The price of petrol and diesel has stopped rising for a bit, but it’s still a huge cost when running a car. Here are 10 simple fuel saving tips:
- Make fewer trips
Did you know that when you drive a car that has been parked for a few hours, the engine is cold and it uses much more fuel for the first five miles or so? Ideally, you’d combine all your daily errands into one big trip. Often that’s not possible if you have to pop out during the day to drop off and collect the family, but try not to go out separately to do the supermarket shop or buy a newspaper.
- Don’t drive in the rush hour
There are few worse places to spend your time than stuck in a traffic jam, but it’s also a very expensive way of travelling. Every time that you stop and start in traffic, your car needs first gear and a huge amount of fuel to get moving again. Second gear is not much better. The best solution is to not travel during the rush hour. You can also save some fuel by trying to understand what the traffic is doing in front of you, and travelling steadily at a slow speed, rather than accelerating and braking. If you have to travel in rush hour a lot, then you could consider buying a hybrid car, which uses much less fuel in town than a normal petrol or diesel.
- Close the windows (and sunroof, if you’ve got one)
It’s not so much of a problem when you’re driving in town (see above), but when you’re out of town or on the motorway and moving more quickly, the shape of your car is very important. Car designers call it aerodynamics and make lots of effort to reduce the ‘drag’ and make the car as sleek as possible. Anything that makes wind noise as your car goes along is actually making your car more expensive to run. You can’t do much about the design of your car, but you can avoid making it worse by not leaving the windows and sunroof open. It’s better to use the air vents for most of the year, and the air-conditioning when it gets too hot.
- Remove the roof rack or ski box
This is just like leaving the windows open, but worse. Even if the roof rack is empty, it increases drag and makes your car use more fuel, while a big ski box is like having another car strapped to your roof. The latest roof racks and ski boxes are quick and easy to fit and remove, so make the effort to stow them away when you’re not using them.
- Don’t carry round unnecessary weight
Just like your body, your car needs more fuel to move around more weight. So, just as you wouldn’t wear a heavy rucksack unless you had to, don’t cart stuff around in the boot of your car unless you need it. Ironically, the heavier the item (the usual culprits are golf clubs and trolleys), the less likely you are to bother taking it out of the boot and the greater the effect it will have on your fuel consumption.
- Accelerate smoothly
The perfect way to travel is at a constant speed (ideally around 50mph), and in the highest gear (five or six). So if you’re a patient driver, you’ll have lower fuel bills – it’s as simple as that. It’s unrealistic to avoid overtaking, but there’s little point accelerating past a car to simply be in front of it at the next set of lights – any instant gratification will appear on your fuel bill the next time you fill up.
- Don’t push the accelerator down too far
This one always surprises people. It’s not just to do with what gear you’re in. You may be in a high gear and travelling at a sensible speed, but if you’re pushing the accelerator down a long way to avoid changing into a lower gear (into third from fourth, for example), then you’re actually using more fuel not less. Obviously, if your car has an automatic gearbox (you’ll know if it does), then it will probably do a better job than you of choosing which gear to be in, so it’s not a problem.
- Turn the air-conditioning off
It’s tempting to leave the air-con on the whole year round. It stops the windows misting up in the winter and you don’t ever need to think about the temperature inside the car, but it uses quite a bit of fuel, so we’d advise you turn it off when it’s not hot (on most cars the button has a snowflake symbol).
- Stick to the speed limit
If you ignored the law, you could shave a bit of time off your journey by travelling above the speed limit, particularly on long motorway trips. But, although you might arrive about 20 minutes early on a 200-mile trip by travelling at 80mph instead of 70mph, it’s also a false economy. While the car is running for 20 minutes less, it uses much more fuel when it is travelling. That 20 minutes could cost you up to £7 extra in fuel.
- Check your tyre pressures regularly
The lower the tyre pressure, the more fuel the car needs to move it down the road. We recommend that you take five minutes every fortnight to check the tyres. If you’re not sure what the pressure should be, you can normally find the figures near the lock inside the driver’s door.