Despite easing inflation, petrol and diesel prices have risen for the fifth consecutive month, with petrol reaching an average of 154p and diesel 162p a litre.
The highest price for petrol today at a UK station has reached £1.85 a litre, according to price comparison site Confused.com.
Petrol retailers have laid the blame on increased labour and energy costs, as well as reduced sales, for the jump in prices over recent months. However, Simon Williams, spokesman for the RAC, has argued that petrol is overpriced and that retailers are not “playing fair”.
Some retailers have agreed to sign up for a service that would allow motorists to compare live fuel prices online – the government has stated plans to make this mandatory, as part of a push for more transparent pricing.
With the cost of living – and the cost of driving – being so high, many motorists across the UK are looking at how to make lifestyle changes that could reduce or cut the need for using their cars, such as working from home or using public transport more often. But for many, especially those in rural areas, it isn’t that simple, and driving is essential.
Here, we look at some tips that could help to cut the cost of your fuel bills.
1. Drive more smoothly and slowly
If you’ve been driving for a long time it can be hard to change your habits, but making a conscious effort to drive more smoothly could help you make savings. You burn less fuel by driving slowly, and it’s better for your car as the engine doesn’t have to work so hard to overcome the drag from wind and road resistance compared to when you drive faster.
Try accelerating gradually and avoid braking sharply, as sudden changes in speed will use up more fuel. If you drive a manual car, consider which gear you’re in and change gear when needed to ensure your car isn’t working harder than necessary. Some newer models may come with a gear-shift indicator, which will let you know the most efficient times to change gear.
2. Check your tyre pressure
Tyres can be a hassle to maintain, but there’s a reason why it’s important to check the pressure regularly, and particularly before a long journey. If your tyres are under-inflated, you will end up using more fuel, because the increased friction on the road means that your car will have to work harder to compensate.
The recommended tyre pressure for your vehicle should be indicated in the handbook, or it might be printed on the inside of the driver door or the fuel tank flap. Sometimes, the recommended pressure differs between the front and rear wheels, so double-check the handbook or online to ensure you inflate to the right pressure.
3. Switch off the engine when possible
Switching off the engine when your vehicle is stationary – such as when sitting at traffic lights, waiting in heavy traffic, or dropping someone off – means you won’t be wasting fuel sitting at a standstill. Some newer cars are even fitted with stop-start technology that does this for you.
4. Limit use of temperature control
Using features such as heating or air conditioning in your car will inevitably burn through extra fuel, so try not to use more of these than you need to. This may be easier said than done, and you shouldn’t risk your health in the name of savings, particularly on very hot or cold days. However, if you can get by while using these features less frequently or at lower intensity then this could still go some way towards reducing your fuel costs.
5. Use a sat nav
Sat navs are extremely handy if you regularly drive to new locations, as they give you the quickest route to your destination and may prevent you from getting lost. Many sat navs are able to monitor the roads to find the fastest route that avoids you sitting in traffic or burning extra fuel to drive up steep hills.
Most smartphones come with a maps app, which usually doubles as a sat nav and enables you to plan your route. If you aren’t satisfied with the one you already have on your device, there are plenty of alternatives that you can download to find the most suitable option for you. Some of the best free sat nav apps include Google Maps, Waze and Karta GPS.
6. Consider going electric
It’s a bigger commitment than the other options on this list, but electric cars are growing in popularity, and switching to one could save you money over the long term. They may cost more to buy, but running costs are generally lower, and there are various government initiatives that can bring your outlay down, too. Charging an electric car will put much less strain on your wallet than their fuel-based counterparts, with some supermarkets and petrol stations even allowing you to top up your vehicle free of charge.
Besides, the government is set to ban the sale of cars running solely on petrol or diesel from 2030, and the majority of car manufacturers now offer some electric models.
However, there are some financial cons to going electric, as you will almost always have to pay more upfront, and will probably see your insurance premiums increase as well.
For a full overview of the pros and cons of electric cars, read our article Should I buy an electric car?
7. Shop around for fuel
Fuel is like any other product you buy, as it’ll be cheaper at some places than others. You can check petrolprices.com for the cheapest place to buy fuel near you. For example, supermarket pumps tend to charge much less than major brand petrol stations such as Esso or Shell, despite coming from the same refineries.
However, it’s best not to stray too far from your usual routes when filling up your tank, as traveling the extra distance just for cheaper fuel means you’ll end up using more of it to get there and defeats the point.
In addition, making sure the cap is closed tightly after filling up your tank will stop fuel from evaporating into the air on hot days.
8. Use loyalty cards
Many supermarkets and petrol stations offer loyalty cards and cashback schemes to help customers save on their fuel spend. If you have a loyalty card with a supermarket already, you can usually make use of this when you fill up at their pumps. Simply swipe your card after filling up to claim your points, though bear in mind that it takes a while to build up enough to claim any substantial benefits.
Some popular loyalty cards include the Tesco Clubcard, which enables you to earn one point for every £1 you spend in their shops or for every £2 you spend on fuel, and the Nectar Card, with which you can earn points for every litre of fuel you buy from Sainsbury’s petrol stations. Clubcard points can be exchanged for vouchers to get a discount on fuel, while Nectar Card points can be used at both Sainsbury’s and Esso pumps.
Some petrol brands offer reward schemes too – for example, Texaco’s Star Rewards scheme lets you earn one point for every litre of fuel you buy from their pumps, with 500 points earning you a £5 discount (plus you get 200 points just for downloading the app).
9. Remove excess weight
If you haven’t cleared out your boot in a while, take a look and see if there’s anything that really doesn’t need to be left in there. Things like boxes and heavy bags can actually increase fuel consumption with the extra weight they add to your vehicle – an extra 50kg of weight can add up to £10 to your weekly fuel bill, so it’s well worth seeing if you can lighten your load.
If your car has a roof rack or a roof bar, think about removing this as well, as it will both lighten your car and lower its wind resistance, therefore consuming less fuel.
10. Take care of your car
A healthy car is not only nicer to drive, but it uses less fuel, so getting it serviced regularly is a must.
Getting an annual check to make sure your wheels are properly aligned is also a good idea, and can add up to 12,000 miles to the life of your tyres. Kwik Fit and Protyre can perform wheel alignment checks for free.
Make sure you are using the right engine oil as well, and be sure to change it regularly. The right type of oil for your vehicle should be listed in the handbook.
11. Planning a UK break? Fill up first
If you’re planning a UK break that involves a long drive, make sure you fill up before you go as service stations on the motorway can be really expensive.
John Wilmot, chief executive of car leasing comparison site LeaseLoco said: “If you’re going to be spending hours on the motorway reaching your destination, make sure you have plenty of fuel in the tank. You don’t want to be forced to fill up at a roadside service station, as they tend to be considerably more pricey than refuelling at big brand petrol stations on the high street.”
There are always more ways you can save on the cost of getting around. Our article on ways to save on car and travel costs includes more tips that might help make a considerable difference in your outgoings.
If you feel that the cost of car insurance is contributing to your financial worries, then our article 10 practical tips to reduce your car insurance premiums contains some great ideas for keeping your insurance costs down.
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