August 2021

If driving around looking for the cheapest fuel prices was an Olympic sport, Team GB would be gold medalists for sure. Those handy fuel price apps have taken away some of the fun from this national sport, but discussing fuel prices is still a close second favourite pastime only to discussing the weather.

It was a cruel irony of the first lockdown that we saw some of the lowest prices in 20 years at a time when most of us had nowhere to go. But things have changed and right now we’re paying an 8 year high for both petrol and diesel.

Of course, driving 10 extra miles to save 1p on a litre of fuel isn’t going to really save you much money but there are a few savvy ways to reduce the impact on your wallet when you fill up.

Maintain your vehicle

All cars have a fuel efficiency rating which tells you their miles per gallon consumption. Although these are for comparison purposes only (it’s unlikely you’d hit these figures in real world driving), you can easily imagine how they would be adversely affected by poor servicing or maintenance.

Biggest among the culprits are your tyre pressures. Low (or even high) pressure can result in a few percentage points on your fuel economy which could translate to several miles difference to a tank.

If you’re recently been doing battle with potholes as well, there’s a chance your wheel alignment could be out. This will not only speed up the wear on your tyres, but reduce your fuel economy as your rolling resistance is increased.

Accelerate & brake gently

Heavy acceleration and braking can both drink fuel far faster than more gentle control of your car. Try to keep your car in the highest possible gear whilst remaining in the speed limit to optimise your fuel economy.

Remove unnecessary weight and accessories

Take a look in your boot and check there’s nothing in there that you don’t absolutely need to be carrying. Any extra ‘dead weight’ is paid for by a small reduction in your fuel economy.

Driving with a roof box or rack when you’re not using it will have an impact on how many miles you get to a tank because of the changes to vehicle aerodynamics. Remove these when not in use to get yourself a few extra miles per tank.

Use your stop / start

It is true that starting a cold engine uses more fuel, which is why modern cars’ stop/start feature doesn’t kick in until you’ve done a few miles and things have warmed up. Once the engine is warm, if you get stuck in stationary traffic you’ll save more fuel by allowing it to kick in than gently idling your engine at 800rpm.

If you don’t have this feature on your car, you can still manually stop and start your car to replicate the fuel-saving technique.

Get your foot off the brake!

Many drivers hold their foot very lightly on the brake pedal, especially at low speeds. Whilst this may give a sense of control and safety, it can depress the pedal a small amount which activates the brakes enough to add to the resistance your engine has to overcome. All of which means extra fuel required to drive at the same speeds.

Keep the air-con off

There’s some debate about this one, as the alternative to using your air-con to cool the car down is to crack open a window, which in itself can increase wind resistance and drive down fuel economy.

Put simply, both air conditioning and opening windows will burn more fuel (more at higher speeds for the window option) so only use them when you need to. Of course, this is about balancing saving a few quid at the pumps with being uncomfortably hot or cold in the car, so it’s a matter of personal choice!

Drain the nozzle

When you finish filling up your tank there can be a small amount of fuel (up to a quarter of a litre!) left in the entrance port to the fuel tank. The nozzle itself pushes the valve open to allow you to get the fuel in the tank, so if you remove it too quickly after finishing your fill, it can result in the ‘bought and paid for’ fuel spilling out down the side of your car.

When you finish squeezing the nozzle trigger, repeat the mantra ‘Even though the fuelling’s stopped, I’ll wait and drain the last few drops’ :)

Although this one probably won’t save you a life changing amount of money (though 20-30p every fill isn’t to be sniffed at!), you’ve paid for that fuel so you may as well get the extra couple of miles out of it!

If you really must cheat and use an app to research cheapest fuel prices in your area (though where’s the fun in that!), check out the Petrol Prices site for a free handy app that has its eye on 8500 fuel stations across the UK.