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Byline: Chris Russon

THE past 12 months have been tough for motorists with soaring fuel costs and rising prices all round.

As 2012 dawns here are 10 New Year resolutions to help drivers keep safe and save money in the coming months.

Winter tyres: If you haven't done so already, invest in a set of winter tyres. These are not studded snow tyres but use a different rubber compound which gives extra grip when temperatures dip. They improve stopping distances in poor conditions and can help avoid expensive bumps. A full set can cost less than pounds 300.

Insurance: Loyalty counts for nothing so shop around when renewing your insurance. Price comparison websites are a useful tool. Remember to keep proof of any no claims discount you may have earned and think strongly about legal protection.

Low CO2: Cars which emit less than 100g/km of CO2 are exempt from road tax and will also save you money at the pumps. There are more than 20 current models which fall into this category. If you can't afford to buy new then the first generation of eco-cars are now appearing on the used market. A three-year-old Ford Focus ECOnetic can be snapped up for around pounds 7,500 - and it can average more than 60 to the gallon.

Fuel saving: Fuel prices are going to stay high so get the most out of every precious gallon. Be gentle on the throttle and have good anticipation of what is going on around you. Avoid harsh acceleration. A smooth driving style can improve your car's fuel consumption by up to 10%.

Navigation: The latest generation of portable sat nav systems can do more than tell you how to get from A to B. Many have 'live' traffic alerts to help you avoid jams, while some such as the Tom Tom Live series of devices can plot the most economical routes depending on traffic conditions. They also come with speed limit warnings and camera alerts to keep you legal.

Stay safe: Carry a breakdown kit and make sure it includes a warning triangle, high visibility vest, torch, tow rope and a footpump. Spare bulbs are a good idea too and a legal requirement in some EU countries. Also consider carrying a fire extinguisher and a 'glass' hammer. If you are trapped inside your car in an emergency laminated windows are hard to break.

Roadside assistance: Make sure you are covered for help at home as well as the roadside and for recovery from anywhere in the UK. Most breakdowns happen within five miles of home but you may want to consider a deal which includes overnight accommodation or helping to pay for alternative travel.

Service costs: Keeping your car fully serviced is not only common sense but helps boost value when it comes to resale.

Keep tidy: Don't leave belongings lying around inside your car. Even if they are not of value they can be an attraction for car thieves.

Clean up: The Sunday morning car cleaning ritual may be a thing of the past in many a household but a smart vehicle can be worth thousands of pounds more than a scruffy looking model. If you decide to clean your car yourself make sure you use the right equipment. A pressure washer without the right accessories can do more harm than good. Do it right and it will pay dividends.
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Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 22, 2012
Previous Article:RIGHT CAR, RIGHT PRICE.

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