The average driver spends almost £70,000 on fuel over their lifetime, according to a poll taken in 2017. Wouldn’t it be good to cut that bill and, in the process, reduce your impact on the environment?
It’s quite easy to drive more efficiently and cut your car’s fuel consumption. It just requires a different mindset when you’re behind the wheel.
To see how easily it can be done, we did a before-and-after test with two drivers - you can see how they got on in these two short videos.
You’ll pick up some useful tips from those videos. The core advice is: plan ahead, read the road and anticipate obstacles and junctions.
Here are five simple ways to change the way you drive and improve your fuel efficiency. If you want to take your quest for eco-driving even further, underneath you can see some further tips.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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%. That said, obviously, you should drive at speeds appropriate to the road you are on.
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?
4. Accelerate gently – and don’t slam on the brakes
The harder you accelerate, the more fuel you burn through. 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.
5. 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. Remember, you must remain in control of your vehicle at all times. Even if you’re using driver assistance systems, you are responsible for your vehicle.
Further steps to greater fuel efficiency
The heavier your car, the harder it has to work to speed up or slow down. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.