The cost of a car does not stop with the purchase price of the car or your car loan repayments. There are ongoing expenses such as fuel costs, maintenance, insurance and tax. Before you buy, estimate these costs to make sure you can afford them.

To see how buying a new car might impact on your monthly spending, use our budget planner.

If you are buying an older car, bear in mind that parts need replacing from time to time. Annual motor tax as well as Vehicle Registration Tax, which is included in the cost of a new car, will be based on car engine size and carbon emissions – you can get more information on the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment. Check out all our useful information on buying a second hand car.

Reduce the cost of running your car

For most of us, the cost of fuel is the main running cost for our car. While you can’t do anything about the price of oil, petrol or diesel, you can control your motoring costs by taking a few simple steps. See how you can help your car go that extra mile.

Tips to save money on fuel:

  • Be price aware! Petrol and diesel prices can differ by as much as 5 cent per litre locally so it’s worth shopping around for the cheapest outlets in your area.
  • Think in litres, not euro! Service stations display prices per litre of petrol or diesel. This makes prices in one station easy to compare to another. If you spend a fixed amount of cash each time you fill up, you get different amounts of fuel depending on the price per litre. For example, if you buy 30 litres of fuel instead of €20 worth, the price difference between two garages for the same amount of fuel is much clearer.
  • Travel light –if you leave heavy items like golf clubs in the boot, the car has to work harder and you use more fuel. So take them out if they’re not in regular use. If you have a roof rack or bike rack that you don’t use regularly, take it off – they add weight and increase fuel consumption.
  • Be aware of how you drive – how you drive really affects your fuel consumption. The harder you accelerate and brake, the more fuel you burn, so go easy on the pedals. Driving at a slower speed can dramatically cut costs. For example cutting your speed from 110kph to around 80kph, will burn about 25% less petrol.
  • Try to avoid rush hours or scheduled events, which might cause traffic jams. Plan an alternative route instead.
  • Driving with windows down or the sunroof open makes the car less aerodynamic and increases the amount of fuel you use.
  • Using air conditioning will also increase fuel consumption.

Maintain your car

Keeping up to date with car maintenance not only helps you make sure your car is safe and roadworthy, it can save you a lot of money in the long run too.

  • Make sure your tyres meet the minimum standard thread depth of 1.6mm. Check the tyre pressure regularly and adjust it as required. Well-maintained tyres are far more fuel-efficient. Read more about tyre safety from the Road Safety Authority.
  • When replacing tyres, remember you don’t have to buy branded tyres – you can ask your mechanic how much the equivalent generic tyres would cost.
  • Clogged air filters increase fuel consumption by restricting airflow to the engine. So have them cleaned regularly and replaced when necessary.
  • Many dealers and mechanics advertise services for all makes and models of cars for a set price. Remember to check what is included in the set price and do your homework to shop around to compare prices. And don’t be afraid to haggle about the price before giving someone your business.
  • Manufacturers recommend that you have your car serviced at one of their main dealers but you do not necessarily have to do this. Under EU rules, you have the choice of having your car serviced at an authorised dealer or with an independent garage. However, if you choose an independent garage, you should ask the dealer or mechanic for the service to be completed in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommended servicing criteria and request a record of the service. Always check the terms and conditions of your warranty before carrying out any repair work.

Read our section on car servicing and repairs.

National Car Test (NCT)

Cars that are more than four years old must undergo an NCT test every two years to ensure they are safe and roadworthy. Cars that are more than 10 years old must undergo an annual NCT test and will receive a certificate valid for up to one year only.

Many garages now offer what’s called a pre-NCT test. This test should cover all the items which will be checked during the NCT test itself and it should highlight any problems that need to be fixed. But a pre-NCT test will not guarantee that your car will pass the NCT itself. It is also possible that the mechanic who does the pre-NCT test may recommend you have work done which may not be necessary to pass the NCT.

Remember, you can of course simply bring your car for its NCT test and if it fails you can then have the car serviced or repaired. You will be given written details of why it failed and you can give a copy of this to your mechanic.

What type of car will save me more money?

In the long run, the type of car you choose will greatly determine how much you spend on fuel. If you’re thinking of buying a particular car, you should make sure you that you are aware of how fuel-efficient it is and consider other factors such as motor tax and replacement parts. Here are some tips:

  • Every new car for sale or lease is required by law to clearly display an Energy and Emissions Label which shows the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions of that car
  • The fuel efficiency of a car is also used in calculating the motor tax for it, with charges ranging from €104 a year for the greenest cars to €2,100 for cars with the highest emissions. You can check all the details on

Avoid that trip

Do you really need to take the car at all? A large proportion of all car journeys in Ireland are less than a mile or two, and walking or cycling are cheap and clean alternatives.

Consider cycling or taking public transport. The Government introduced a Cycle-to-Work scheme in December 2009 that gives tax breaks to those buying bikes and related cycling equipment for travelling to work. If you are interested in the scheme check with your employer to see if you can avail of it.

Other schemes can save you money on public transport, including Tax Saver tickets, Multi-trip tickets, family deals and discounted tickets if you buy online.

Last updated on 14 January 2020