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Fuel saving tips to save you money

 Published 25th April 2022
General Guides 

Whether the Chancellor's decision to cut 5p off a litre of fuel is incredibly generous or an act of economic desperation will probably be influenced by your political persuasion. What is blatantly obvious to all is that fuel costs have hit record highs as a consequence of the awful events in Ukraine, and while the price at the pump may have dropped a little bit, the cost of filling up your car has gone stratospheric.

Unfortunately, most of us don't have much choice in the matter. We all have things to do and some of them just won't get done on an empty tank.

There are a few things you can do to make the most of the fuel in your tank though. You may not be able to avoid filling up, but you can do something to save a bit of money and make that tank go further.

Fill up at the supermarket

It's great to support local businesses, but the independent garage down the road just can't match the supermarket's economy of scale. A litre of fuel at a supermarket typically costs a few pence less than at other fuel forecourts so filling up when you do your shopping can make a difference. If you collect supermarket points or have any cashback offers through your bank cards they can also help save money on your fuel bills.

Be gentle

A heavy right foot is the biggest cause of excessive fuel consumption and it's the one thing we can all control. We're not denying the thrill of planting your foot into the carpet and feeling your car take off towards the horizon...but that kind of driving does cost more. Probably the biggest secret to achieving better fuel efficiency is driving in the highest possible gear while keeping within the speed limit. The best advice in urban areas is to change up through the gears as quickly as you can with the lowest revs possible, probably at around 2000rpm. Remember: the faster an engine spins, the more fuel it uses.

Look where you're going

As well as steady acceleration and the right gear, keeping the car moving at the right speed is essential to fuel economy. Slowing down and having to accelerate again naturally uses more fuel. Drive as smoothly as possible, remain in gear when you slow down - this activates the fuel cut-off switch in a fuel injection engine so almost zero fuel is used while braking - and try to anticipate what's going to happen ahead. This gives you a chance to slow down gradually when the traffic slows and potentially keeps you moving instead of having to come to a complete stop. When you spot a hill coming try to accelerate a little before you reach it, then ease off as you drive up so the extra momentum can help to minimise fuel consumption.

Don't underestimate the wind

Car makers spend an awful lot of money ensuring that your car is as aerodynamically efficient as possible, so why would you leave the roof rack permanently bolted to your car when you only use it a few times a year? An empty roof rack adds 16% drag at 75mph. At the same speed a roof box adds 39%, making your vehicle much less fuel efficient.

Even those little window flags you see fluttering everywhere during the world cup can decrease your miles per gallon. By the same token, although not directly related to wind, it also stands to reason that the heavier a vehicle is, the more fuel it will use. Removing the accumulated junk from the boot means you won't still be paying to carry around your winter supplies of shovels and blankets in the middle of August.

Make sure you maintain your vehicle

Regular maintenance and servicing improves the efficiency of your vehicle and can improve your fuel consumption. It's particularly important to make sure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure as underinflated and overinflated tyres both affect fuel economy in a bad way. Likewise, a well-maintained engine is more likely to work at its most efficient.

Turn off the tech

Too hot in summer: air conditioning is great, but it uses extra fuel. Too cold in winter: the heater keeps you warm, but it uses extra fuel. Even something like cruise control can cause you to use extra fuel if you use it at the wrong time. On the motorway, travelling at a steady speed in the highest gear your cruise control is much more efficient than you. On a regular road or when you're constantly changing speed there's no way it's going to beat the human being behind the wheel so use it wisely. The only device you should use is your satnav when you're going somewhere you don't know. The extra few drops of fuel to power your map are nothing compared to the savings in not driving around lost for hours on end.

Choose a greener car

If rising fuel costs are making you think about leasing an EV you'll definitely be better off in terms of fuel costs. Even though the cost of electricity is also rising with oil prices it's still significantly cheaper per mile than petrol or diesel. A plug-in hybrid or fully electric vehicle is guaranteed to cut your running costs and installing a home charger and signing up for the right tariff from your electricity supplier can make a big difference. Public charging points can be quite expensive compared to charging at home. Some electricity suppliers are even offering tariffs specifically for EVs so you can take advantage of some incredibly cheap rates while your car is on charge overnight. But if you do choose a plug-in hybrid, make sure you use it in battery mode as often as possible to reap the cost savings.

With rising fuel costs, you may hear people talking a lot more about hypermiling. It may be a flashy name for the most extreme forms of fuel-efficient driving, but even following the basic tips above can make a difference to your fuel bills.

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