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3 Mar 2022

Ease the squeeze: how to save money on train fares and fuel

Fight back against rising costs, whether you drive or take the train

Whether you drive to work or get the train, recent price hikes mean you could face an eye-watering rise in the cost of your commute. Here's what you can do to lower yours.

This week, commuters in England and Wales were hit by a 3.8% increase in rail fares - the biggest price hike for almost a decade - while London tube and bus fares shot up by an average of 4.8%.

And for those who drive to work, the picture is similarly bleak, with petrol prices soaring to a record high of 151.25p per litre on 28 February, according to data from the RAC.

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

Here, we've rounded up their tips for saving money on and , as well as suggestions for using , with a verdict from our expert.

And if you're struggling to cover commuting costs, .

How to save money on your car

  • Change where you fill up, and how you pay
  • Find cheap and free car parking
  • Cut the cost of your insurance

Keeping fuel costs down

Avoid using premium pumps at the station - super-unleaded fuel can be 10p to 15p per litre more expensive than other products.

The price of petrol and diesel can vary dramatically across the UK. Comparison site Confused.com compares prices at forecourts and can be used to find cheaper options near you.

Our research into fuel costs has previously found that supermarkets are the cheapest place to fill up.

You could also take advantage of supermarkets reward schemes. Sainsbury's and Tesco let Nectar and Clubcard holders earn points at most Esso stations.

For even bigger savings, you can use these schemes in combination with a cashback or rewards credit card.

Saving money on parking

You could try the following apps to avoid spending huge amounts on parking:

AppyParking helps you find free parking in your area, while Parkopedia shows you where the cheapest car parks are near you.

You could also try renting someone's drive - with Just Park, you can see drives available to rent near you.

Saving money on car insurance

Compare the Market predicts that drivers could save an average of £119 by switching insurer.

Our guide on how to get cheap car insurance has lots of advice on comparing quotes.

Other tips for saving money on car insurance include avoiding unnecessary add-ons and paying annually rather than monthly, if you can.

You could also cut your insurance premiums by increasing your excess (the amount you pay upfront if you claim). Find out more on how to choose the right excess on your insurance policy.

Find out more: money-saving driving tips

Saving money on train fares

  • Set up alerts for advance tickets
  • Use the season ticket calculator
  • Get a railcard

Book your tickets in advance - the longer you wait, the more likely the price will go up.

Train companies release tickets 12 weeks in advance, although some go on sale even earlier. You can set up alerts with many operators and Trainline so you're emailed when advance tickets go on sale for a particular route.

If you only commute part-time, check what ticket you need based on the days you travel to work. You can use National Rail's season ticket calculator on its website to find the best ticket for you.

National Rail's new flexi season ticket, announced in May 2021, could save you £100s - though it depends what route you take and how often you commute. We crunched the numbers and found that while flexi season tickets could give you a 49% discount on some routes - for other journeys, you'd be better off getting an annual ticket.

To save a third on rail fares, get a railcard. You probably know about the 16-25 and Senior Railcards. But you might not know you can sign up for the Two Together Railcard with someone you travel regularly with, whatever your age. Check out our research to see which type of railcard could work best for you.

You'll also save money if you book tickets via National Rail Enquiries or directly through the train company, so you're not charged booking fees.

Instead of buying a ticket for the whole journey, you could see if it's cheaper to get two - one for each part of the journey. This is called split ticketing. It will take only a few minutes to see if it works out cheaper, but the savings could be worth it, especially for longer journeys.

Find out more:top tips for cheaper train tickets

What to do if you're struggling to pay for transport

There is some support out there for people who need help paying for travel in London:

  • If you're unemployed, you could be eligible for 50% off travel in London with the Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount. Contact Jobcentre Plus to apply.
  • Londoners receiving certain benefits such as Universal Credit can apply for the Bus & Tram Discount photocard to get 50% off bus and tram fares.
  • Can't make your car finance payments? Contact your lender to discuss altering your payment schedule or getting a deferral. Leading debt advice charity StepChange has a guide on what to do depending on the type of vehicle finance you have.
  • If transport costs are seriously pushing your finances over the edge, consider talking to a debt adviser. Here's a list of organisations offering guidance for free.

Using alternative modes of transport

  • Cycle to work
  • Try carpooling

You could save vast amounts on your commute each year by cycling to work. Check out our guide on how to get a cheap bike.

You could save on a new bike for work with the Cycle to Work scheme.

Alternatively, consider carpooling with a colleague who lives nearby or a neighbour with a similar route to work, or signing up to a carsharing scheme. ZipCar, Enterprise and DriveNow are some of the companies that let you pay monthly to rent a car by the hour or day.

You could try hiring an e-scooter. Since June 2021 TfL has made these available in a number of London boroughs - check if yours is one of them. Bath and Bristol residents can also hire e-scooters.

How to save money by driving more efficiently

Will Stapley, Which? cars editor

Making simple changes to your driving style can reap rewards. Aim to accelerate gently and shift up through the gears as soon as possible. When accelerating on flat roads, or those with a gentle downward slope, consider skipping gears, such as moving from second to fourth. As long as you don't labour the engine (when the revs drop too low), this will lead to greater fuel efficiency.

It's also worth anticipating traffic ahead. If you spot stationary cars or red lights, ease off the accelerator, work your way down through the gears and let your car's engine do the braking. You'll need to apply the brakes eventually, but this technique will reduce wear on the brake pads.

Keep your wheels in check, too. Under-inflated tyres and misaligned wheels will drag down your car's fuel economy. Check your tyre pressure once a month - your car's handbook will give the recommended levels - and ask for a wheel-alignment check at each annual service.