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Motoring off the smell of an oily rag


  • I found out from my pensioner neighbour that Monday to Friday, around 9am, I can catch a free bus (because I am a pensioner) outside my house and travel to Tauranga, returning about 2.30pm. Whilst in Tauranga I can travel free anywhere the yellow buses go. e.g Papamoa,Bethlehem, Welcome Bay, etc.  The Katikati bus is run by Environment B.O.P. - D.M, Katikati.

Buying a used car

  • Buying or keeping a car over 40 years old results in considerably reduced registration fees and insurance is a lot cheaper as well. Depreciation is no longer a factor and if you buy the right type of car the worth may actually be going up. Gas mileages on well maintained cars are usually quite good. You also have the chance to meet new people via car clubs etc - never mind the stares from owners of a new car that has just lost them $10000 by their taking delivery. Plus you are recycling in a big way by not replacing your old car with something newer. - pamflitt, Hawera

  •  A reader has a few tips when buying a used car. "I always get what's called a 'Vehicle Information Report'. It tells you thngs like whether the vehicle has been reported stolen, whether there is money owned on it, how many kms it had done at the last WOF check, its milage, the number of owners, when the WOF and registration expires, and so on. The web site is https://www.vir.co.nz. It costs $30 but it is money well spent.".   

  • For details about how to go about changing vehcile ownership see www.ltsa.govt.nz.

  • Think about colour when buying a car. I read the other day that white cars hold their value best. Greens and maroons are the worst. The study was done by sed-car pricing experts in Britain. It found white cars typically hold about 5 per cent more of their value than the market average for a typical used car. – Johnboyracer, Kaikohe.

Car cleaning

  • When it has been raining, wipe down your car with an old towel, including the windows. This saves on wash and polish costs. I only need to polish the car before summer and again before winter to preserve it. – Alex, Auckland.

Car-share clubs

  • A variation to hiring a car or a cab is catching on overseas and was first tried in this country in 2007 - car-share clubs. The idea behind the clubs is to reduce the cost of owning a car and the hassle of parking it in big cities. For an annual fee or one-off membership charge club members can book for as little as 30 minutes or as long as 6 months. The cost is based on how long you have the car, and how many km’s are travelled. At the end of each month the club sends out an account to the member. They basically work a bit like this. Members wanting to book a car either log on to a website or phone the host company. They then go to the nearest depot, swipe an access card on a reader on the dash to gain entry, and then collect the keys from the glove box. Membership costs about $50, the hourly rate is $12 or a daily rate of $60, and a per km rate of about 15 cents for every km above a free daily allowance of 100km. Petrol is included. See www.cityhop.co.nz


  • Buy the best car you can afford for cash. Old cars don't depreciate as fast as new ones and sometimes even appreciate in value. I bought an old English car for $505 in 2006. It got another warrant this week (May 09). It still goes really well and is still worth at least $500. In 2000 I bought an old Ford Falcon in Dunedin for $580 and it served the family well for over 3 years including 3 trips to Northland. I still have that car in the shed. Its a bit rusty but it still runs okay. I've seen several rougher ones for sale on Trademe recently for more than $1000. So what that the Falcon only gets 22 miles to the gallon. Its simple technology with no computer controlled engine management system, fuel injection, power-steering, abs or traction control, so if it does break down its easy and cheap to fix. And even at 22 MPG it can still be driven a very long way on the price of a new car. - K.W., Romahapa.

  • The biggest cost is resale value (depreciation). Even if you never turn the ignition key you can expect to lose 20% of the car’s value each year. So if you fork out $5,000 for a car, it is likely to lose $1,000 in value in year 1, $800 in year 2, etc. And it gets worse if you bought a new car.

  • People should think about the hidden costs of owning a vehicle. Someone who ties up $10,000 in a car, is missing out on the income they could have earned.

  • Look for freebies, like a free glass with every $20 fill. I collected a whole cupboard full  of glasses this way.  When I filled up with $40 worth of petrol I asked for 2 glasses! - F.N.

  • Get rid of that second or third car if it spends most of the time sitting in the garage. Those few kilometers per year are very expensive – it would be cheaper to hire a taxi or rent a car!

  • If you have borrowed money to buy a car – sell it! Repay the loan and use the remaining cash (if there is any remaining!) to buy something you can afford (even if it is only a push-bike).

  • Get out of the habit of driving down to the local store to get the paper or a carton of milk. Get fit off the smell of an oily rag – walk!

Fuel & oil

  • Don't fill your fuel tank right up….driving around with a tank full of fuel your vehicle will weigh more which will reduce fuel economy. - H, Canterbury. [For the record, the average car holds about 55 litres of fuel, and 1 litre weighs about 0.71kg (but varies on type of petrol of temperature). So a full tank of petrol weighs about 40kg. - oily rag ed]

  • With fuel costs rising we chanced on a little diesel Peugeot 205, and the way we drive we get about 59 miles to a gallon. Prius eat your heart out! - H M K, Waipukurau

  • Since getting my recent car which shows your fuel consumption as you drive I have adopted the 'using gravity' approach to driving. I was amazed to see that when cruising I'm using around 7 or 8 litres per 100 km but when accelerating you can use in excess of 20 litres per 100, do the maths yourself. The converse to accelerating is braking. Take your foot of the accelerator well in advance of your braking point and let the car slow down. You will save money while not accelerating and jumping on the brakes at the last minute. Driving smoother can also save lives as well as money... happy motoring. - Nige, Wellington.

  • When the supermarket has a 20 cent off per litre promotion do this. Go to the customer service and buy the amount you need to spend to get the discount voucher. Example $200 gift card/voucher, you will then get a voucher. After doing your grocery shopping use the voucher to pay for groceries and you will get another voucher. Essentially you receive 2 vouchers for the 1 $200 spend. - Grant, Christchurch.

  • When fuelling up at service station you try and stop pump at 05 cents for example $20.05,then pay cash instead of card it will be rounded down to $20.00. - JT, Canterbury. 

  • Never start the engine until you have the seat belts on and are totally ready to go. At the other end, turn off the engine as soon as practical, then turn the key back on without starting the engine to shut the windows etc. - Coefam, Hawera.

  • Put your gear in nuetral when going down-hill in your car. See how far you can go without changing back into gear (safety first though!). - H.C.

In response to H.C's tip about using neutral downhill: if the hill is steep enough (ie: the Ngauranga Gorge), it's more economical to stay in drive with your foot off the accelerator and let your motion turn the engine without using any fuel at all.  If you're in neutral going down there your engine is idling and burning fuel.  I confirmed this with the consumption gauge in my car. - Ellery, Porirua.

  • When going downhill or coasting in your car if it is left in gear the engine uses no petrol at all compared to taking it out of gear. an engine at idle still uses petrol. T.J., New Plymouth.

  • Reduce your speed and save money. Slowing down from 110 km to 100 km will result in a 15% fuel saving, and you will avoid speeding tickets! Maniac type driving not only costs money but aggravates everyone, endangers yourself, your passengers and the public. - O.R.

  • Make sure tyre pressures are right. According to Beaurepairs, every 10% under the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended tyre pressure costs about 2.5% in extra fuel consumption.

  • Do your own oil changes. Buying a take-home oil pack is a lot cheaper than topping up at the petrol station.

  • How fuel efficient is your car? Fuelsaver.govt.nz website >>>

  • A petroleum expert with 31 years in the industry has some tips and tricks to get more of your money's worth for every litre.

- Only buy or fill up your car in the early morning when the ground temperature is still cold. Remember that all service stations have their storage tanks buried below ground. The colder the ground the more dense the fuel, when it gets warmer petrol expands, so buying in the afternoon or in the evening your litre is not exactly a litre.

- When you're filling up do not squeeze the trigger of the nozzle to a fast mode. If you look you will see that the trigger has three (3) stages: low, middle, and high. In slow mode you should be pumping on low speed, thereby minimizing the vapours that are created while you are pumping. All hoses at the pump have a vapour return. If you are pumping on the fast rate, some of the liquid that goes to your tank becomes vapour. Those vapours are being sucked up and back into the underground storage tank so you're getting less worth for your money.

- One of the most important tips is to fill up when your tank is half-full. The more fuel you have in your tank the less air occupying its empty space. Petrol evaporates faster than you can imagine. Petroleum storage tanks have an internal floating roof. This roof serves as zero clearance between the petrol and the atmosphere, so it minimizes the evaporation. Unlike service stations, here where I work, every truck that we load is temperature compensated so that every litre is actually the exact amount.

- If there is a fuel truck pumping into the storage tanks when you stop to buy, do not fill up - most likely the petrol/diesel is being stirred up as the fuel is being delivered, and you might pick up some of the dirt that normally settles on the bottom.


  • To keep your window washer clean & screen clear, pop a SMALL amount of washing soda in the wee washer tank.  Cheers Ken, Waikanae.

  • Getting from A to B and elsewhere is a major cost for most, and therefore an obvious area for savings for many. It’s also one of the cost areas that have increased the greatest in the last year, with rising fuel costs and creeping ACC charges included in the annual relicencing fee.

So we have been running the motoring cost numbers using figures published by the AA in late 2011 and this is what we have come up with. In all of these figures we have only looked at actual cash costs incurred in any one year. We have excluded depreciation, which is a whole story in itself and would make the figures much worse.

Fixed costs (registration, insurance, and warrant of fitness) range from about $1,100 for a small car (under 1500cc) to $1,650 for a large car (+3500cc). You pay these costs even when the car is parked up in the garage. Fixed costs represent roughly about a third of the total cash cost for the average 14,000 km a year motorist.

Running costs make up the other two-thirds, and of this between two-thirds and three-quarters is fuel. The petrol cost alone of running a small car is 13 cents per km click, 15 cents per km for what’s called a compact vehicle (1501cc to 2000cc), 21 cents for a medium sized car (2001cc to 3500cc) and 25 cents for a large car.

On top of that there is the cost of tyre wear, repairs, oil and so on which takes the running cost per km to 20 cents, 22, 28 and 33 cents for a small, compact, medium and large car respectively.

Just think of your bank account clicking down every time your odometer clicks up and you will get the general picture of how the numbers work.

The other thing to consider is the cash cost of a vehicle you are not using. For example, having a large vehicle (like the ones people use to tow a boat or caravan) just sitting in the garage for a year costs about $1,600, or $30 a week. For example, a large car that is only used for say 2,500 kms a year is actually costs $1 a km in cash per every km travelled! On top of that, time is eroding its value so when you eventually sell the vehicle the loss in resale value is crystallised.


  • I have an old, but very tidy car, a 1983 Ford laser, which I bought 3 years ago from an old man. I have never had to put oil in the car and two new tyres cost me $110, which included alignment and balancing! Of course I get it serviced every year but on the whole I have been very lucky and haven’t had to spend a lot of money on it! – J.O. Christchurch.


  • It is possible to more than half your motor vehicle insurance premium by increasing the excess or amount of risk you are prepared to take on. This would not cover those little bumps and scrapes but would cover major damage and a “write-off”.


  • The cost of replacing a security coded car key can be substantial especially if the car security system needs to be recoded. I have placed a small tag on my key ring with my cell phone number on it and an offer of a reward to someone who finds and returns it. This has "saved" me twice so far and the persons returning the keys refused to accept any reward. – BF, Hastings.

Long trips

  • Sometimes it is better value to rent a vehicle than take your own, especially if your vehicle is an older one. You get an almost new vehicle to use, it will probably be cheaper to run petrol-wise, more comfortable to drive, and you get no wear and tear on your own car. By shopping around and booking early if possible you can get absurdly cheap deals. We rang around the rental companies as we wanted to go from Kaitaia to tauranga and back on a Friday to a Monday. For unlimited K's and including GST and insurance the prices ranged from $162 to $349. If we took our own vehicle the wear and tear and depreciation alone woud outweight the $162. Also if you own an older vehicle which may be unrealiable a newer rental is a far better proposition for piece-of-mind motoring. - F.A.

Mag wheels and tyres

  • Mag wheels can add vfalue to the resale value of  car. A few years back I worked for a company that dealt with car sales yards all over the country. Upon visiting these yards, time and time again I was told how they would have a vehicle for months on the lot with no interest. As soon as they fitted alloy wheels to the vehicle it would sell, normally within days if not the same day. - F.A.

  • Before you go about buying tyres, it might pay to know a little about what you are buying.  The tyre has a lot of hieroglyphics actually say something. Here’s an example. The tires on a Toyota Corolla might be labelled:

     P175/65R14 81H

    'P' stands for passenger vehicle.
    175 - The width of the tire is 175 mm at the widest point.
    65 - Indicates that the height of the side-wall of the tire is 65% of the width - 114 mm.
    R - This is a radial tire.
    14 - This tire fits 14 inch diameter rims.
    81 - The load index per wheel. The maximum load for an 81 tyre is 462kg (in other words a total weight of 1,848 kg for the entire vehicle).
    H - The speed index. The maximum speed for an H tyre is 210 kmh. 

    Tire speed rating codes

    Code  km/h
    N 150
    Q 160
    R 170
    S 180
    T 190
    U 200
    H 210
    V 240
    W 270
    Y 300
    ZR Over 240


    Tire load index -  weights
    Code kg Code kg
    71 345 91 615
    72 355 92 630
    73 365 93 650
    74 375 94 670
    75 387 95 690
    76 400 96 710
    77 412 97 730
    78 425 98 750
    79 437 99 775
    80 450 100 800
    81 462 101 825
    82 475 102 850
    83 487 103 875
    84 500 104 900
    85 515 105 925
    86 530 106 950
    87 545 107 975
    88 560 108 1000
    89 580 109 1030
    90 600 110 1060

There is usually a lot more information on a tyre as well:

The production date, DOT 3204 = 32nd week in 2004
TL – Tubeless
TT - tyre with an inner-tube (tubetype)
Made in - country of production
C (commercial) - tyres for light trucks (eg 185R14C)
XL (extra load) - tyre for heavy loads
rf - reinforced tyre

Roof racks

  •  "Don't buy or hire a trailer when you can make do with a car and roof racks.....it's even better if you get the roof racks from hard rubbish." - B.J., Australia.

Second vehicle

  • If you run two cars and can manage with one do as we did. Buy a Motor Scooter (runs on the smell of an oily rag). I shopped at supermarket, took home frozen goods, and my husband picked up rest of my shopping on his way home from work. The scooter came with a basket but we invested in a locking box on the back as well. - J.J.

Spare parts

  • Shop around for parts, especially in places where there are a large number of parts suppliers. An example of this is when we priced a CV joint for a Nissan Sunny. From a wrecker it was $250 and we had to take it off ourselves. The cost of a new part from a dealer was $189, but in the end it was cheaper to drive to Auckland and have the whole job done for $90. - F.A.

  • Buying parts from a wrecker can be a huge trap for the unknowing. More often than not (from personal experience) a wrecker will charge as good as or more than the retail price for a part. Aloso there is a danger of buying a part that may be worn and not last long in any case. Obviously trim and other pieces are better bought second hand than new, but again it's worth checking the new price. I have not bought anything from a wrecker in years; in the long run it's simply not worth it. - F.A.

Vehicle inspections

Vehicle hire

  • It's possible to cut travel costs and enjoy driving free rental cars and campervans in New Zealand by checking out the online transfer deals. Most of the time drivers also receive a free tank of petrol! How does this work? Rental car companies need to reposition their fleet for new hires and usually spend large amounts of money to do this using trucks for transportation. Having a free driver return the car to its home base is a win-win - for the traveller and the rental company, and it works well when combined with a cheap one-way flight. -  P.L., Auckland (Have a look at transfercar.co.nz. - Oily Rag ed.)



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