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Cost of living: 10 ways to improve your car's fuel efficiency

·Contributor
·5-min read
Fuel: As the fuel crisis in the UK continues, this Shell petrol station is open for business, and motorists drive in with their cars to fill up with fuel, which is being sold at normal prices on 29th September 2021 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. While some forecourts remain closed with little or no fuel, there is confusion amongst the public as to whether they should buy fuel now or wait. This has led to panic buying and long queues outside some petrol stations as the crisis, which has been caused by a lack of HGV drivers available to deliver supplies, continues. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images)
Fuel: The price of petrol continues to be an issue for customers admist the cost of living crisis. Photo: Mike Kemp/Getty

With drivers facing record high prices for fuel amidst the cost of living crisis, most are trying to find ways to save when filling up the tank.

Petrol reached as high as 180.73p per litre on 7 June — the biggest daily jump in 17 years, with a full tank for an average family car costing more than £100.

Broker A-Plan Insurance has revealed 10 ways to improve your car’s fuel efficiency so that you can delay going to the petrol station for as long as possible.

1. Watch your speed

The most efficient driving speed for fuel consumption is between 45 and 50 miles per hour (mph) rather than the "56mph myth" that many believe, according to the RAC.

Driving at 70mph uses up to 9% more fuel than at 60mph and up to 15% more than at 50mph, whilst driving at 80mph can use up to 25% more than at 70mph, according to the Department for Transport.

2. Watch your gears

Change up and down multiple gears at a time and change to the highest suitable gear as soon as you can to avoid over-revving.

The AA advises against coasting, where you engage neutral or drive with the clutch held down, deeming it unsafe and unlikely to save you any fuel.

3. Accelerate and brake gently

Developing a smooth driving technique is a great way to save on fuel.

If approaching traffic lights, for example, slow down early so that they may have changed by the time you reach them, meaning you might not need to stop at all.

Read more: UK cost of full tank of petrol falls £5 in July

Anticipate the road in front of you and ease off the throttle and maintain momentum rather than braking hard and then accelerating again.

4. Remove weight and reduce drag

The drag from carrying extra weight reduces your cars fuel efficiency, so remove any unnecessary items from the boot, and remove your bike rack or roof rack when you don’t need it.

A heavier car needs more fuel to keep it moving.

5. Use air-con less often

Using air-con can increase fuel consumption by around 10% according to the AA.

Opening your windows — or lowering your soft top if you have one — is a cheaper option.

6. Maintain your tyres

Check your tyre pressure at least once a month as under-inflated tyres burn more fuel.

If tyres are under-inflated by eight pounds — which is not uncommon — rolling resistance of the tyres increases by 5%.

7. Regular services

Keep everything in tip top efficient condition. Replace oil, air and fuel filters at the recommended intervals.

Read more: Student finance basics and ways to cut costs at university

8. Avoid short trips

Aim to avoid lots of short trips and instead plan to make the most out of one journey.

If you do take short trips, it’s even more important to switch off the air-con as it will use most of its energy for the initial cool-down.

9. Avoid traffic hotspots

Idling consumes around 0.6 litres of fuel per hour. A vehicle with a stop/start engine is recommended if you are frequently stuck in jams.

Driving apps like Google Maps (GOOG) can be a fuel saver by pointing out routes that are congested and offering alternatives that keep you moving.

10. Upgrade your car

Whilst focusing on money saving a new car might not be an option, but if you are in a position to update your vehicle it may save you money in the long run.

With the rising cost of fuel, investing in a newer car — not necessarily brand new — will immediately save you a fortune in fuel, as well as reducing your road tax.

Read more: Petrol set to be £10 a tank cheaper within a fortnight

Car reviewers Parkers rated the Renault Clio E-Tech (RNO.PA) as the UK’s most economical non-plug-in, averaging 73.8 miles per gallon (mpg), while the Peugeot 208 averages 71.4pmg.

If you’re looking for a larger vehicle, the Seat C3 averages 70.6mpg, and the Skoda Octavia, named as "best family car" averages 65.7pmg.

If you are in the market for a replacement vehicle, and not ready to go electric, diesel generally provides better fuel economy than petrol equivalents.

Oil prices have dropped in recent weeks but the RAC has warned that the consumers are not seeing that reflected in their wallets.

The wholesale price dropped as low as 124p per litre but the retail price is still at 173.46p, with the big four supermarkets — Tesco (TSCO.L), Asda, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s (SBRY.L) — accused of not slashing costs for customers.

Simon Williams, RAC fuel spokesman, told Yahoo Finance UK: “The average weekly delivered wholesale price of petrol has fallen every week from 3 June for the last 10 weeks and is now around 124p.

“Based on the fact the average was only half a penny higher the previous week we really should be seeing petrol commonly sold for under 160p, but we fear this is probably unlikely unless the big four supermarkets cut their prices significantly as they are responsible for selling so much fuel across the UK.

Read more: Best supermarket bargains as inflation soars

“We urge drivers to shop around and take advantage of the lower prices many independent retailers are proudly displaying.”

On Wednesday 17 August, the average petrol price was 172.3p per litre across the UK, with diesel coming in at 183.3p. Both are expected to fall, according to RAC as oil prices in the international markets slump.

Watch now: How to save money on a low income