The Cost of Driving: Bad Habits to Avoid

February 13th, 2023

There were 20.1 million registered vehicles in Australia, as of the 31st of January, 20211. You’d think Aussies loved to get behind the wheel!

Despite the fact that driving is one of the most dangerous things people do each day, so many of us dare to defy distractions from behind the wheel or push our four-wheeled friends past the brink of their intended use. 

Bad driving habits can not only distract you behind the wheel, but can also cause a hit to your hip pocket. We’re talking about avoidable car expenses. 

Let’s take a look at some of those habits and just how costly they could be to the environment, your health and safety, or your wallet.

Running your car with low fuel in the tank

We have all done it at least once in our driving repertoire and that is – running our car on a low tank. 

The fuel light comes on when you’re almost home, so you think, I’ll just fill up the next time I go out. The next day you wake up late and need to get to work, racing out the door to your trusted people mover, just to remember that the fuel light is on. So you run the gauntlet, and somehow make it to your workplace, because the fuel tank is a ‘later’ problem.

The lucky ones make it to a fuel station on the smell of fumes but for some of us, it goes downhill very quickly. The power of the universe can only allow for so much and that’s when we end up phoning a friend or employing the help of roadside assistance. Many of these scenarios also involve the physical pushing of a car to get it out of the way of other drivers. 

So besides the cost of seeking assistance, running your car on empty can cause the fuel pump to become exposed and overheat as it is designed to be submerged in the fuel. The other concern is that if you continue to run it dry, you could lose control of your brakes and power steering. 

We recommend that you top up your tank when it gets down to a quarter and try not to be tempted by the fuel light roulette. 

Braking too hard

When it comes to your driving style, if you feeeeel you’re heavy on the brakes, you are most likely either driving too fast or stopping at the last minute.

If that hits a little close to home, consider the times that you may have not been paying complete attention and slammed on the brakes at a traffic light or stop sign. Or perhaps you were talking to a passenger and only noticed a pedestrian crossing the road at the last second. And then there was that one time, when in a road-related rage – is it possible that you could have been tailgating that guy who cut you off? 

No matter the level of experience you may have or the make of the car you drive, braking too hard can wear out your brakes over time causing a larger than average mechanical bill. The damage could go beyond your brake pads and brake tubes and could possibly even trigger your ABS (anti-lock braking system) when it isn’t needed. You could also prematurely wear out your tyres as well as spend more cash on fuel.

When was the last time you slammed on your brakes?

Incorrect Tyre Pressure

Did you know that the right tyre pressure could prolong the life of your tyres and save you money in the long run?

Maintaining your tyres can allow them to do their job better, which is keeping you safe on the road. Your tyres are the only part of your car that comes in contact with the road, so you want to make sure that they are looked after and continue to perform. 

Tyres with the correct pressure and right amount of tread can also help you save money when it comes to fuel and tyre changes. 

Learn how to check your tyre pressure and tyre tread to ensure a smoother ride and longer lasting tyres. 

Skipping Car Services

Does regular servicing really make a difference?

For those of us who aren’t too savvy when it comes to taking a look under the hood, a regular service may give warning or find potentially major mechanical issues before they get worse. 

An auto service can involve up to 50 or more component and system checks as well as adjustments2.

The cost of the service is well worth the money when it comes to maintaining your engine, monitoring performance and troubleshooting any underlying issues.

And when it comes to selling or upgrading, a car that has been regularly serviced is more likely to hold its value. People want to buy an automobile which has been cared for and the proof is in the pudding.

Using your mobile phone when driving

It may come as no surprise that using your mobile phone while driving could be dangerous and costly. 

It is illegal in all Australian states and territories to use a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving, including when stationary (for example, when stopped at a traffic light)3. There are heavy penalties that come along with this bad habit too. Take a look at just how much it would cost:

State Fine Demerit Points
NSW $352 ($469 in a school zone) 5
QLD $1033 4
VIC $545 4
ACT $487 – $598 3-4
SA $554 3
WA $500 – $1,000 3 – 4
NT $500 3
TAS $346 3

++These fines are a guide based on 2022 findings4 and subject to change at the discretion of each state or territory. Additional fines and demerit points apply in certain states and circumstances (such as being caught in a school zone).

Besides a costly fine, using your mobile phone while driving can also be extremely dangerous to yourself, your passengers and anyone else on the road. According to an Australian survey in 2020, texting while driving is actually more likely to cause a fatality than drink driving5.

Now that is some food for thought. 


When you’re running late, it can be tempting to step on the gas to try and shave a few minutes off your trip. But at what cost?

Like using your phone behind the wheel, speeding can be a dangerous decision with a costly outcome, or worse case, a deadly one. 

Not only could you face a hefty fine, you could also see a considerate drop in your demerit points if you are caught. Serious offences could face further penalties depending on your state or territory. 

Speeding can also cause major injury or death as it reduces your control of the vehicle and can make it harder for you to slow down or stop. That’s not to mention the possible danger you could be inflicting on pedestrians or sudden emergencies on the roadside. 

Whilst we know speeding is quite common, the facts are, a scary 45.5% of Australian drivers nationwide (out of 1000 drivers surveyed) admitted to driving over the speed limit6.

So don’t rush when it comes to driving, your appointments can wait those extra few minutes.

Driving with headphones on

Listening to music in the car can be somewhat distracting itself, but wearing headphones whilst driving can take that distraction to a new height. 

When you put your headphones in, sure you will be able to hear the person on the phone better or your favourite tune clearer, but it will drown out the noise of your surroundings. 

Now, we know you are thinking, well yes, that’s the point.

But, the problem is that you could miss:

  • Important traffic sounds – car horns or railway crossing alarms could be alerting to you to a potential hazard
  • Emergency vehicle sirens – you won’t have warning that they need to get around you
  • Engine noises, clunks or rattles – you may miss something breaking, snapping or chipping
  • The sound of voices – someone could be trying to call out or alert you to something on the road

Although it is not explicitly illegal, it’s not worth the risk. It also doesn’t hurt to check the rules in the state or territory you are driving in to ensure you won’t actually be breaking any laws when it comes to popping your headphones in your ears while driving. 

Not wearing a seatbelt

It has been compulsory to wear a seatbelt since 19717, but does that mean everyone does? 

We would like to hope so, but the simple fact is that there are still some people who have a habit of not wearing a seatbelt to duck down to the shops and back. 

Modern cars will let you know about your unbuckled seat belt with a harmonic beep the whole way to your destination but older cars may not.

It pays to buckle up, quite literally, as you could face heavy fines and demerit points when you forget to click clack, front and back!

The cost of forgetting to wear a seatbelt doesn’t end there, failure to wear a seatbelt in a crash could be fatal for you or your passengers, so always ensure that no matter who you drive with, they are in the correct restraint for their age.

In-car clutter

We all have certain things that we like to keep in our car at all times. Maybe a pack of mints or a spare water bottle, or perhaps a towel or emergency blanket.

But if you find yourself storing more than the essentials, including a few takeaway coffee cups, it may be wise to declutter before you get behind the wheel. 

Clutter in the car can be distracting and can unfortunately lead to a traffic accident. 

Your belongings should be stored while driving and if you are tempted to reach for something, ensure to pull over. You want to make sure that your eyes never leave the road. Anything that is in the car should be secured, otherwise it could potentially become a hazard whilst driving. 

To keep your mobile living rooms clean, we recommend: 

  • Cleaning out any rubbish when you fill up with petrol 
  • Put your change in one of the consoles available
  • Have a small storage container in the boot for things you may need to keep in the car such as an umbrella, spare bottle of water or snacks
  • Keep some spare plastic bags in the car for easy clean-ups 
  • Store a pack of baby wipes for any spills
  • Make use of your car storage features rather than the floor

Car sharing is caring

Are you meeting up with someone or heading to a location where you could share a ride?

Taking multiple cars can cost extra when it comes to petrol and parking expenses, so if you’re able to join someone for the journey, it could help you save money. 

It also makes it quicker and easier to find each other when you get to your destination. Plus you get the added bonus of looking for one parking spot instead of multiple. There is nothing worse than the person you are meeting finding the last spot and leaving you to park a few streets away. 

Running the engine for no reason

If you’re pulling over for lunch or even making a phone call in the car park, it would be wise to turn off the engine rather than leaving it running for no reason. 

When your car is idling, it may be keeping it warm, but it is also slowly guzzling fuel. 

Turn it off to prevent fuel wastage and also to protect the environment from unnecessary exhaust fumes. 

The same goes for your accessories, whilst they won’t use up your fuel as such, they may drain your battery. If it’s safe to do so, switch them off.

<H2>The bottom line</H2>

Bad driving habits can be hard to overcome but are definitely worth the effort – saving you money and potentially your life. 

If you find yourself needing roadside assistance or upgrading your car accessories to make your ride safer, a Nimble Anytime Virtual Mastercard could give you the flexible funds to replace tyres, repair brakes or splurge in a full car detail to keep your car clean and tidy.