Money-Saving Monday: How to save on commuting and transport

Which? is advising consumers on how they can shave hundreds of pounds per year off their commuting and transport costs by using schemes like railcards, car-shares and opting for flexible train tickets.

Recent price hikes, paired with the ongoing cost of living crisis mean consumers are now facing an eye-watering rise in the cost of transport. Earlier in March, rail fares increased by 3.8 per cent – the largest price hike for almost a decade. Meanwhile, fuel prices have skyrocketed, with average prices reaching the highest level on record, putting further pressure on those already struggling with the rising cost of living.

Consumers should be able to reduce the impact of soaring prices by following the consumer champion’s advice on how to save money on transport.

1. Get a railcard to save a third on train travel
Railcards are an easy way to save money on rail journeys. There are nine types on offer and cost no more than £30 but will typically reduce costs by a third. 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.

2. Join a car-sharing scheme
Commuters that normally drive to work could consider carpooling with a colleague or neighbour to cut costs on fuel. Fuel costs could be halved by joining a car-sharing scheme and there could be bigger savings to be had if there is a larger group heading the same way each day. According to one car sharing site, sharing a daily commute could save users over £1,000 per year.

3. If you’re not commuting daily, opt for flexi train tickets
Those in England and not making journeys every day should consider buying flexi train tickets – which can save part-time commuters £100s a year compared with daily returns for those 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 per cent less than a £1,344 annual season ticket.

4. Book tickets in advance
Booking train tickets well in advance of travel makes it more likely to find a cheaper deal. Most train companies release a set number of reduced-price ‘Advance’ tickets up to 12 weeks before – and some go on sale even earlier. 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 per cent cheaper than the cost of an anytime single ticket. Just bear in mind that advance tickets are usually non-refundable.

5. Consider ‘splitting’ train journeys
When travelling by train, splitting the journey – or ‘split ticketing’ – can often save money, particularly on longer routes. Instead of buying one single ‘through’ ticket, travellers can buy multiple tickets to cover the component parts. Which? found that it’s possible to save £22 on a ticket from Glasgow to Manchester by splitting the ticket at Preston.

6. Try walking or cycling
Walking or cycling, where possible, can completely erase the cost of fuel or public transport. It’s also possible to save money on the cost of a new bike with the Cycle to Work scheme. Depending on salary, the scheme can save cyclists up to 40 per cent on the value of the bike. For example, using the scheme to purchase a bike worth £400 could save up to £168.

7. Cut the cost of your MOT
While the government sets a maximum test fee of £54.85 for car MOTs, service centres often run half-price deals. Which? suggests motorists check what’s on offer in their area before booking via Which? Trusted Traders.

8. Planning a roadtrip? Search around for the best fuel prices
Before making a long car journey, it is worth filling up at the cheapest station possible. Which? found that petrol at supermarket pumps is typically a few pence cheaper per litre. Petrol is also generally cheaper in towns and cities than in rural locations. Motorists can also search online for the cheapest petrol stations nearby.

9. Save money on parking
Apps such as AppyParking help drivers find free parking in local areas, while Parkopedia shows the cheapest nearby car parks. Motorists could also try renting private driveways to save money – apps like Just Park show nearby drives available to rent which could be cheaper than a multi-storey car park.

10. Get better-value breakdown cover
Signing up to a breakdown service can massively reduce costs when a breakdown happens. Which? found that going without it completely could leave drivers hundreds of pounds worse off in pay-on-use fees and premiums than if they’d had a policy to begin with. It is also worth opting for a policy including home start (or equivalent), as Which? previously found that most breakdowns occur at home.

Adam French, Which? Consumer Rights Expert said: 

“Soaring rail fares and fuel prices will be a real concern for millions of people who rely on cars and public transport, especially as many are already feeling the impact of the cost of living crisis. However, there are steps that consumers can take to lower their spending and save money on their commute.

“Where possible, consider walking or cycling instead of driving or taking costly trains. If you can’t avoid them, make sure to book tickets in advance and look for flexi or split-ticketed options.

“Drivers can also make savings by car-pooling or joining a car-sharing scheme. It’s also worth hunting around for the best MOT prices and investing in comprehensive breakdown cover to avoid expensive payouts if you have an accident.”


Notes to editors:

  • Over the coming months, Which? will be highlighting free and useful money-saving advice every Monday to help consumers manage the ongoing cost of living crisis. The series will cover a range of topics, from how to save money on household bills, to childcare and travel.
  • Those who are unemployed could be eligible for 50 per cent off travel in London with the Jobcentre Plus Travel Discount. Londoners receiving certain benefits such as Universal Credit can apply for the Bus & Tram Discount photocard to get 50 per cent off bus and tram fares.


Further reading: 

About Which?

Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.

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