when it's not in use," Matthews advises."When in use, pack it low and light." This is particularly important when driving an EV as it will impact range.

Ensure the roof rack is well maintained and fitted correctly to avoid movement that increases drag. Keep the windows and sunroof closed to help improve the car’s aerodynamic performance, and overall fuel efficiency.  


boot with sports gear

Removing unnecessary loads and reducing weight is an effective way to improve your vehicle's fuel efficiency. 

Adopt fuel-efficient driving behaviours

Drive safely and economically to save on fuel

You may not realise it, but  following the road rules and safe driving practices “can help you maximise fuel usage,” says Matthews.  

Maintaining the legal driving speed is not only safer, but reduces wear and tear on your brakes and tyres, lowering overall transport costs. 

Rapid acceleration and hard braking increase fuel consumption, so drive smoothly and keep a steady speed to get the most from a tank of petrol.  

If you’re driving an automatic, ease back slightly on the accelerator once the car has reached sufficient speed. In a manual, use the gearbox sensibly, and change up through the gears as soon as practical. 

Use cruise control to improve fuel efficiency

Cruise control maintains your speed, so you’re not slowing down then accelerating again, which uses more fuel. 

“Heavy throttle use and excessive acceleration are a guaranteed way of using fuel or range,” says Matthews. 

“Using adaptive cruise control, where the car maintains a safe distance from the vehicle in front, can improve fuel efficiency, as the vehicle in front is doing the hard work of breaking through the air, and may get the benefit of a slipstream.” 

If your car has the option, utilise cruise control to save on fuel costs on freeways or long distances at a singular speed.

Be mindful of your air conditioning use

In a conventional petrol or diesel vehicle, air conditioning (A/C) can place an extra load on the engine, thus increasing fuel consumption.

“One way of maximising the operation of the A/C system is to regularly replace the vehicle cabin filters that stop pollen and dirt entering the cabin,” Matthews says.

Additionally, when you get in a hot car, open the windows to let the hot air out first, then close the windows and turn the A/C on to recirculate, as a way of reducing fuel consumption.

That way, you're cooling the same air from inside repeatedly for less money, instead of drawing in hot air from outside.  

Avoid the cost of parking and tolls

Consider where you park to save on costs

Car parking can be expensive, particularly if you drive to work in the city. 

Leaving your car on the city fringe then catching a train, tram, or walking to work could save you money on parking costs, which add up over a year.

The arevo app can help find you a car spot without circling the block.

Consider avoiding toll roads

Toll roads can be more convenient, but if you have time you may be able to take a less costly route.

Leaving home earlier, avoiding peak-hour traffic and planning your journey are all ways you can avoid tolls and save on your overall driving costs.


Bike rider in melbourne

Cycling can save money on car costs, with the added benefit of exercise. 

Try alternative transportation

Take public transport to save on car costs

Rather than spending on fuel, tolls, parking, and maintenance, consider taking public transport. This can be a cheaper option, whether you're commuting to work, meeting friends in the city, or having a weekend getaway. 

It can save you money, and sometimes the journey is quicker. 

Plan an efficient journey via public transport with the free arevo app.

Swap the car for a bicycle

Cycling instead of driving has cost-saving and health benefits. 

Whether you’re thinking about commuting to work, getting an electric bike or having a family outing, a bike ride is a great way to save on commuting costs. 


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The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia Pty Ltd ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.