Motoring on a budget: tips for the student driver

Feature | 01 Mar 2016
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Are you a student driver wondering how to cut the costs of running a car? From how to get cheap car insurance, to finding discount auto parts, to which car to buy: we've got some tips and tricks to get you started.

Freedom, independence, high expense! This is the code of the student driver. It’s getting harder and harder for students to financially support themselves over the course of a degree, and often it can seem that getting or keeping a car just isn’t viable.

Whether you’re getting a car specifically for transport to your campus, or you’ve been driving for a few years already, it’s a good idea to have a look at what your annual costs for the car are. Warning: this can be dull. 

Here, we’re going to look at ways to keep everything from car purchase through to insurance and replacement parts down to a reasonable cost.

So buckle in, and get ready to take a drive down Savings Street!

Which car to buy? 

If you already own your car, chances are you won’t need to worry about this – however, if you’ve got an unreliable vehicle it can fast become an unending money pit if it’s constantly breaking down.

There are two choices: a brand new car or a pre-owned vehicle.

If new, think about your needs. The market for cars aimed at young people is getting bigger and bigger, and mechanical warranties are quickly becoming standard industry practice.

Stand-out winners for warranties have to be Kia’s seven-year bad boy. Covering you over the course of your whole learning career, South Korean manufacturer Kia has been gaining a reputation as the go-to affordable company. Alongside Kia, Peugeot and Fiat are also low-cost for running and for servicing.

When thinking about pre-owned, approach with caution. Most dealerships will have a high level of standards before accepting a pre-owned vehicle, and will offer a warranty for either the first year or two; however, you will pay a premium for this assurance. Online, you can check out Auto Trader and Motors for a huge range of available vehicles, but they have less stringent quality checks (none).

There is an endless number of great articles on buying a pre-owned vehicle, but essentially make sure you know the car's history, are happy with the way it drives, and can bring along a friend or family member who knows their stuff if you’re not so confident.

Cheap car insurance for students

The scourge of student drivers: insurance! We could roll out the statistics of younger drivers claiming more than any other group, but to keep it short – young drivers have less experience on the roads, so we’ve got to pay more.

While getting an insurance quote, there are a few things to keep in mind to help you lower the price. Firstly, car insurance bands are rated from 1 to 50. When picking a car, bear that in mind. The lower it is, the less it will cost.

Are you the main driver of your car? If you’re keeping it at your parents’ house, and they drive it regularly, making yourself a named driver on their policy is a way to gain no-claims while being charged to the cost of a more reliable driver.

If you will be the policyholder, adding more reliable drivers to your policy can also help lower the premium. So if mum and dad want to drive your car ever, they might also be saving you some money.

For some more car insurance tips check out MoneySavingExpert, a man who loves students so much he’s hired a team of solicitors to investigate the government’s actions over student loans

Finding discount auto parts

When it comes to replacement car parts, heed this advice. Avoid the high street. When it comes to anything from bulbs to windscreen wipers and more, high street prices have the same increase as a man selling umbrellas in the rain.

Not only do they offer a broader selection, online auto parts stores such as the new Jennings Parts Shop offer parts for a fraction of the cost of retail stores

. Every once in a while you will need to make small replacements, so buy in advance online and save yourself money to go towards something fun.

Other tips and tricks

Looking to pimp your ride on a budget? Mate, McDonald's Happy Meals give you a free toy. Free. Boom, the kitsch mobile is born.

For minor repairs or changes to your car, YouTube will become your best friend. Search your car make, model, year and the changes that need to be made, and no doubt there’ll be a kindly YouTuber who’s made a whole video of them doing the exact same job as you.

Look around your local area for the best petrol and diesel prices. Supermarkets are nearly always cheaper. Garages will often say they use a higher quality of detergents and cleaning additives in their petrol, but I don’t know what means, and for a hatchback it makes very little difference. If you’re a student with a Ferrari then you should maybe worry about that, although if you’re a student with a Ferrari you’re probably not worrying about fuel costs.

Above all, remember...

When it comes to anything related to car costs, the best advice is: research, shop around before you buy, and, like all good scouts, be prepared.

By reading this, you’re already a third of the way there – great job pal, that’s a research badge for your car-owner jumper.

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