How to improve fuel efficiency: simple steps to cut consumption and save on petrol and diesel bills

Everyday actions you can take to improve your car’s fuel economy

Tuesday, 28th September 2021, 10:17 am

The current fuel crisis has thrown a sharp focus on how reliant we are on our cars.

As drivers queue at filling stations, desperate to fill up their tanks, it’s a reminder that, depsite the rise of electric cars, most of us need to fill up with petrol or diesel on a regular basis.

It’s a necessary task but, especially with the current supply issues, there are ways of making your fuel go further that mean fewer fill-ups and cheaper fuel bills.

Here are our top tips on how to cut fuel consumption and your spending.

Top tips to save money on fuel

Check your tyres

Regularly checking your tyres is important for safety but it can also make a big difference to your car’s fuel efficiency. Under inflated tyres cause more drag, meaning your engine will have to work harder, using more fuel. Tyre experts estimate under-inflated tyres increase fuel use by around 3%.

Most cars have a sticker inside the door or fuel filler cap detailing the correct pressures, otherwise check your owner’s handbook. Check your tyres at least once a month and remember the pressure needs to be different if you the car is fully laden.

Under-inflated tyres are bad for economy and safety

Lighten up

On the subject of weight, carrying unnecessary weight around in your car will affect its economy. Removing unnecessary items from the boot and cabin won’t make massive differences but every little bit helps.

Fuel is heavy too, so don’t feel you need to drive around with a full tank all the time. At the same time, never leave yourself so low that you risk running out of fuel.

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In a similar vein, leaving items like a roof box, roof bars or bike rack on your car all the time wastes fuel. Bulky items like these affect your car’s aerodynamics, increasing drag as well as adding weight to the car. Remove them when you aren’t using them and you could save an estimated 10 to 20 per cent.

Watch your speed

The AA estimates that sticking to the 70mph limit on the motorway uses up to 25 per cent less fuel than driving at 80mph - a significant difference. It also means you’re less likely to end up with a speeding fine, which will save you a few quid as well.

Be smooth

Speed isn’t the only element of driving that will affect your economy. Using your gears correctly and driving smoothly will also use less fuel.

Don’t leave your car in a lower gear than it needs to be - you should be able to hear if it’s revving too fast. At the same time, don’t labour the engine in too high a gear at low speeds, it’s not good for the engine, the transmission or your fuel consumption.

Accelerating and braking smoothly will also use less fuel than harsh inputs, as will maintaining a constant speed. By anticipating the road and traffic ahead you can reduce your need to brake and accelerate, saving fuel as you go.

Use air con wisely

Using air conditioning increases fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent so if you can live without it turn it off. It’s particularly noticeable on short journeys where it has to work harder to cool the car initially, and at lower speeds. So if it’s a short trip or you’re not going quickly opening a window is a far more efficient way to cool down. At higher speeds, the drag caused by an open window is actually worse for economy than running the air con so once you reach 55mph, air con is the way to go.

Shop around

Fuel prices vary according to where you live but even within relatively small areas you will find variations. There are numerous websites and apps available that will compare fuel prices near you.

It’s also worth using supermarket loyalty cards and seeking out credit cards which offer cashback. While these won’t save you money on fuel directly, they can give you money back towards your grocery shopping, saving you money in the long run.