Skip to content

Save money on car maintenance, servicing, MOT and repairs

Woman working on a car

We complain about the price of cars, we complain about the cost of fuel and of insurance but there are even more expenses involved in owning a car. Car maintenance, servicing and repairs are another inescapable financial burden: if you scrimp on one, you could end up paying more for the other.

We've collected some great tips on how to avoid paying more than you need to for your car maintenance, services, MOTs and repairs.

Maintenance, servicing and repairs

Many of us are either too busy to find the time to do minor jobs on our vehicles or, in some cases, we're not confident to have a stab at tackling those minor problems that really shouldn't need the attention of a mechanic.

Look after your number plates

Missing, broken, dirty or otherwise obscured number plates can cause MOT failures. It's true; even dirt, if it makes your plates hard to read, will earn a fail.

If you own a private registration, make sure your personal number plates comply with the current regulations. Plates with incorrect spacing, non-standard typefaces, unauthorised logos and emblems or other deviations from the legal specifications can earn a fine in addition to that MOT failure. In some cases, DVLA may actually withdraw your entitlement to your private registration number without compensation.

Clean your car!

While you're wiping your number plates, why not do the whole car? Believe it or not, giving your car a regular wash is maintenance. Dust, grit and salt from the road, not to mention acidic compounds in rain, can prematurely age your car's paint job as well as cause misting to windows and headlights. At their worst they can contribute to serious corrosion, especially underneath the car. Rainwater in urban and industrial areas can become unusually acidic when it combines with sulfur dioxide from emissions. Salt and grit from gritter trucks in winter are also harmful.

If you clean your car yourself, you can save money on carwashing and on the consequences of not doing the job; but, whether you do it yourself or pay for it, make sure the underside of your car gets a regular clean as well as the shiny bits you can see.

Check fluids, tyres and bulbs

These are all easy to check, so why pay someone else to do it? Screen-wash, brake fluid, battery electrolyte and coolant levels are all things you can check and top up yourself.

If you have a refillable "flooded" lead acid battery then check the electrolyte levels periodically. If the electrolyte drops below the manufacturer's minimum level, top the battery up with distilled water. If your battery is the sealed variety, the above tip does not apply and you shouldn't try to open the unit.

Check coolant levels regularly in case of leaks and don't forget to prepare for winter by ensuring your coolant contains the correct amount of antifreeze.

Check that the depth of tread on your tyres is within safe and legal limits. Keep your tyres inflated to the pressures indicated in your car's manual or on the plate riveted just inside the frame of the driver's door. Incorrectly inflated tyres can wear more quickly and unevenly. Worn or incorrectly inflated tyres can be more prone to punctures and may also cause accidents.

The same DIY advice goes for bulbs. If your manual doesn't make it clear enough, Google or YouTube will nearly always provide the details you need regarding finding the correct bulb and installing it.

Worn tyres and blown light bulbs can both spell MOT failure, as we'll see later in this article, so check them before your test becomes imminent.

Change worn wiper blades and check your windscreen for damage

Windscreen wiper blades are easy to change so, again, why pay someone else to do it? Most come with several sets of fittings that cover most car models. Just measure the lengths of your wipers, note them down and pop off to your local supermarket's car maintenance aisle.

As for the windscreen itself, chips and cracks can lead to MOT failure. You can save yourself stress and money by looking into getting windscreen chips fixed by a specialist company. Windscreens can often be repaired free of charge (you may have seen mobile units set up in supermarket car parks). It depends on your car insurance, but it will cost you nothing to check rather than waiting for an MOT failure or for your windscreen to suddenly shatter on the motorway.

Don't let your car run low on fuel

Driving on a nearly empty tank can cause damage to your fuel filter. Some manufacturers' manuals actually give a minimum recommended fuel level - commonly a quarter of a tank.

Dirt and contaminants tend to accumulate at the bottom of the petrol tank. Driving with very little fuel is likely to result in more unwanted particles being drawn into your car's filter.

Regular servicing is the best way to prevent faults and breakdowns from occurring in the first place. A full service record also helps your car to retain its maximum resale value.

Find a reliable, local mechanic

Whether we know it or not, most of us live within walking distance of a car mechanic's workshop, a car dealership or a garage. Finding a good mechanic close to home is hugely helpful. Word-of-mouth and online reviews can help sort the good from the not-quite-as-good.

If your mechanic is local you can save money and faff by eliminating the need for lifts, taxis or courtesy cars while your car is being worked on. Additionally, if you become a valued regular customer, and the mechanic knows you live very locally, they will have every reason to ensure you are happy with the service they provide. A satisfied local customer is a blessing to a business: a dissatisfied local customer can be a curse.

Use your mechanic's knowledge

A good mechanic will know the best time to replace worn parts. They will also know which parts represent good quality and good value. In many cases, manufacturer's branded parts may be best for your car. In other cases, cheaper "pattern" parts may be equally serviceable but less expensive. Your mechanic will know and can save you money.

Warranties and recalls

If your car is relatively new, it is worth checking to see if it is still under warranty and to see if any necessary repairs are covered.

Also, check manufacturer's websites for details of any recalls that may have been issued for your car. Issues prompting recalls can be serious, even posing safety risks in some cases. Recall faults will usually be fixed at the manufacturer's expense.


If your car fails on a major or "dangerous" fault the chances are that it would not be legal for you to drive the car away until the problem is fixed. In fact, many MOT centres will not allow you to drive away until the car is in a condition that allows you to do so safely and legally. If the test is carried out at a centre that does not do repairs on-site then you could find yourself paying to have your car transported to a repair shop.

Find out if your MOT testing station offers a free retest in the case of failure. Also, ask about time limits on any free retest as some testers stipulate it must occur within a certain time frame after the initial failure.

Remember what we said at the beginning of this article: problems with your number plates can be enough to cause an MOT failure, so make sure you give them a wipe over and a check before your test.

Your local mechanic may be able to arrange all your MOT tests and retests as well as take care of any remedial work that may be needed. However, bear in mind that less reputable mechanics may use MOTs as an excuse to invent repairs that may not be strictly necessary. Yet another reason to develop a good relationship with a trustworthy, local tradesperson.

Share this...

The role of DVLA

Car registrations and number plates, including personalised number plates, in the UK, are the responsibility of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency, usually known as the DVLA. It issues new registrations twice a year and also maintains the central database that records details of all vehicles licensed to drive on UK roads, along with their keeper and registration information.

Regtransfers works closely with DVLA to complete registration transfers as quickly and efficiently as possible. Regtransfers is a DVLA-registered supplier of personal car registrations and number plates and is listed on the DVLA Registrations website. All number plates supplied by Regtransfers comply with DVLA's prescribed standards and regulations.

DVLA administers all UK registration transfers and issues updated registration documents when the registration number of a car is changed, or when a registration is removed from a vehicle and placed on a retention document in accordance with the DVLA Retention Scheme.

DVLA is a registered trade mark of the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency. Regtransfers is not affiliated with the DVLA or DVLA Personalised Registrations. Regtransfers is a recognised reseller of unissued Government stock.

Number plate regulations

When a car is on the road, it is an offence to display number plates bearing any number other than the vehicle's officially recorded registration number. If you purchase a private registration, learn how to transfer private plates before displaying the new number.

All registration number plates displayed on UK vehicles must comply with the official number plate regulations. DVLA oversees enforcement of number plates display regulations and maintains a register of approved manufacturers and retailers of vehicle number plates.

Regtransfers is not part of, and is not formally affiliated with DVLA.

Return to the top of the page