13 fuel-saving tips to improve your fuel economy
Improve your car’s fuel economy with these top driving tips.
Fuel prices are one of the biggest issues for motorists, so it’s worth doing all you can to make the most of every litre.
However, before we look at how to save on costs, let's look at why the price of fuel is so high in the first place.
Why is fuel so expensive?
The price of petrol in the UK is among the most expensive in the world.
Crude oil is bought by retailers on the global market, where prices can fluctuate with supply and demand. Exchange rates will have an affect on prices too.
According to PetrolPrices.com, the cost of crude oil accounts for about 20p out of a £1 litre of fuel.
So what makes up the rest? The answer (mostly) is tax.
UK fuel duty, at 57.95p per litre, is among the highest in the world. On top of this is VAT, which currently sits at 20%.
This means there's a total tax cost of about 75p on every £1 litre of fuel.
The final segment - the remaining 5p - goes to the retailer itself, out of which it covers its operating costs and hopefully takes a profit too.
How can I reduce my fuel costs?
With the government unlikely to reduce fuel duty any time soon, it's worth thinking about how you can use less fuel.
Confused about where to start?
Here are some of the most common ways in which you can improve your fuel efficiency and reduce consumption.
1. Remove excess weight
You can reduce fuel consumption by removing excess weight from your car.
You can do this by removing your roof rack when you aren't using it and disposing of any rubbish.
Footballs, deckchairs, toys and so on might be handy from time to time, but they cost you money to transport.
The trick to reducing what you spend on petrol and diesel is to make a series of small changes, starting with a boot clear-out.
2. Reduce drag
It’s the middle of summer and the inside of your car is like a sauna. But do you roll the windows down or switch the air conditioning on?
Either method of achieving an ambient temperature can be wrong, depending on your speed.
Air conditioning uses fuel, and having the windows down causes drag, which uses up fuel too.
Well, here’s what to do. At low speeds, open the window - the fuel used to compensate for drag is less than the fuel used to power your air con.
While driving on the motorway, however, it’s the other way around. So turn on the climate control - the fuel used to compensate for drag is greater than the fuel required to have the air conditioning on.
The tipping point for this is around 30 mph.
Read more: How many miles can you drive on empty?
3. Inflate tyres to the correct pressure
If you can’t tell from how your car handles that your tyres aren’t the right pressure, then your fuel economy should tip you off.
The surface area that’s in contact with the road increases when a tyre is under-inflated.
The more surface area in contact with the road, the more drag on the wheel.
Research has found that a tyre just 10 PSI under the recommended level can increase fuel consumption by 2.5%.
4. Only top up your tank with as much fuel as you need
As annoying as it is to regularly top up your fuel, it does help you get more miles for your money.
Only topping up with what you need and avoiding having a full tank means the fuel you do have goes slightly further.
To make it easier to judge the correct amount of fuel, keep a notebook in the glove box.
When you fill up, write down how much fuel you put in to get from A to B. Note this in litres, not in pounds, as the price is always changing.
Some fuel tanks can take up to 109 litres, so that’s a significant amount of extra weight to carry around. You wouldn’t leave 109 litres worth of bottled water in your boot, would you?
Read more: Is it time to ditch your diesel?
5. Plan your trip ahead
Before setting off on a journey, try and plan when you will need to refuel and where you will go to do so.
This should help you to avoid letting your fuel run low as it may result in you panic-buying at the nearest, most expensive station.
To find the cheapest fuel near you, use our handy petrol price comparison tool.
6. Fill up with your vehicle's recommended fuel type
When it comes to getting the best performance from your car, there's a notion that super fuel, or high performance fuel, is best.
Super fuel, also known as premium fuel or high performance fuel, is petrol with a higher octane rating.
Most standard brands of fuel have a 95 octane rating. Whereas super fuel typically has a rating of around 98. This can make the engine work more efficiently and improve performance.
While super fuel may work best for some cars, manufacturers test their vehicles for the most ideal fuel type.
So, if your car manual says you should use 'normal' unleaded fuel, or another fuel with a not-so-high octane rating, then you should trust it.
Read more: Is it worth paying more for premium fuel?
7. Take advantage of vouchers and cashback credit cards
Supermarkets often compete to try and encourage you to use their station.
Keep an eye out for vouchers that give you money off your fuel spending and use them when you fill up.
Meanwhile, some credit cards offer cashback on fuel spending.
So shop around for the best deals.
8. Go easy on the accelerator
Your driving style can have a big impact on how much petrol or diesel you use.
To improve your fuel economy, the Institute of Advanced Motorists has the following driving tips.
Try to keep your driving smooth. Gentle acceleration and using the highest safe gear will use less fuel.
What’s more, when you approach traffic lights, ease off the accelerator early if the lights are red. Why hurry up to wait?
This style of driving, where harsh or rapid accelerating is minimised and gears are used efficiently, is often known as ‘eco-safe driving.’
It will not only help you use less fuel, which is better for you and the environment, but it tends to be safer too – hence the name.
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9. Avoid prolonged idling
Running your engine at idle consumes roughly half a gallon to about a gallon of fuel every hour, not to mention the carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere.
This means you're burning about 1.067 to 2.13 ounces of fuel every minute you're idle.
With modern cars being more efficient nowadays, you're likely to burn less fuel by simply turning off your engine, then restarting it when you have to move again.
10. Use engine stop/start
A handy alternative on some modern cars to switching your engine off is to use the car's engine stop/start system.
If you keep your foot on the clutch when you stop at traffic lights, for example, the engine will continue to burn fuel.
However, take it off (with the car in neutral) and the car's stop-start system will kick-in, saving you fuel and money.
11. Don't coast
Many people used to try to save fuel by coasting – that is rolling downhill out of gear.
While it’s true that it won’t cost you extra, nowadays it won’t save you fuel either.
That’s because when you take your foot off the accelerator in a modern car the fuel supply to the injectors is cut, so there's nothing to be gained.
Therefore, you’re much better off altering your driving style, as outlined above, than trying to improve fuel efficiency by coasting.
Coasting is also generally advised against for safety reasons as it leads to less control over your car, which is another reason not to do it.
12. Stick to your car manufacturer's recommended motor oil
In addition to testing the best-performing fuel type, manufacturers test the effectiveness of a range of products too on their cars - including motor oil.
This means they're able to provide a list of recommendations.
So it pays to check your manual, and trust the manufacturers know what they're talking about here too.
Read more: Why an electric car could be right for you
13. Know how much you really spend on fuel
Knowing how much your car is costing you to run is the first step to shaving a few pounds off your bill.
Visit our fuel cost calculator to see just how much you're spending on petrol or diesel each week, month and year.
First published on the 26th of January 2017