Lifestyle Guides

How to save fuel and money when driving

Try our 10 tips to cut the running costs of your petrol or diesel car

car key and calculator

There's no doubt that electric cars are the future. They’re kinder to the planet and are as much as a third cheaper to run, especially if you can charge from home.

The Government is planning to ban the sale of all new petrol and diesel vehicles in 2030, but the switch to pure electric vehicles (EVs) won't happen overnight.

Millions of older conventionally powered cars will probably still be running on our roads in the run up to this target date and for years afterwards.

However, the price of fuel is likely to continue its relentless rise, so if you're not ready to run an EV or hybrid yet, it's worth trying to drive as economically as possible to squeeze maximum miles from your tank of fuel.

Follow our 10 tips to cut the running costs of your petrol or diesel car.

1) Don't drive 

It may seem obvious, but the easiest way to cut costs is to avoid using your car for short journeys. If possible, walk or cycle instead of hopping in the car. 

Not only will exercise benefit your physical and mental health, but it’s also better for the environment.

2) Sharing is caring 

If you routinely have to drive to work or drop the kids off at school, consider joining a car share. Not only will it reduce the number of cars on the road, and therefore pollution, but it will save on your fuel bill. 

It might also be worth considering whether public transport could be a cheaper option.

3) Shop around 

Fuel is likely to be your vehicle's biggest running cost, so it's worth finding the cheapest petrol or diesel prices in your area. Saving a few pence per litre can make a big difference over a year of motoring. 

Supermarket fuel is generally cheaper than filling stations run by the big oil companies. It's also worth looking out for "10p off per litre" vouchers when you shop at supermarkets. 

Finally, avoid motorway services unless you want to pay a huge premium for your petrol and diesel. Fill up before you set off on a long journey.

person fuelling up car with petrol

4) Keep it smooth 

Sensible driving is another way to increase your car's fuel economy. Smooth inputs via the steering wheel, accelerator, gear lever, brakes and clutch will put less stress on your car, resulting in more miles per gallon. 

Also, try to anticipate what’s going to happen in front of you by looking well ahead. 

5) Cut your speed 

Stick to the speed limit because faster driving wastes fuel. It's estimated that you’ll use up to 9% more fuel by driving at 70mph instead of 60mph, and up to 15% more than at 50mph. 

Breaking the speed limit and taking it up to 80mph isn’t only dangerous, but it can also use up to 25% more fuel than keeping a steady 70mph.

6) Avoid idling 

Leaving your vehicle's engine running while it’s stationary is a waste of fuel and it increases the amount of exhaust fumes in the air. 

Unless you have a modern car with an automatic start-stop system, you should consider turning off your engine if you're not going to move for a minute or two. 

It's estimated that idling for just 10 seconds wastes more fuel than restarting the engine.

rush hour traffic jam

7) Care for your car 

A well-maintained vehicle is more efficient, so you'll save on fuel, and it’s more environmentally friendly because it runs cleaner. 

Stick to the service schedule (a full service is recommended every year). It will also save you money in the long term because a service book full of stamps will add value to your car when you come to sell it. 

8) Check your tyres 

Spare the time to check all four tyres on your car for damage and tread depth, and make sure they’re pumped up to the correct pressure. Ensuring your tyres are correctly inflated not only prolongs the life of the tread, but also improves fuel efficiency as there’s less rolling resistance with the road. 

Legally, the tread depth must be at least 1.6mm but, but for peace of mind, 2-3mm is recommended. If you have defective, damaged or bald tyres you could be fined up to £10,000 (£2,500 per tyre) and receive 12 penalty points on your licence.

9) Avoid air conditioning 

Use your car's air-con system sparingly, especially when you're stuck in traffic. Engines work harder in stop-start traffic, so using it will only add to this strain and result in more fuel being used. In slow moving traffic, rolling down the windows is more sensible. 

If you do use air conditioning, use the re-circulate option because it's more efficient. Using AC can increase your fuel consumption by as much as 10%. 

However, opening the windows at higher speeds will also use extra fuel, so it's a balancing act.

10) Lighten the load 

Declutter and don't carry unnecessary items in your car, because it's estimated that an extra 50kg of weight will increase fuel consumption by 1-2%. 

Ideally, you should also remove roof bars and cycle racks when they’re not in use. Not only do they weigh as much as 5kg, they also increase the amount of aerodynamic drag, increasing fuel consumption by about 10%.

I'm an experienced journalist, digital editor and copywriter, now specialising in motoring. I’m editor of Automotive Blog and have worked across the media in newspapers, magazines, TV, teletext, radio and online for household names including the BBC, GMTV, ITV and MSN. I’ve produced digital content in the financial sector for Lloyds Bank, Nationwide and the Money Advice Service. I'm married with two children and live near Bath in Somerset.

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