Ditch the car and save cash

Two friends with a Zipcar © Zipcar
Do you need your own car for the odd jaunt?

Car clubs are becoming increasingly popular, but it’s worth sitting down and doing the numbers.

If you live somewhere with fairly decent public transport, and don’t need a car for your commute to work, it has become increasingly easy to make do without a car and simply borrow one as and when you need it. In yet another facet of the sharing economy, car-sharing schemes operate in many cities across the UK, offering (most of) the benefits of having a car without the cost of keeping one.

Aside from the initial purchase cost of your car, it is these running costs that can make car ownership expensive. The annual running costs of a car are currently around £1,200, according to research by Auto Europe, a car-hire comparison site. That covers MOTs, repairs, servicing, tax and insurance.

However, before you head off to the car dealer to get rid of your trusty family car, sit down and work out roughly how much you spend on your car per year, and then estimate how much you would spend with a car club. Generally, they charge a monthly or annual fee, and then an hourly or daily fee to use a car. You might also want to budget for having to hire a car for longer holidays, as car clubs tend not to be cost-effective for long hires. The ideal scenario would obviously be to save money by going down this route. You might also want to factor in the environmental benefits of car sharing.

It’s not always easy to compare the costs of using a car club, as different companies will have different payment plans and varying levels of membership. You might also find that choosing a club comes down to convenience rather than cost, based on which one has cars close to your home.

The best-known car club is Zipcar, which has cars in Bristol, Cambridge, London, Oxford and Maidstone. For £6 a month, you can hire a Ford Fiesta from £6 an hour (£7.50 at the weekend) or £54 a day (£65 at the weekend), plus have 60 free miles before paying a 25p-per-mile contribution to fuel costs. There’s also a pay-per-mile option, from £3 per hour, plus 29p per mile (£4 and 29p at the weekends). Zipcar members are covered by its insurance when driving.

If you live in London, you may want to look at BlueCity. This club only has electric cars, but there are no fuel or running costs. Membership is £5 a month, with rental starting from £10.20 an hour. An added bonus of BlueCity is that electric cars are exempt from the congestion charge. Again, insurance is included.


How to claim for cancelled flights

Ryanair has cancelled hundreds of flights because of staff strikes. If you’ve been affected, then don’t panic – you have rights.

If your flight was meant to depart from an EU airport, or arrive at an EU airport on an EU airline, then you are covered by EU flight-delay laws. If your flight has been cancelled, then you are entitled to an alternative flight or a refund. You can also ask to be booked onto a flight with an alternative airline if the one offered by the original airline is inconvenient, but “it’s a bit of a grey area as to when the airline should agree that its offer is inconvenient”, says MoneySavingExpert.

You may also be able to claim compensation. Airlines should pay out if staff strikes cause cancellations, says the Civil Aviation Authority.You can also claim if your flight was cancelled less than 14 days before departure, or your alternative flight arrives very late compared with your original flight times. You can claim up to €600 compensation, depending on distance and delay. You should try to claim compensation directly from Ryanair first, but if you aren’t happy, you can go to the AviationADR scheme – an alternative dispute-resolution system.


Pocket money… get paid for grassing on the neighbours

• Savers were actually hit with 50 rate cuts in the weeks before the Bank of England raised interest rates from 0.5% to 0.75%, says Sam Meadows in The Daily Telegraph. Although the Bank’s decision was widely expected, 16 banks and building societies decreased savings rates in July and early August, including Sainsbury’s Bank and Yorkshire Building Society.

Barclays, the biggest bank to cut rates, reduced interest on seven accounts by 0.2 percentage points the day before the announcement. Most of the banks that have said they will put saving rates up since then have only offered savers 0.1 percentage points more than they were getting.

• Check what you get handed when you get your euros for a foreign trip, warns Ben Clatworthy in The Times. While many bureaux de change are happy to hand out €200 notes or, worse, €500, you may find it almost impossible to spend them.

The €500 note is the highest denomination of euro banknotes, and one of the highest-value notes in the world. As a result, it is a note of choice for terrorists, drug mules, money launderers and arms dealers and has been dubbed the “Bin Laden”. The note has been removed from circulation in the UK on the basis that demand comes almost entirely from criminals. This means if you are given one, you’ll really struggle to get rid of it. HSBC and Barclays refuse to handle €500 notes, while shops and banks abroad are also not keen to take it.

“If given a €500 note, we would always advise holidaymakers to ask for a smaller denomination,” Ian Strafford Taylor of Fair FX told The Times. Alternatively, the European Central Bank recommends visiting a national central bank in the eurozone that will exchange it.

• The number of people reporting their neighbours for tax evasion has doubled. As many as 40,695 people called HMRC’s tax-evasion hotline in 2017-18, up from 20,200 the previous year, found The Daily Telegraph. “You will get people reporting VAT fraud on art – that can be multimillion pounds – the local builder who is getting paid cash in hand…” says accountants Blick Rothenberg. “Then there will probably be vindictive people who just think their next-door neighbour has a bit too much money.” HMRC paid out £343,500 in rewards to informants over the past year.