Wanted: a DIY car repair course

The car is just a financial and environmental millstone, writes Sheena Grant, who has embarked on a challenge to live a thriftier life.

My experience with costly car repairs last week has reinforced something I’ve always known: thriftiness and motoring do not go together.

The car, that symbol of personal freedom, is, in reality, a financial and environmental millstone. I’d love to be rid of mine, to have the real freedom of not being a slave to the ever-increasing cost of fuel, insurance, road tax, servicing and repairs. But living in rural Suffolk that’s never going to happen.

According to the Office of National Statistics, motoring costs have more than doubled in the last 30 years. In 2009 they accounted for 13% of all UK household expenditure.

So, how to cut costs and avoid unexpected repair bills? Regular readers may recall that last week I was hoping for some sage advice in the seemingly aptly-named final chapter of a financial self-help book I was reading. But in the event Being prepared for

when things don’t go to plan was all about someone whose husband died without leaving a will. There wasn’t so much as a mention of a wheel-nut.

I’d have to devise my own guide as far as motoring was concerned. In true thrifty style I turned first to the ways of the past. I already know using scrap yards for cheap parts is a money saver but how about doing minor repairs and servicing yourself? I set about finding a basic DIY car maintenance course but soon drew a blank. There’s one in central London but that’s not much help. Surely local colleges are missing a trick here.

I turned to the internet. There are plenty of video tutorials online but they looked too complicated. The best advice I could come up with was to invest in a trusty Haynes manual as generations have before. Aside from reducing car use, slowing down (driving at 70mph uses 15% more fuel than at 50, shopping around for fuel (there’s a website to compare prices), insurance and breakdown cover I’ve got another idea to fall back on - a savings pot and a 0% credit card that must be paid off before any interest kicks in. That’s what I call being prepared when things don’t go to plan.

Share your thrifty tips, email Sheena or tweet using #ThriftyLiving.