How to save fuel: 10 techniques to cut consumption, improve economy and save on petrol and diesel
There are everyday changes you can make to improve your car’s fuel efficiency as prices reach record levels
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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.
Rising oil prices and the war in Ukraine have translated to record prices at the pumps since the start of the year and the average cost of filling a typical 55-litre family car has exceeded £100 for the first time.
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.
AA president Edmund King called this “the worst week of pump pain so far for drivers”, while RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said it is “becoming clearer by the day that the Government must take further action to reduce the enormous financial burden on drivers”.
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.
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.
Cut down on shorter journeys
It may seem obvious, but given the escalation in prices, experts are warning drivers to use their cars sparingly.
AA president Edmund King said: “We would urge drivers at the moment to cut out shorter car journeys if they are able to do so, and walk or cycle to save money. Almost one fifth of AA members are already doing this.
“But by changing your driving style you can also save up to 15% on fuel costs.”
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.
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.
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.
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.