13 fuel-saving tips to improve your fuel economy
Save fuel, save the planet, and save money.
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.
But 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.
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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 one of 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. That 5p covers their operating costs and profit.
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.
Not only do you save yourself a pretty penny or two, but making the most of your fuel reduces the carbon emissions of your car, helping the planet.
Remove excess weight
Remove your roof rack when you're not using it, and get rid of any rubbish in the car.
Footballs, deckchairs, toys and so on might be handy from time to time, but they cost you money to transport.
Give your car boot a clear out and keep it light. More weight means more fuel to pull it up those hills.
When it's warm in the car, do you roll the windows down or switch the air conditioning on?
Either way could cost you, depending on your speed.
Air conditioning uses fuel. But 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.
But when driving on the motorway, it’s the other way around. So turn on the climate control and roll the windows up.
The tipping point for this is around 30 mph.
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.
Only top up your tank with as much fuel as you need
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?
Go easy on the accelerator
Your driving style can have a big impact on how much petrol or diesel you use.
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 just to wait?
This is sometimes called 'defensive driving'. Not only will it help you use less fuel, but it tends to be safer too.
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.
Plus, leaving your engine idle for too long is illegal.
Use engine stop-start
If your car has a stop-start engine, use it.
Keeping your foot on the clutch when you stop at traffic lights will keep burning fuel.
But if you take your foot off while the car is in neutral, the car's stop-start system will kick in, saving you fuel and money.
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.
Modern cars have electronic control units (ECUs) so your car uses less fuel when going downhill.
Coasting in general isn't safe, since it means you have less control of your car and you're likely to travel faster as you go downhill.
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.
Check out our fuel cost calculator to see just how much you're spending on petrol or diesel each week, month and year.