If you've ever scored yourself a well-earned tax refund through RIFT, you might have considered a new car for your business or family. It's not just the price on the windscreen you have to think about, of course. When you're choosing the right new vehicle, spare some thought for what you'll be paying to keep it on the road, too.

Average UK commute

As we're spending more time in our cars as we travel for work every day you need to make sure that extra travel isn't as hard on your wallet as it is on your tires.

Fuel Costs

One of the first things to look at is the kind of fuel you'll be filling up on. You've got a few options here, from traditional petrol and diesel to hybrid and fully electric models. Keep your wits about you when you're making your choice. There's a lot of dodgy information flying about and it's easy to get tripped up.

The general assumption is that diesel's more efficient than petrol, but you might not get the benefit you're expecting to at the pump. When a car's efficiency is tested, for instance, it's usually done under tight controls in a laboratory. You might get a rough “ballpark estimate” that way, but you're not exactly dealing with real-world road conditions there.

The actual fuel efficiency could easily be as much as 20% less than the lab-coat boffins' guesses. That doesn't mean you're automatically better off with standard petrol, of course. Still, it's worth knowing that a lot of modern cars are designed to pass scientific tests, rather than do the business out on the road.

As for electric, you've got a few things to weigh up there. They don't usually cost a lot to run, but you'll be offloading a serious chunk of change to buy one right now. Of course, the government's Plug-In Car scheme could take some of the sting out of that. If you qualify, you could get back up to £4,500 on the asking price. If you're buying a van, you could get up to £8,000 by going plug-in.

Have a look at our blog on changes to road tax for some handy comparison charts.

Vehicle Excise Duty

At RIFT, we spend a lot of our time thinking about tax. Now it's your turn. As of the 1st of April 2017, only zero-emission models worth under £40,000 are exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty. That means only electric and hydrogen cars will qualify, depending on their price.

Other than that, what you'll pay will depend on how much nasty stuff you're pumping into he atmosphere. The calculations here can get pretty complicated when you're comparing your options.

Vehicle Emissions Rates 2017

Take your time and get your sums right. That CO2-belching sports monstrosity might look the business on the forecourt. It won't seem so pretty when it's choking the life out of your wallet, though.

Insurance

Insurance should definitely be high on your list of considerations about your new car. Look into the safety options it comes with. Maybe even consider splashing out on a few optional ones, too. It'll cost you a little extra up-front, but you'll be saving on insurance costs later. Car insurance is a messy business, with a 50-point checklist determining what you'll be paying. Tick a few extra safety boxes now and you might end up saving more than just money.

While we're on insurance, don't just leap at the first quote you're offered. Always shop around for the best deal before parting with cash. There are comparison tools online to save you a bit of legwork here, and you rarely get anything for blind loyalty.

There are a couple of extra tricks to bring your premiums down, too. Capping your mileage or having a tracking device fitted can both help, for example.

Mechanics

Don't skimp on keeping your car in good working order once its on the road, either. You might be able to get a bundle deal that includes some maintenance. Again, you'll be paying a little extra now to claw a lot more back later. Keeping your car in good shape will go a long way toward preserving its value. At some point, you'll probably want to trade up to a newer one. When the time comes, make sure you've got something worth selling to offset the cost of what you're buying.

If you're a mechanic yourself then you should be well on the way to saving yourself a packet - but did you also know that you could be claiming a tax refund yourself and get even more back in your pocket?

Small changes add up

There are lots of ways to bring down the running costs of your car, whatever kind you buy. Even small steps can help, like not carting heavy loads around when you don't need to.

Perhaps most important of all, keep track of the mileage you're doing for work, whether you're self employed or CIS construction or PAYE and talk to RIFT for help.

Remember, even if your employer reimburses you something towards your travel, meals, accomodation or or work related costs you may still have a claim for the remainder if they are not paying you back the full HRMC approved mileage allowance.

Tax refunds are a huge boost when you're laying down cash for a new car. While you're filling up for work, it only makes sense to pump a little something back into your bank balance.