How to save fuel when driving: 9 techniques to cut consumption, improve economy and save on petrol and diesel

Everyday changes you can make to improve your car’s fuel efficiency as prices reach record levels

Fuel prices are continuing to rocket across the country, with drivers facing average charges of more than £1.63 a litre for petrol and more than £1.73 for diesel.

The cost of petrol and diesel is climbing on a daily basis and there are warnings it will continue to get worse before it gets better.

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Rising oil prices and the war in Ukraine have translated to rises of more than 15p per litre at the pumps since the start of the year and the average family car now costs more than £90 to fill.

The latest jump in petrol and diesel prices piles even further pressure on households already struggling with the rising cost of living, making it all the more important for drivers to make the most from every fill up.

Fuel prices are at never-before-seen levels (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)

With that in mind here are some simple ways to reduce your car’s fuel consumption and save money on fuel.

Check your tyres

Regularly checking your tyres is important for safety but it can also make a big difference to your car’s fuel efficiency. Under inflated tyres cause more drag, meaning your engine will have to work harder, using more fuel. Tyre experts estimate under-inflated tyres increase fuel use by around 3%.

Most cars have a sticker inside the door or fuel filler flap detailing the correct pressures, otherwise check your owner’s handbook. Check your tyres at least once a month and remember the pressure needs to be different if the car is fully laden.

Under-inflated tyres are bad for economy and safety

Give your car some TLC

A well maintained car will run better than a poorly cared-for one, reducing strain on the engine and other components and using less fuel. It’s also less likely to suffer other expensive problems, so it’s worth keeping up with your car’s service schedule.

Lighten up

On the subject of weight, carrying unnecessary weight around in your car will affect its economy. Removing unnecessary items from the boot and cabin won’t make massive differences but every little bit helps.

Fuel is heavy too, so don’t feel you need to drive around with a full tank all the time. At the same time, never leave yourself so low that you risk running out of fuel.


In a similar vein, leaving items like a roof box, roof bars or a bike rack on your car all the time wastes fuel. Bulky items like these affect your car’s aerodynamics, increasing drag as well as adding weight to the car. Remove them when you aren’t using them and you could save an estimated 10 to 20 per cent.

Watch your speed

The AA estimates that sticking to the 70mph limit on the motorway uses up to 25 per cent less fuel than driving at 80mph - a significant difference. It also means you’re less likely to end up with a speeding fine, which will save you a few quid as well.

Be smooth

Speed isn’t the only element of driving that will affect your economy. Using your gears correctly and driving smoothly will also use less fuel.

Anticipate the road ahead and use smooth throttle and brake inputs

Don’t leave your car in a lower gear than it needs to be - you should be able to hear if it’s revving too fast. At the same time, don’t labour the engine in too high a gear at low speeds, it’s not good for the engine, the transmission or your fuel consumption.

Accelerating and braking smoothly will also use less fuel than harsh inputs, as will maintaining a constant speed. By anticipating the road and traffic ahead you can reduce your need to brake and accelerate, saving fuel as you go.

Don’t be idle

Leaving your engine running unnecessarily is bad for the planet and bad for your wallet.

Idling - whether it’s in traffic, warming your car in the morning, or waiting to collect a child from school - burns fuel, with some estimates putting the annual cost at up to £166, so it’s worth switching off your engine if you’re going to be stationary for any longer periods of time.

Use air con wisely

Using air conditioning increases fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent so if you can live without it turn it off. It’s particularly noticeable on short journeys where it has to work harder to cool the car initially, and at lower speeds. So if it’s a short trip or you’re not going quickly opening a window is a far more efficient way to cool down. At higher speeds, the drag caused by an open window is actually worse for economy than running the air con so once you reach 55mph, air con is the way to go.

Shop around

Fuel prices vary according to where you live but even within relatively small areas you will find variations. There are numerous websites and apps available that will compare fuel prices near you.

It’s also worth using supermarket loyalty cards and seeking out credit cards which offer cashback. While these won’t save you money on fuel directly, they can give you money back towards your grocery shopping, saving you money in the long run.

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