Driving a car is a dream that many across the world share, it provides a sense of independence, of freedom and the ability to go and do what you want, when you want – however owning a car is not without its financial constraints.

There’s repayments, insurance, fuel, services and don’t forget those pesky toll fees – all these can end up having a negative impact on your bank balance. However, if you stick to a few basic rules, driving and maintaining your vehicle can be a little easier.

First off, decide carefully on the vehicle you want. If you’re going to do a lot of town driving, purchase a smaller car that won’t use a lot of fuel to pull off or accelerate, and remember a new car will cost you more in repayments and will go down in value as soon as you drive it off the show room floor, so rather look at a good demo or second hand vehicle. You can get some great tips on buying a car by reading How to choose a car.

Once you’re in the driver’s seat it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions – these are designed so that the vehicle provides optimal performance i.e. best bang for your buck, especially when it comes to fuel usage.

On the road

Remember the faster you go, the more fuel you will use, especially if you go fast over a short distance – something many do when they accelerate to over 100km/h only to come to a stop at the next traffic light just 100 metres away! Rather drive at the prescribed speed limit for the road and your vehicle. This will again help keep your fuel costs down as well as wear and tear on other parts such as tyres and brakes.

In addition to driving at the speed limit, coming to a complete stop at an intersection will prevent you from getting fines, and when you stop at a traffic light, don’t hold the vehicle on the clutch, as this will wear the clutch out and getting a new clutch is an expensive exercise.

When stopped at a traffic light, pull up the hand brake, put the car into neutral and rest, take a few seconds to look around before getting ready to pull off again. Use the handbrake when pulling off to prevent wear on the foot brake; using the handbrake also helps prevent you driving into the vehicle behind you, saving you tons in repair or insurance costs.

Vehicle maintenance

Put money aside every month so that you can afford the annual service. Annual services keep your vehicle in tip top running condition, keeping running costs down will help identify problems before they become worse. Don’t forget to budget for major services at regular intervals, as well as the replacement of the cam belt for example, after 90 000km.

Keep a watch on the tyres by ensuring the tread is the correct depth, and not worn in places.

Worn tyres make driving and steering more difficult and adds to fuels costs, so make sure to change your tyres regularly, and preferably all four at once. If you cannot afford to do all four, then change at least two tyres and use the same brand. Remember to keep your spare tyre in good condition as well, checking it just as regularly as you do the others – Be sure to use the correct tyre size, especially if your vehicle makes use of a “biscuit tyre”, once again failing to do this could result in damage to the tyre itself and possibly to your car if something goes wrong.

In conclusion, remember to obey the rules of the road such as wearing your seat-belt, not playing on your cellphone while driving, using your indicators etc, this will prevent you incurring the wrath of the traffic police so that you don’t have deal with traffic fines. If you do receive a fine, pay it as soon as possible so that you can take advantage of the reduced amount offered by the metro police.