The price of fuel has risen by nearly 10p a litre in the past three months, but motorists can save an average of £231 a year – simply by driving more efficiently.
Sometimes referred to as ‘ecodriving’ or ‘hypermiling’, the idea is that by making small adjustments to your behaviour you need fill your tank less often, also reducing pollution. Here’s how to do it.
Lighten the load
A heavy car uses more fuel to get up to speed.
So if you regularly carry a pile of clobber in the boot ditch the dead weight to save cash.
The Energy Saving Trust also recommends removing unused roof racks and bike carriers because they increase air resistance, and thereby fuel consumption, particularly at higher speeds.
Pump up your tyres
As well as being unsafe, driving on tyres that are not at their optimum pressure is costly. Yet two-fifths of cars are driven with at least one tyre dangerously under-inflated, according to research by tyre manufacturer Michelin.
It estimates the cost of under-inflated tyres in extra fuel at £22 a year. Many petrol stations allow you to check your tyre pressure for free and inflate them if necessary.
Otherwise you can buy a pump for about £20 to use outside your home. One advantage is that for an accurate reading the pressure should be measured when tyres are cold, not after a long drive.
Pressure is measured in PSI (pounds per square inch) or bars, and the correct figure for a vehicle can usually be found in the owner’s handbook. Sometimes it will be on a sticker on the sill of the driver’s door or by the fuel cap.
The AA motoring organisation recommends drivers check tyre pressure every fortnight.
Anyone needing extra help can book a free vehicle safety check with your local firm that includes an assessment of tyre tread depth and pressure.
Burning rubber on the roads will burn a hole in your budget, while a smoother driving style saves an average £165 in fuel a year.
Press gently on the accelerator and brakes, and shift to a higher gear as soon as possible while remaining within speed limits. Or skip a gear altogether – going from fourth to sixth, for example. This reduces the time spent accelerating, but should be avoided if the engine is struggling.
Mark Roberts is the founder of Lightfoot, which sells fuel-efficient driving devices for cars, and which calculated the cost savings of driving more gently and emptying the boot.
He says: ‘A huge cause of fuel wastage is heavy accelerating and braking. The truth is that a smooth, steady increase in speed is just as effective, but far more efficient.’
Roberts also recommends good maintenance by booking a car into a garage regularly, because a wide range of mechanical issues can affect engine performance.
Any car made after 2005 can connect a Lightfoot device to the vehicle’s computer. It sits on the dashboard, acting like an impartial back-seat driver. Lights show if there is room for improvement – going from red to green – or drivers can opt for audio feedback.
Driving scores, rewards, discounts and competitions are accessed via a smartphone app – but the technology costs £149 with an annual subscription fee. However, users have saved up to £165 a year, according to Lightfoot.
Insurer Aviva also offers a smartphone app called Aviva Drive, which tracks driving performance and helps motorists earn discounts on car insurance.
Change your route
Are you faced with roadworks, excessive traffic and row upon row of traffic lights on the daily commute? It all means more stopping and starting and burns more fuel.
For many people this is unavoidable. But anyone with more than one option for their journey should weigh up which is cheapest. One way to do this is to use the fuel cost calculator.
The planner suggests that changing a commuting route could save £36 a year in some circumstances. Experts also recommend combining lots of short trips into longer ones.
Simon Williams, a fuel spokesman for the breakdown company, says: ‘Once the engine is warm it will be at its most efficient, whereas several cold starts will increase fuel consumption, even though the total mileage could be the same.’
The free smartphone app Waze directs drivers away from queues to alternative routes, as does the Google Maps app, saving users time, money and frustration.
Buy a car with care
It rarely makes financial sense to buy a new car purely to save on fuel, but if you are looking for a new vehicle anyway, it pays to think economically.