Petrol prices rose by 6p on average in May, to 129.4p per litre, in the biggest monthly rise since the RAC began tracking prices 18 years ago.

Average diesel prices also rose by 6p to 132.3p a litre, the RAC said. And according to a 2017 poll from car rental firm autoeurope.co.uk, the average driver spends almost £70,000 on fuel over their lifetime.

Thankfully, there are some simple ways to make more of the money you are spending and maximise your fuel efficiency.

Slow down

Your fuel costs will increase the faster you drive, so keep speeds reasonable.

According to government stats, driving at a steady speed of 50 miles per hour (mph) instead of 70mph can improve fuel economy by 25%. Where appropriate, obviously.

Similarly, if you break the speed limit and travel at 80mph, your car will use up to 25% more fuel than at 70mph, according to What Car?

Accelerate gently – and don’t slam on the brakes

The harder you accelerate, the more fuel is wasted. According to fuel-economy.co.uk aggressively accelerating or breaking can use up to 60% more fuel. Car maker Toyota suggests a good rule of thumb is to take about five seconds to accelerate up to 15mph from a stop.

Also, in normal conditions, coasting to a stop rather than slamming on the brakes helps conserve fuel.

Keep your speed steady

On the motorway, this might mean using cruise control. But be advised that cruise control only aids fuel economy when driving on a constant flat surface. 

Ditch weight

The heavier your car, the harder it has to work. So take out any weighty items that you don’t really need. For the same reason, RAC recommends if you tend to be an urban driver to only have half a tank of fuel.

But perhaps don’t get too carried away with de-cluttering your boot as you’ll need to offload 50kg worth of gear to increase your fuel consumption by just 2%, according to the RAC.

Reduce drag

Similarly, your car will have to work harder against unnecessary wind resistance.

So remove roof boxes or bike racks if you’re not using them.

If you’re really penny pinching, when the World Cup gets underway, website fuel-economy.co.uk suggests removing the England flag from your car when the matches are over.

Basic maintenance

Take the time to keep your car well maintained and have your car serviced regularly. Crucially for fuel-efficient driving, this includes keeping your tyre pressure up to reduce resistance.

Plan your journeys

Who wants to sit in traffic anyway? If you can, plan your route to avoid busy sections of road, especially at peak times, and to ensure you don’t get lost.

Where possible, make one round trip rather than several short ones to avoid starting the engine from cold too many times – according to fuel-economy.co.uk, a cold engine will generally use twice as much fuel as a warm engine.

Turn off the air con or heating

Obviously don’t sit there and freeze, but do what you can as air conditioning and heating put a strain on the engine and can burn more fuel, especially at low speeds. If you open the windows, bear in mind that when you reach 60mph or above, using the air con becomes more fuel efficient, according to Energy Saving Trust.

Go up a gear

Change to a higher gear as soon as its possible and safe to do so. The Department for Transport recommends diesel drivers try changing up a gear before the rev-counter reaches 2000 revolutions per minute (rpm), and petrol drivers do so before 2500rpm.

Don’t idle

If you drive a modern car with engine stop-start technology, which cuts the engine when the car is stationary, you can save on fuel consumption by keeping your foot off the clutch. Alternatively, if your car isn’t fitted with this technology, turn off your engine when you’ve been stopped for a minute or two.

Read the road

This means looking far ahead and anticipating obstacles or changes in gradient. That way, you can ease off the throttle rather than slamming your foot on the brakes. On slopes, imagine you’re back on your bike, and enjoy gravity when going downhill, using the momentum to get you some of the way if you’re set for an incline.

Buy a fuel-efficient car

According to the Department for Transport, the fuel consumption of similar-sized cars can vary by as much as 45%. And by choosing the most fuel-efficient car in its class, rather than the one with the average emissions, overall fuel consumption can typically be reduced by up to 24%. 

Do your research

You can search online for the best fuel prices in your area – for example at petrolprices.com. Look out for loyalty schemes too. Planning where you are going to stop before a journey might also save and costly diversions. 

Also, fuel-economy.co.uk provides several online calculators allowing you to work out the cost of a journey and your miles per gallon. It also lists the ten most fuel-efficient cars in the UK today.

Hypermiling

Many of the techniques above form part of a practice called hypermiling, which is using fuel-conserving techniques to maximise every drop of fuel.

Some hypermiling techniques are extreme and not to be recommended, such as driving without shoes to increase the foot’s sensitivity on the pedals or following closely behind large vehicles to cut down on wind resistance. 

Go to Solved to read more about driving, the rules of the road and road safety.