Cut Your Fuel Bill

Posted on: 10 September 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Fuel might never be cheap again, but there are ways to make that last drop go that extra mile with our essential fuel saving tips.


It's possible to cut your annual fuel bill by a third, saving £100s. Yet as most fuel costs go in tax as a deliberate result of Government, environmental and anti-congestion policies, it takes more than just finding the cheapest forecourt.

It’s about pain-free, speedy ways to make your car and driving more efficient and pay the right way. Follow our money-saving tips to cut your fuel bills.

Weight

The heavier your car, the more energy and fuel is required to move it, so think small. Every ounce you lose will save money at the pumps, so throw out anything you wouldn't find in Lewis Hamilton's Formula One car. Whether it be owner's manual, floor mats, loose change, nodding dogs, road atlases, blankets, "baby on board" signs, tissue boxes, CDs and all the junk in the boot. Leave the fuel tank as empty as you dare; petrol weighs about 0.74kg (1.6lb) per litre, diesel even more, so a full tank is almost as much of a burden as a hundredweight of coal.

Tyres

Think how difficult it is to pedal a bike with a puncture. Keep your tyres at the maximum recommended pressure and consider low-rolling resistance "eco" tyres when you need new ones. Also have the wheel alignment checked so the car runs easily straight and true.

Streamline

Keep the windows and the sunroof closed and open cabin air vents only to prevent drowsiness. Remove roof racks, top boxes, cycle carriers and purely cosmetic body additions with the exception of plastic hubcaps on steel wheels.

Chilled

Air conditioning is less costly than open windows, but it still saps power and can increase the fuel thirst of a small engine by up to 10%. If already fitted, you need to run it once a week to keep the system healthy, but this is Britain, not Bermuda - how cold do you need to be?

Fuel Price

You'll find the cheapest local source at www.petrolprices.com but don't use a pound's worth of fuel to reach a filling station where you can save 50p on a tankful. Avoid false economy; high-octane brews offer small efficiency gains, cheap rubbish can damage the engine. Also remember the weight issue: the less fuel you carry around the less fuel you'll use, so only buy as much as you need; the low-fuel warning light is sure to make you drive carefully anyway. Don't be fooled by products that claim to improve economy, they don't work.

DIY

You can run a diesel car on vegetable oil, and you can process up to 2,500 litres per year at home without attracting fuel duty. Your main difficulty might be finding a source, as commercial operations are moving in to take used oil from takeaways and restaurants. If you already own a chip shop, you're laughing and already streets ahead from the rest.

Pacing Yourself

Treat your car like a spaceship. As soon as you can, accelerate smoothly and gently up to a safe, legal speed and select as high a gear as possible, keeping the revs down to minimise fuel use without labouring the engine. Between short fuel burns to maintain momentum, lift off the accelerator completely, which shuts off the fuel supply. Never coast in neutral; idling uses more fuel than running in gear on a closed throttle. If you're not moving at all, switch off.

Breaking

Brakes turn fuel into waste heat and should be used as little as possible. Approaching any obstruction, such as traffic lights on red, don't just drive up to it and brake; reduce your speed by lifting off the accelerator, aiming to roll to a stop at the right place.

Planning

It has been estimated that perhaps a third of city traffic is lost or looking for somewhere to park, so plan your journey from A to Z. Write a list of directions on a piece of paper which is cheaper and lighter than a sat-nav unit and stick it in an easily visible place on your dashboard or steering wheel boss. Use motorways and free-flowing roads whenever possible; a car is most fuel-efficient at a steady speed.

Research

Don't rush to replace a "thirsty" car until you've worked out the cost/benefit equation; you want to save money, not spend it. Used values are falling, and unless you're downsizing from a BMW to a banger you might be better off running your current car as efficiently as possible for as long as you can. If you're changing anyway, the smallest diesel that suits your needs is probably best. The less fuel a car burns, the lower its tax-defining CO2 emissions ought to be.

What are your fuel saving tips?

Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below. 

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