Improve your fuel economy by making these small adjustments
When you lease a car, there are 2 costs not included in your monthly rentals: insurance and fuel.
Fuel costs seem to rise year-on-year, with very little fluctuation in the consumer’s favour. Despite the depressing scenario to see the fill-tank light appear on the dash and seeing that fuel has gone up again, it is something that we just cannot get around… yet.
To help lighten the load, we’ve put together some helpful driving tips that will see your miles-per-gallon ratio go up and that tank of fuel last a few more miles.
Why Are Fuel Costs So High?
The short answer is the ugly “T” word: TAX.
Petrol prices in the UK are some of the highest in the world.
Crude oil (the raw stuff that gets refined into petrol & diesel) is bought and sold around the world, with prices varying based on supply and demand.
Discovery of a new oil source will usually drop the wholesale cost of oil per barrel - a saving that is sadly not usually in existence by the time we get to the pump.
An approximate rule-of-thumb would be that for every £1 you spend on x litres of fuel, 20p is for the crude oil itself.
Around 5p goes to the retailer - who buys the oil, refines it into fuel and transports it to their filling station and must make a profit too.
The rest, mostly, is for tax. UK Fuel Duty is currently 57.95p per litre for petrol and diesel. In addition to this, you still have to pay VAT, which sits at a gluttonous 20% - the highest standard rate since it was adopted in 1979.
How Can I Reduce My Fuel Bill?
Almost everybody will have a multitude of “I might need that”s stowed away in their boots, backseats and gloveboxes.
Parents of young children and the self-employed among us will likely have lots of bulky, often heavy, items sat in their cars that are used frequently.
However, all this extra weight means your car needs to eat up more fuel to get that added mass moving.
Ditch the non-essentials for your journey, have a clear-out of the storage compartments and check your fuel levels for the journey ahead. A full tank of petrol can weigh as much as 50kg, which is unnecessary baggage if you only drive a few miles a day.
Consider Drag for Pocket Money
Top-level aerodynamics only really plays a part in racecars and jet fighters. However, we can still take some basic ideas from them to implement in our more humble journeys.
Big shapes on the outside of the vehicle cause air resistance and contribute to drag; meaning your car has to work harder to get anywhere, using more fuel in the process. Things like roof boxes and bike racks are better left at home when not needed.
Open windows also create extra drag (unless you’re in a convertible of course). But, your car’s air conditioning also uses extra power which requires more fuel to be used.
On days when you need to cool down and get some fresh air, there’s a fine balance between the fuel used by the A/C and the added drag from having the windows down.
A general rule-of-thumb would be: under 30mph = open the windows; over 30mph = switch on the air con.
Feel the Pressure
It sounds obvious, but it’s staggering how many people don’t routinely check their tyres. They are possibly the most important component of the car which needs regular checking for defects and condition.
Checking you have the right air pressure in your tyres could save you a lot of money and much more - further details of poor tyre maintenance can be found here: https://www.kwik-fit.com/blog/why-checking-your-tyre-pressure-regularly-could-save-you-money-in-the-long-run
Having the correct tyre pressure for your car, your tyres and the payload of your vehicle, prior to any journey, will improve the grip and longevity of the tyres; along with optimising your fuel consumption. A win-win situation - all from pulling into a petrol station and spending a few minutes at the tyre inflator each month.
Play Your Pumps Right
‘Unleaded or diesel?’ Should sound familiar. ‘High Octane or Low Octane?’ Recognise that question? You’d be forgiven if you don’t. Quite often you’ll find that standard petrol in the UK is labelled as “95” - this is its octane rating.
Higher octane fuel is usually 98 or above and is used for higher performance engines. However, using it in a regular engine won’t necessarily improve its performance.
Check the manufacturer’s recommendation for what type of fuel to use, this will make your engine work more efficiently and therefore will be more conservative in its appetite.
Planning Makes Perfect
It is always worth, even if you’re familiar with the route ahead, to stick your destination into your satnav (if your car doesn’t have satnav built-in, there are other options explained here).
This will usually give you a live update of the route ahead, including traffic jams, accidents and roadworks. These events will cause you to decelerate and accelerate often, which will use more fuel than if you were to drive along at a consistent speed.
Another useful function on sat navs is looking at alternative routes. Your usual path may be quicker, but it could be longer. There could be a shorter route that might take longer to drive, but if you can maintain your speed then you will use less fuel.
Reap the Rewards
Everyone and their dog seems to be offering a reward scheme in these connected and globalised times; enticing you to spend your pennies with their business rather than their easily found competitors. From cafes to hotels, bank accounts to car washes. Whether it’s a simple stamp card, an elaborate points system or good old fashioned cashback, reward schemes should be paid attention to.
Oil Companies have been getting on board with these schemes for a little while. Some of the biggest and most popular schemes to look out for are:
- Shell Drivers’ Club
- Texaco Star Rewards
- Esso/Tesco Clubcard (Esso’s loyalty programme earns you double Clubcard points)
- Nectar (Sainsbury’s & BP)
- Morrisons More
Information about the different schemes can be found over here: https://www.lovemoney.com/news/14324/the-best-petrol-loyalty-cards.
Leave your lead-lined boots at home, because hammering down on the accelerator will burn through your fuel very quickly.
Sprinting off the line after the light goes green or the speed limit increases will rapidly drop your miles-per-gallon figure. However, taking a deep breath and easing down gently will barely increase your fuel consumption.
This method will also be kinder on your brakes; as you won’t be slamming down on the brake pedal when you’ve accelerated like a Peregrine in freefall, only to reach the back of the next line of traffic.
Turn It Off and On Again
Britain is a nation of queues, no more so prevalent than on its meandering road network. The worst thing you can do for your bank account is to be stationary with your car in gear. This keeps the engine turning over (idling) and the fuel pumping in.
Most modern cars have “Stop/Start” functions. When the car is stationary, in neutral and your foot is off the clutch pedal, the engine switches off. Putting your foot back down on the clutch re-starts the engine and you’re ready to go. Utilising technology like this can improve your fuel economy by up to 10%. So, take your foot off the clutch when you don’t need to change gears.
Get Your Car Into Gear
There was a time where a myth developed that coasting (rolling along out of gear) will help to save fuel.
The saving in fuel is effectively non-existent in modern cars. In essence, all this does is put more strain on your brakes as you try to slow down whilst freewheeling.
Using your gear changes efficiently will help your car to deliver the greatest output for the least amount of input required… this will translate to saving fuel and money!
A good guide to follow is to pick the highest gear for your speed, without letting the car struggle at the lower revs. Choosing 4th gear in a 30mph zone for example.
Change up before 2,000 rpm for a diesel engine and before 2,500 rpm in a petrol engine.
Play the Field
As with all premium purchases - shopping around for the best deal will pay you dividends.
Petrol prices in the UK can vary hugely across the UK.
Petrol in the UK can cost between 116.7p - 158.9p per litre, with the National average being around 127.0 pence. The National average for Diesel is approximately 133.2p and can range from 125.9p - 159.9p per litre.
Most vehicles infotainment systems and stand-alone satnav units will offer a live price comparison for petrol stations in your area. Another good resource is the free app from PetrolPrices.com.
Let us know in the comments if you’ve found any of these tips useful, or if you have any of your own to share.