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21 Mar 2022

11 ways to save on transport costs

Combat rising fuel and train ticket prices with these top money-saving tips

With the cost of getting from A to B skyrocketing, now's a better time than ever to try some cost-cutting tricks.

Fuel prices are at their highest on record, and rail fares were hiked 3.8% earlier in March, putting further pressure on those already struggling with the rising cost of living.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to help minimise the effect of these climbing costs, whether you need to travel for work or leisure.

Here, Which? shares 11 of our best tips for saving money on transport.

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1. Try walking or cycling

It won't be an option for everyone, but there is one way to completely eliminate the cost of fuel or public transport: walking or cycling.

It's worth doing some planning if choosing to walk or cycle by looking at the best and safest route and factoring in some extra time to your journey.

If you'd like to try cycling but you don't own a bike, you could take a look at second-hand deals but you can also save money on the cost of a new one with the Cycle to Work scheme.

Depending on your salary, the scheme could save you up to 40% on a new bike. So if you used the scheme to buy a bike worth £400, you could benefit from up to £168 in savings.

2. Check for bus discounts

If you've got a long way to go and walking or cycling isn't really an option, try checking the bus routes operating in your area.

Traveling by bus tends to be cheaper than by train and like train travel, there may be some discounts you qualify for.

For example, Londoners receiving certain benefits such as Universal Credit can apply for the Bus & Tram Discount photocard to get 50% off bus and tram fares.

Listen: The Which? Money Podcast heard from people affected by the cost of living crisis and asked experts what you can do to keep your bills down.

3. Buy flexi train tickets for hybrid working

Those in England and not making journeys every day should consider buying flexi train tickets.

These can save part-time commuters £100s a year compared with daily returns if you're commuting two or three days a week.

Which? crunched the numbers and found that commuting from Bromsgrove to Birmingham New Street for two days a week costs £729.60 over the year with flexi tickets. That's 46% less than a £1,344 annual season ticket.

4. Invest in a railcard

Railcards are an easy way to save money on rail journeys. And with nine types to choose from, there could be one for you.

Typically, a railcard will cost £30 to buy, but it will usually reduce costs by a third, which could add up to major savings over the year.

Check eligibility criteria for each card and remember some can't be used for certain journeys during peak times on weekdays, but these restrictions don't apply to weekends or bank holidays.

For example, a 26-year-old with a 26-30 Railcard would spend £14.95 on a return ticket travelling from Reading to London Paddington on a Saturday, whereas it would cost £22.70 without.

5. Book train tickets in advance

It pays to plan ahead when you know you'll be travelling by train.

Most train companies release a set number of reduced-price 'Advance' tickets up to 12 weeks before a journey - and some go on sale even earlier.

You can set up alerts through a train operator to be emailed when advance tickets go on sale for a particular route.

Which? found advance tickets for a journey from London to Leeds for £30, which is 87% cheaper than the cost of an anytime single ticket. Just bear in mind that advance tickets are usually non-refundable.

6. Try 'splitting' your train journey

Sometimes it's cheaper to buy two tickets instead of one. Splitting your journey, also known as 'split ticketing', canoften save money, particularly on longer routes.

Instead of buying one single 'through' ticket, travellers can buy multiple tickets to cover the component parts of a journey.

Which? found that it's possible to save £22 on a ticket from Glasgow to Manchester by splitting the ticket at Preston.

7. Join a car-sharing scheme

If you drive to work, consider carpooling with a colleague or neighbour to cut costs on fuel.

Joining a car-sharing scheme could halve your fuel costs, and you could save even more if you carpool with a larger group. According to one car-sharing site, sharing a daily commute could save users over £1,000 per year.

If your car is going to be used for a carpooling scheme make sure you check your insurance policy covers you for this activity.

8. Cut your MOT costs

The government sets a maximum test fee of £54.85 for car MOTs. But you can get them for less. Some service centres will often run half-price deals, for example.

9. Shop around for better fuel prices

If you have a long car journey coming up, your best bet is to search for the cheapest pump you can find before you fill-up.

We found that fuel at supermarket pumps is typically a few pence per litre cheaper than it is at other garages.

You'll also generally find savings by filling up at a town or city, rather than in a rural location. Try searching online for the prices near you.

10. Save money on parking

You don't always have to shell out huge amounts to park. Use an app like AppyParking to find free parking in your area, or Parkopedia to find the cheapest car parks nearby.

You could also rent a private driveway to save money via apps like Just Park, which show nearby drives available to rent. This could be cheaper than a multi-storey car park.

11. Get better-value breakdown cover

Signing up for a breakdown service can massively reduce costs when a breakdown happens.

Going without it completely could leave you hundreds of pounds worse off in pay-on-use fees and premiums.

It's also worth opting for a policy including home start (or equivalent), since you're most likely to have a breakdown at home.