With wallets being squeezed, saving money on petrol can be a real relief. Discover more about fuel efficient driving and how it can help save you money.

EASY AS HACK

Got lots of errands to run? Where possible, it’s more fuel efficient to do one long trip rather than several short ones to avoid starting your engine from cold too many times

AT A GLANCE

1. Adapting your driving style to be more fuel efficient can help you cut down on petrol costs

2. Planning your journeys, reading the road and slowing your speed can all help you use less fuel

3. Being fuel efficient is part of a technique called ‘hypermiling’, but some hypermiling practices can be dangerous – always put safety first 

Petrol and diesel prices are constantly fluctuating. But with a few simple tips, we can help you save pounds at the pumps.

Making a few simple changes to the way you drive could help cut your car’s fuel consumption, meaning you have to fill up less frequently.

All you have to do is focus on planning ahead, reading the road and anticipating obstacles and junctions.

Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds! Follow our  guide to fuel efficient driving to start saving money today.

5 tops tips for fuel efficient driving

 

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, you can take advantage of the gravity when going downhill, using the momentum to get you some of the way if you’re set for an incline and braking as necessary.

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.

Got lots of errands to run? Where possible, it’s more fuel efficient to do one long trip rather than several short ones to avoid starting your 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[1].

3. Slow down

Your fuel costs will increase the faster you drive, so try to keep speeds stable.

According to government stats, driving at a steady speed of 50 miles per hour (mph) instead of 70mph can improve fuel economy by 25% [2]. That said, , you should drive at speeds appropriate to the road you’re 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 the AA [3]. The key to fuel efficient driving is keeping you speed smooth.

4. Accelerate gently ­– and don’t slam 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 [4].

In normal conditions, changing down your gears rather than slamming on the brakes helps conserve fuel and make your overall journey more fuel efficient.

5. Keep your speed steady

On the motorway, fuel efficient driving is easiest using cruise control. But bear in mind that cruise control only aids fuel economy when you’re 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 ultimately responsible for the car.

Check this out: Car repairs you can do yourself to save cash

Other ways to make your car more fuel efficient

 

Ditch weight

The heavier your car, the harder it has to work to speed up or slow down. To increase fuel efficiency, take out any weighty items that you don’t really need. For the same reason, the RAC recommends only using half a tank of fuel if you’re mainly driving in urban areas.

But don’t get too carried away with de-cluttering your boot - you’ll need to offload 50kg worth of gear to increase your fuel consumption by just 2%, according to the RAC [5].

Reduce drag

Similarly, your car will have to work harder against unnecessary wind resistance. Removing roof boxes or bike racks if you’re not using them can help increase your fuel efficiency and cut those costs.

Keep up with basic maintenance

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

Turn off the air con or heating

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 at higher speeds, using the air con becomes more fuel efficient, according to Energy Saving Trust [6].

Go up a gear

Change to a higher gear as soon as it’s 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 to keep your driving fuel efficient [7].

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 tech, turn off your engine when you’ve been stopped for a minute or two.

Read more: Car idling: Is it illegal to leave my engine running?

Buy a more fuel efficient car

According to the Department for Transport, the fuel consumption of similar-sized cars can vary by as much as 45%. Doing your research and choosing the most fuel-efficient car in its class, rather than one with average emissions, can reduce overall fuel consumption by up to 24% [8].

Research cheaper fuel

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’re going to stop before a journey can save you costly diversions as well as maximising your fuel efficiency

Hypermiling

Many of the techniques above form part of a practice called ‘hypermiling’, which is using fuel efficiency techniques to maximise every single drop of fuel. Some other 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.

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[1] http://www.fuel-economy.co.uk/toptips.html

[2] https://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/news/article/4314/slow-down-save-money-and-be-a-better-driver

[3] https://www.theaa.com/driving-advice/fuels-environment/drive-economically 

[4] http://www.fuel-economy.co.uk/toptips.html

[5] https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/know-how/money-saving-motoring-tips

[6] https://energysavingtrust.org.uk/business/transport/efficient-driving/

[7] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/509972/efficient-driving-rapid-evidence-assessment.pdf

[8] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/509972/efficient-driving-rapid-evidence-assessment.pdf

Original article written 11th March 2022, updated 8th September 2023