How to save money on fuel costs – 11 ways to improve your car’s efficiency

From rising energy bills to price hikes at the supermarket, we all feel the need to make our money go further. Improving your car’s fuel efficiency is one important way to do that. Here’s how to save money on fuel.

We’re all watching our wallets and looking for new ways to save money these days. The cost of living is rising faster than it has done for thirty years, due to high inflation rates outpacing wage increases. Consumers are feeling the pinch on everything from rising gas prices impacting energy bills to financial pressure as we budget for upcoming tax increases.

But don’t panic – practical money-saving tips can help you spend a bit less and save a little more. Remember, too, that tackling the cost of living isn’t just about drastic action like switching suppliers or minimising household expenditure. Small changes to your daily routine and tweaks to your lifestyle can add up to significant savings. And those make a real difference over the course of a year.

How to save money on car fuel

If you found yourself wincing the last time you filled up the car, you had good reason. Petrol and diesel prices are at a record high, having exceeded 150p per litre for the first time. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, of course, is only going to keep pushing up the cost of fuel worldwide. To save a few quid on your fuel bills, try these tips for reducing your fuel consumption and improving your vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

1. Choose your patrol station wisely

Convenience is always tempting. But by driving a little further than your local garage, you could end up paying less for your petrol or diesel. There’s a point where driving around looking for cheaper fuel becomes a false economy but it’s always worth comparing prices locally before you fill-up.

According to the RAC Fuel Watch, these are the average prices of fuel in the UK at the moment. So, if you’re paying more than this, you may be able to find a better deal elsewhere.

Unleaded – 151.25 pence per litre
Super Unleaded – 163.71 pence per litre
Diesel – 154.72 pence per litre
LPG  87.65 pence per litre

If you don’t already buy fuel when you do your grocery shopping, it’s worth making this a habit. Petrol is typically a few pence cheaper at supermarket fuel forecourts compared to petrol stations owned by the oil companies. And if you take out a supermarket loyalty card like a Tesco Clubcard and fill up when you stock up on groceries, you’ll earn points for every pound you spend on fuel. Those points convert to money-off your next tankful of fuel. You can also earn points by using your Clubcard to buy fuel at Esso garage as well.

2. Check your tyres

When did you last check the pressure on your tyres? If you want to save money on fuel, it pays to keep on top of car maintenance. And keeping your tyres in tip-top shape is critical. Driving on underinflated tyres isn’t just dangerous, it also uses more fuel. Get your tyre pressure checked regularly and don’t scrimp when it comes to your next tyre change. Choose energy-efficient tyres if your budget allows, as they help to reduce fuel consumption.

3. Remove the roof rack

If your roof rack was a faff to instal, you might be tempted to leave it in situ instead of removing it from your car when the holiday ends. But a roof rack impacts fuel efficiency so it’s worth taking it off the car and storing it in the garage when it’s not in use.

4. Empty the boot

There’s a good chance your car boot is a treasure trove of family stuff, from forgotten packed lunches and tennis rackets to damp dog towels and welly boots. But driving around with all that unnecessary kit onboard adds weight to your vehicle, which requires it to use more fuel.

Encourage the kids to get into the habit of taking their sports equipment, school gear and random beloved possessions out of the car with them every time you get home. Explain that they’re doing their bit to reduce fuel consumption and, in turn, helping the planet.

5. Drive with fuel economy in mind

How fuel-efficient is your driving? Speeding is the fast-track to poor fuel consumption, as well as a speeding ticket. But it’s not just boy-racers who should take heed. The way you drive determines how frequently you need to refuel so adjusting your driving style can improve your car’s performance when it comes to fuel economy. Sticking to a consistent speed, changing gear sooner, avoiding unnecessary braking, and accelerating smoothly are good driving tips that could also help to reduce your vehicle’s fuel consumption.

6. Check how much you get to the gallon

Unless you’re a petrol head, there’s a good chance you’ll have no idea what your car’s usual mileage is. But knowing your MPG – that’s the number of miles you get per gallon of petrol or diesel – can actually help you to keep track of how much you’re spending on fuel, and then make savings accordingly.

To work out miles to the gallon, note down your starting mileage. Record how many gallons of fuel you put in the tank before your next journey, and divide the distance you drive by the number of gallons of fuel added. Don’t forget to take away the starting mileage from your final figure. Now that you know your vehicle’s MPG, you can apply all this advice and then work out exactly how many more gallons per mile you can get with no roof rack and an empty boot…

7. Half fill the petrol tank

Did you know that you can save money by only half-filling your petrol tank? This one’s a bit contentious. And you’re bound to have a relative who’ll disagree. But the idea is that your car weighs more with a full tank of petrol than it does when the tank is half empty. There’s a lot of maths involved in proving this theory. And, of course, you have to factor in that it requires you to nip to the petrol station more frequently. But nevertheless, it’s more fuel-efficient to drive with half a tank. Try it.

Credit: Getty

8. Don’t be idle

Idling your car – that’s sitting in a stationary vehicle with the engine running – isn’t just wasteful. It’s also damaging to the environment and illegal. Whether you’re sitting in traffic, waiting at the school gates or picking up a passenger, always switch the engine off when the vehicle isn’t moving.

The same goes for leaving the engine running on a chilly morning. Granted, it’s a quick way to warm up the vehicle or clear the windscreen of ice. But a stationary vehicle with the engine running produces more harmful emissions than a car that’s moving. Thus, idling is best avoided for the sake of the planet – and it certainly won’t do your fuel consumption any favours.

9. Give the premium pumps a miss

We always thought the posh petrol pumps were full of better fuel. But unless you drive a very snazzy set of wheels, it turns out there’s little benefit to choosing super unleaded over normal unleaded. So steer clear of the premium pumps at the petrol station and you’ll save a few pence per litre every time you fill-up the car with petrol.

10. Switch off the extras to save

Heated seats are a lovely luxury in the dead of winter but such things come at a price. To reduce fuel consumption, switch off all the in-car extras – including air conditioning, headlights, demisters and yes, seat heaters – when you don’t really need them. (Does anyone really need heated seats?!)

11. Go electric

As money-saving steps go, this is a big one. Switching to an electric car isn’t an option for everyone and electric vehicles are no silver bullet when it comes to reducing the cost of living, but it’s a move that’s guaranteed to cut your fuel costs.

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