If you’re serious about saving, you will need to cut vehicle fuel costs.
Fuel prices have been on the rise over the past 10 years forcing motorists to pay almost double of what they were paying previously. The rate in which fuel prices increase reatly exceeds the inflation rate. Simply put, it is becoming harder and harder for the average motorist to fill up the tank. It has been reported that some drivers have had to pawn possessions to pay for their car fuel. It is probably naïve to expect significant drop in fuel prices from petrol stations. So the only way forward is to cut the costs, therefore this situation begs a simple question: How to cut on the vehicle fuel costs?
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The question is maybe simple but there is not a simple solution to help everyone. There are proven guidelines and steps that can help to achieve the best result in a specific case. Those steps depend on your driving habits, your car’s fuel economy and how well your journeys are planned.
What is your actual fuel consumption?
Before diving into the possibilities of saving on vehicle fuel costs you need to calculate how much you are spending right now. In science they call it “establishing the baseline”.
If your car has an on-board computer that also records fuel economy (usually called miles per gallon / MPG), use it to get an idea on average fuel consumption presently. If your on-board computer does not provide that information or your car model has no on-board computer then you can simply try to find official manufacturers records or just calculate it yourself.
With your help we are going to conduct a simple experiment by following these steps:
- Fill the tank and record the mileage – you can simply zero your trip meter or just make a note.
- Start keeping a record of any subsequent fuel purchases – there is no need to fill the tank completely again until you’re ready to work out your MPG (Miles per gallon).
- Visit the same pump – You would do you favour if you could visit the same pump at the same garage where you first filled the car and fill the tank to the same level again.
- Make the calculation – Now divide the total mileage since the first fill by the total number of litres used and then multiply by 4.546 to get MPG. For example if you have driven 1000 miles and used 101 litres of fuel then your average mpg would be = (1000/101) x 4.546 = 45MPG.
Do the maths following our example and get your number for MPG. In case your car has an on-board computer you can simply reset the MPG value before conducting your experiment. Now from this moment your task is to reduce this number as much as possible.
Steps and Guidelines to save on your fuel consumption
Here are several steps and some well proved guidelines that you can employ to reduce the current MPG value and save money.
- Get cheaper deals for your fuel
- Maintain your car regularly
- Steps to take before you go
- Guidelines to follow on the road
But first, here are two other important questions on how to potentially cut fuel costs:
What about alternative fuels?
Carbon pollution and greenhouse gas emissions should concern us all. Luckily, by improving the environment you can also cut vehicle costs. A better fuel efficiency and the use of alternative fuels, after all, improve the greenhouse gas emissions of cars significantly.
Thankfully, automakers have recognised the importance of environmental concerns. Almost all of them have at least one fuel-efficient vehicle in their model selection. Fuel cell vehicles are a ot more affordable than just a few years ago. And seeing a plug-in hybrid have long become standard fair on our highways.
Is a fuel efficient vehicle right for you? Realistically speaking, as long as petrol prices are at their current litre level, it is almost impossible to save enough on petrol to justify buying an ecologically friendly (used) car.
In short: Fuel economy alone won’t make you rich
Even switching to natural gas is no panacea. Although natural gas costs have consistently been cheaper than petrol prices, fuel savings are minimal, because of the high costs of making the necessary changes in your vehicle.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider fuel cell vehicles or a plug-in hybrid. Just be aware that some of the other measures in this article may be more effective.
What about diesel fuel?
Some experts suggest that the best way to cut fuel costs is to switch to diesel fuel. This may seem counter intuitive at first. After all, isn’t diesel more expensive than petrol?
Curiously enough, despite higher gas prices for diesel, overall expenditure may well go down because of diesel’s higher fuel economy. Automakers have continually improved diesel engines to the point where they are now easily among the most efficient technologies available. Carbon pollution has also gone down considerably – although obviously not to the point where they can compete with alternative fuels.
Still, it is very unlikely you will actually see any serious fuel savings unless you’re a frequent driver. The future of diesels is still uncertain, so there’s a certain risks attached to them.
Again, diesels remain a great choice thanks to their fuel economy. Just don’t expect them to cut your vehicle costs for you.
Get cheaper deals for your fuel
With so many petrol stations around from different companies there is always a possibility to find a cheaper alternative. The first obvious choice therefore is to get the best deal around. There are some websites like PetrolPrices.com or Whatgas.com, which you can use to compare fuel prices in your area. So plan in advance to buy your fuel don’t wait when you desperately need to refill your car’s tank. A mere 20 pence per litre difference might seem insignificant. But you can save up-to £360 in a year if you fill your vehicle up at cheaperpetrol stations.
Yes, it is more homework to try to find cheaper alternatives but the end result speaks for itself. You can also keep up to date with the current fuel prices by subscribing to a special service from “Which?”
Maintain your car regularly
Some of the reasons that your MPG might be high could be related to a mechanical fault, which should be addressed immediately. After all, you might not only be facing a high MPG but also a complete breakdown. Usually, a regular simple maintenance would do the trick. You can find out more in our vehicle inspection section but for now here are some points to consider:
- Servicing the engine – The engine must be serviced regularly (according to the manufacturer’s schedule) to maintain efficiency.
- Checking the engine oil – Make sure you use the right specification of engine oil (check your car’s manual). Wrong engine oil or low level of oil can cause various problems including an additional drag and subsequent breakdown.
- Tyres – Check tyre pressure regularly and pay attention to the shape of the tyres, state of the rubber as well as the depth of tyre profile before long journeys. Under-inflated tyres create more rolling resistance and so use more fuel. This step alone can improve your fuel consumption by up to 2%.
Steps to take before you go
Many problems on the road can cause an additional expenditure. While there might be unexpected circumstances (which cannot be avoided), if you do your homework there is a higher chance of driving more fuel efficiently. Here are some steps that you can take:
- Lose weight – Extra weight means extra fuel so if there’s anything in the boot you don’t need on the journey leave it at home. This obviously does not mean that you should leave your spare wheel, which is not advisable at all!
- Streamline – Any chance you get to make your car more aerodynamic you should take it. For example roof racks and boxes add wind resistance and so increase fuel consumption. If you don’t need it take it off – if you do, pack carefully to reduce drag.
- Leave on time – Don’t leave your car engine running until you get ready. Idling wastes fuel and the engine warms up more quickly when you’re moving. Scrape the ice in winter rather than leave your car idling to warm up.
- Plan your journey – So many wrong turns can be avoided by simply planning your route in advance. Plan unfamiliar journeys to reduce the risk of getting lost and check the traffic news before you leave. Don’t only rely on your navigation system.
- Combine short trips – If you combine your regular errands to do in one journey you can avoid several cold starts, which use more fuel.
- You can always walk – If it’s a short journey over the corner you might consider walking rather than driving.
Guidelines to follow on the road
The next culprit for causing reduced fuel efficiency is connected to our driving habits. By following the road signs and being alert can help save considerably on your car’s fuel consumption. Here are several points to consider while driving:
- Drive for consumption – It is not only safe to drive smoothly but also fuel-efficient. Make sure to watch the road ahead to avoid unnecessary breaking and spending more fuel.
- Decelerate smoothly – The way you decelerate can have a significant impact on you car’s fuel consumption. It is better to decelerate smoothly by releasing the accelerator in time, leaving the car in gear.
- Keep the car rolling – Avoiding bringing the car to a stop whenever possible also helps since starting from a halt uses more fuel.
- Change the gear earlier – When you delay changing the gear you put additional strain on the engine, which means additional fuel expenditure. The AA recommends changing up at an engine speed of around 2,000 rpm in a diesel car or around 2,500 rpm in a petrol car.
- Switch-off the air conditioner if not needed – An air conditioner increases fuel consumption even if it is set on low speeds. Switch-off the air conditioner if it is not necessary or open your windows on a hot day if you are driving in the countryside.
- Stick to speed limits – It is not only against the law to drive too fast – it is also less fuel-efficient. Driving at 60mph instead of 70mph uses 9% less fuel and up to 15% more than at 50mph. Cruising at 80mph can use up to 25% more fuel than at 70mph.
- Don’t be idle – Switch the engine off if you’re stuck in traffic for more than three minutes.