A recent AA fuel price report revealed that the cost of petrol has risen by 10p a litre since the start of February, which is the equivalent of £5 per tankful. In May alone, unleaded rose by 3.1p to 116.4p per litre, with diesel going up by 1.9p to 120.7p. All of which isn’t good news for your wallet or for anyone looking to juggle household bills.
So it’s probably a good idea to save fuel where you can. The good news is, saving fuel isn’t as hard as you might think and in most cases it won’t cost you a penny. In fact, follow our advice and you could find a few extra pennies and pounds in your wallet at the end of the month.
Check your tyre pressures
Admit it, it’s been a while since you checked your car’s tyre pressures, hasn’t it? Michelin recommends you should check your tyre pressures at least once month and before long journeys. Ignoring this advice could damage your tyres, as well as having a negative effect on the way your car handles or stops in an emergency. More relevant to this feature is the impact it will have on your fuel consumption.
According to Michelin, tyres under-inflated by 15psi (1 bar) have increased rolling resistance, leading to around 6% greater fuel consumption. Most petrol stations will have a tyre inflator and some are free to use. Alternatively, you could invest in a good quality tyre inflator, allowing you to check your pressures at home.
Remember, the correct tyre pressures will be listed in your car’s handbook, as well as somewhere on the car itself, usually on the inside of the fuel filler cap.
Turn off the air conditioning
At low speeds, using the air conditioning can increase fuel consumption by between 5 and 7%. That’s according to Anthony Sale of the Millbrook Proving Ground. At higher speeds, the air conditioning has less of an impact.
Which, of course, means you should turn off the air-con when driving through town or when stuck in traffic, opening the car windows instead. When travelling at speed, close the windows and switch on the air conditioning, as driving with the sunroof or windows open will increase drag and increase fuel consumption.
Remember to use your air conditioning at least once a month to maintain its efficiency and avoid problems with the system.
The more your car is carrying, the harder the engine is having to work, which has a negative impact on the fuel consumption. So in simple terms, if you don’t need it, don’t carry it.
This doesn’t mean you can dump your mother-in-law at the bus stop and tell her to walk, but it does mean you can remove all the rubbish piled up in the footwells and the garden waste you’ve been hauling about for the past few weeks. You should also remove the set of golf clubs from the boot, unless of course you’re intending to bowl a few overs after work. Or whatever it is you do on a golf course.
Roof racks and roof boxes will seriously damage your car’s aerodynamic properties, rendering the hours spent in the wind tunnel well and truly wasted. Now we’re not saying you should leave your mountain bikes at home when heading off for a cycling holiday. And we’re also not suggesting emptying the contents of your roof box into the boot and leaving the dog at home.
But once you’ve arrived at your destination, you should remove the roof box or anything else you plonked on the roof rack. Oh, and if possible, remove the roof rack as well.
Change up earlier
Develop a smooth driving style, accelerating gently and reading the road ahead to avoid any unnecessary braking. Don’t let the engine labour, but aim to change up a gear at around 2,500rpm in a petrol-engined car or 2,000rpm in a diesel. If your car has a gear-shift indicator, use it.
When possible, change up into fifth or sixth gear, which should see fuel consumption drop to its lowest level. But don’t speed, because not only is that illegal, it’ll also hurt your wallet. More on this shortly.
Stop braking. No, really…
Strange as it may sound, we urge you to stop braking. Don’t worry, we haven’t taken leave of our senses, it’s just that using your brakes is seriously bad for your wealth. But wait, before you go careering off into the wall or the back of that Honda Jazz, hear us out.
If you can keep the car moving all the time, you’ll use less fuel. This is because the simple act of stopping then starting again actually uses more fuel than simply rolling. Read the road ahead and anticipate the flow of traffic, especially when approaching roundabouts. If you can maintain a steady speed without stopping, you’ll use less fuel.
Reduce your speed
Speeding is the big no-no, but not only from a legal perspective. A car travelling at 80mph will consume 10% more fuel than the same car traveling at 70mph, so if you spend most of your time on motorways, this could turn out to be a significant chunk of money.
Of course, it’s not a simple case of the slower you drive, the less fuel you’ll consume, but there is a happy medium to be achieved. Driving at speeds of between 50 and 60mph in fifth or sixth gear will maximise your returns. But we do appreciate you need to reach your destination at some point. Whatever, don’t speed – a flash from a camera could result in a fine totalling the cost of a tank of fuel…
Service the car
A serviced engine is a happy engine. Well, that’s according to a cheesy and oil-stained poster we saw hanging up in a garage, once upon a time. Cheesy it may be, but the fact is that a well-mainlined engine will run more efficiently and use less fuel. So you should really think about giving your car a long-overdue service.
Your car’s handbook will tell you when it should be serviced, so don’t ignore that helpful reminder on your dashboard. Remember to check your oil from time to time and always use the correct grade for your engine. Again, consult your handbook or telephone your nearest dealer for advice.
Sounds obvious, but you should think about leaving earlier for your very important meeting. If you’ve got a deadline to meet, leave home or the office with plenty of time to spare. Not only will you avoid speeding, you may arrive an hour early, giving you time to relax and prepare for that dreadfully important meeting.
Similarly, if you can combine numerous trips into one journey, you’ll save fuel. Clearly that’s not possible if you have to be in Skipton one day and St Ives the next, but with some basic planning, you could be able to cut down on there number of trips you make in a single month.
Avoid driving at peak times
Nobody likes getting stuck in a jam. A congested morning commute can set you off on the wrong foot, while a stop-start journey home can lead to added stress before you reach your front door. So, why not avoid driving in peak times?
Setting off for work 30 minutes earlier could result in you missing the jams altogether, giving you time to go for a stroll or have a relaxing coffee before you face the working day. In fact, the money you save on fuel could mean you can afford a few extra take-away coffees every month.
If you can’t avoid the rush hour, think about buying a hybrid car, which will use less fuel than a standard diesel or petrol. At the very least, you should consider a car with stop-start technology, which will minimise the amount of fuel you’re wasting.
Shop around for fuel
The cost of fuel can vary from retailer to retailer and it’s not uncommon to find a different set of prices in two outlets next door to each other. So it pays to shop around, although we wouldn’t recommend taking a 20-mile journey to save 1p on a litre of fuel.
PetrolPrices.com is an excellent fuel price comparison site and takes data from nearly 11,000 petrol stations across the UK. Prices are updated daily and the difference between high and low prices can be staggering. Also consider signing up to a supermarket or petrol station loyalty card as points can be converted into money-off vouchers.
Buy a more economical car
Carmakers are very keen to get you behind the wheel of a new car and you could use this to your advantage. Some of the smallest and therefore most economical new cars can be purchased on a PCP contract for less than £100 a month. If said car can offer something in the region of 60mpg and your current car is achieving half that, the maths could add up.
Do your sums. Work out how many miles you drive in a year and how much you’re currently spending on motoring. Then work out how much it would cost with a new car and go from there. Don’t be lured into a false economy. If the majority of your journeys involve short trips and you have the capacity to install a home charging point, don’t rule out an electric car. For short journeys and town driving, they make a great deal of sense and electric cars have come a long way since the days of the Ford Comuta.
If the sums don’t add up, stick with what you’ve got and look at ways of driving more economically.
Walk or use public transport
If all else fails, leave the car at home and go for a walk. Clearly this won’t work if you live in the country and have a 30-mile commute to contend with, but in some cases a walk or public transport could be the answer.
Alternatively, think about a car-share scheme. By pairing up with another commuter heading in the same direction as you, you could literally halve the cost of fuel. Hey, it worked for Peter Kay, so it can work for you…