How to save fuel: 9 top tips as cost of living crisis hits UK

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Cost of living crisis and fuel
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Cost of living crisis and fuel

It’s been a frustrating couple of years for British drivers. In 2021, petrol stations across the country were hit by extreme fuel shortages, with the sight of huge queues of cars becoming painfully common. Prices soared.

And in the last year or so, drivers have been hit in the pocket again this year. Britain has been hit by a cost of living crisis, with food and utility bills rising. Fuel prices have also gone up, partly as a knock-on effect of the war in Ukraine. The AA said in 2021 that filling a 55-litre car cost an average of £89.90 - up more than 30% from £68.57 in 2020. It's utterly depressing.

But while you can’t control the price (or the queues!), you can have an impact on how much fuel you use - and it is much simpler than you might think. Our experts have come up with 9 top tips for saving fuel - whether there’s a shortage or not.

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How to save fuel

1) Accelerate and drive smoothly 🚗

Don’t accelerate wildly! It’s loud, dangerous and also wastes 40% more fuel than gently pulling away, according to eartheasy. A nice tip is to imagine a glass of water on your dashboard. Take your time accelerating so you don’t spill it.

Once you’re moving, keep your pace consistent and try to anticipate what’s next on the road. What’s the point in racing to a set of traffic lights only to have it turn red, forcing you to stop, wait, and then pull away all over again? It’s much more fuel-efficient to gently adjust your pace. If you time it right, you won’t need to brake at all because you’ll have enough time for the light to change to green.

2) Remove excess weight from car 🏋️‍♀️

Do you really need everything that’s currently in your boot? Clearing out unnecessary extra items can lighten the load and save your fuel. Don’t ditch the essentials (a blanket and a bottle of water is always sensible), but it’s a great idea to remove anything you don’t need for that trip. Leave the bike rack and that box of books you keep meaning to drop to the charity shop at home. Plan your trips and only bring what you need.

3) Stay within the speed limit ⚠️

Staying within the speed limit is a must for all conscientious drivers - but it’s also good advice for those looking to save their fuel.

Driving faster might get you to your destination quicker, but it will eat up more fuel. The key to saving fuel is to reduce your engine’s revolutions per minute (rpm). Put simply, the lower the rpm, the better your fuel economy.

Driving fast uses a disproportionately high rpm - so staying at a steady speed within the limit is the way to go.

4) Check your tyre pressure 💨

Keeping your tyre pressure at an optimum level is an easy and simple way to save fuel. The more pressure your tyre loses, the worse your fuel efficiency. Low pressure can damage tyre tread, too, which can worsen the situation further.

Each car’s optimum tyre pressure is different - and each trip can require a different pressure, too. For example, a family of five on a long drive for a UK staycation, with luggage and pets packed away too, would require a higher tyre pressure than a solo trip to the shops.

If you’re confused, your local mechanic can give you the run-down on your car’s best pressure. Tyre pressure can easily be changed at a petrol station.

5) Turn off the air-con ❄️

Believe it or not, using the air conditioning can also drain your fuel - possibly by up to 10% while driving in a city. This is exacerbated when you’re stuck in traffic jams, as your car engine is already working overtime. Now there’s something to get you hot and bothered.

Instead of using the air-con, use the ‘recirculate’ option instead, which uses less energy, or dress appropriately to keep cool in hot weather. We would suggest opening your windows to let a cold breeze flow in, but…

Fuel prices have skyrocketed over the past 12 months
Fuel prices have skyrocketed over the past 12 months

6) Close the windows 🪟

Annoyingly, keeping your windows open as you drive along is also bad for your fuel - at least when driving at high speeds, like on the motorway. This is because open windows can impact your car’s aerodynamics, creating a drag which slows it down and forces your engine to work harder.

This isn’t really an issue if you’re driving at a more leisurely speed through a built-up area, but it’s worth keeping an eye on when you’re hitting the motorway.

7) Change gears sensibly ⚙️

Efficient driving means efficient fuel-consumption. Moving up through the gears quickly (but sensibly) is almost always best. It means your engine’s rpm remains low and your car doesn’t need to exert itself to get up to a faster speed.

Some cars now have gear shift indicators, which advise when it’s best to switch up. Every car is different, so there is no ideal speed or gear, but studies have indicated that driving over 50mph (where permitted due to the speed limit) in as high a gear as possible is best for saving fuel.

8) Maintain your vehicle 🧹

Keeping your car in good condition is advisable for a number of reasons, with saving fuel just one of them. Ensuring your engine is in good condition, your tyre tread and pressure is optimum, and your wheels are aligned are all good ways to cut down on fuel usage.

A happy car is a fuel efficient car!

9) Make fewer trips (and plan them better!) 🚶

This one might sound obvious, but it can still make a big difference. How often have you returned home from the shops only to remember you also need to pick something up from the dry-cleaners? Or criss-crossed your neighbourhood picking up bits and pieces when one simple loop would have done?

Reducing your trips doesn’t mean cutting down on what you’re doing. It just means planning out sensible routes in advance - and keeping a list of what you’re planning so you don’t forget.

Longer, solo trips are also kinder on your engine (and your fuel) than making multiple small trips. For example, it’s best to get all your errands done in one go, rather than splitting them up during the week. A warm engine saves fuel best.

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Shop around for a better deal

We know money is tight for many people at the moment and driving can become incredibly expensive. One final thing to consider is buying, or borrowing, a cheaper model of car. They can be more affordable to insure and run.

To help, we’ve put together a list of our top 10 cheap cars to insure. They are perfect for first-time drivers, but also suitable for anyone looking to stretch their budget.

Our top 10 list is:

  • Fiat Panda
  • Nissan Pixo
  • Volkswagen Fox
  • Chevrolet Spark
  • Toyota Aygo/Peugeot 107/Citroen C1
  • Vauxhall Corsa
  • Ford KA
  • Smart fortwo pure
  • Toyota Yaris
  • Skoda Fabia
Fuel prices are going up - here's how to save fuel
Fuel prices are going up - here's how to save fuel
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Updated on 3rd April 2023