How to save fuel in your car: 7 tips to make the most of every litre

Date Posted 11th January 2022
Read Time 6 min read

We’ve had quite the time in the UK when it comes to fuel. Shortages and price hikes dominated the conversation last year. In fact, October 2021 saw the nine-year record high price of both petrol and diesel demolished with the average cost per litre for E10 unleaded at 147.72p, and for diesel at 151.10p. So, it’s no wonder that motorists are looking to squeeze every last drop from each litre, and we’ve got some useful tips on how to save fuel in your car.

Concerns over the Omicron outbreak have led to a fall in oil prices. Historically, this leads to retailers cutting fuel costs. So far, prices came down by around half a penny in early December 2021. At the time of writing this article, the average UK fuel price according to All Star Card was 145.4p for unleaded and 149p for diesel. Though this is a move in the right direction, British motorists are still paying more at the pumps than their European counterparts. It’s time to get economical.

Read our 7 tips to make the most of every litre of fuel in your car…

Smooth accelerator

In the words of Sade, be a “Smooth Operator”. This takes us back to all those bad driving habits that driving instructors drill in you to avoid. It’s not surprising that if you drive like a street racer and put your car through unnecessary aggressive pressure, it’s going to burn more fuel; up to 30 per cent more actually.

So, if you usually fill up £30 of diesel, this careless driving could cost you up to 60p for every pound you spend. To avoid frequent trips to the petrol station, it is imperative that you follow the recommended speed limit set for each road type: city roads, dual carriageways, the motorway and so on.

Always try to drive in the highest gear. Ensure that you pull away lightly and smoothly from parking, the traffic lights, or any other stationary position. Also be mindful of making abrupt stops and braking sharply. Anticipate what’s ahead and take it slow and steady if you really want to maximise fuel usage.

Complete errands in one trip

If you know that you’ll be doing a grocery shop, going for a haircut, and paying bills at the bank, try to maximise the one driving trip to tick off your to-do list.

Fuel usage is much higher by a cold engine within the first five miles of a journey. Therefore, combining your tasks into one bigger trip will, naturally, help you save fuel. However, this isn’t always possible so try to group your errands by area to lower the number of individual trips.

Alternatively, if it’s just bread and milk you need to hop out for, walking is always the preference (and you can get your steps in).

Less pedal to the metal

This one might surprise you. It’s not about which gear you’re in, but rather how far down you’re pushing the accelerator. Say you’re driving uphill and instead of gearing down from third into second – to maintain a steady speed – you decide to breeze up by pushing down on the accelerator as far as it will go. This inevitably means that you’re using more fuel. In this instance, it’s recommended that when required, always slow down and change gears as needed rather than putting unnecessary pressure on the accelerator.

Maintain the right pressure

An age-old reminder; low tyre pressure means that your car needs to work harder to move it along the road. That means more fuel usage the longer you leave the tyres unchecked.

Schedule in a fortnightly tyre check on your commute to work or during your grocery run. Pull into the correct area at the petrol station and ensure that the tyre pressure is what it should be for your car. You can usually find these figures written on the side of the driver’s door near the lock.   

Don’t hesitate, gear up

When you stay in a lower gear but keep strong on the gas, not only will you find it more difficult (and louder) to drive, but you’ll also put the engine under extra labour. Change gears as you start to gain speed, and, similarly, gear down when you start to slow down.

Many manufacturers, such as Vauxhall and Ford, have Gear Shift Indicators fitted as standard on several models to show the most efficient point at which to change gears – up or down. This nifty feature can make a big difference to your driving so it may be one to look out for when you’re next in the market for a car.

Keep the windows closed

This isn’t a huge problem in the UK given that window-down weather only comes by occasionally. However, this point is more to do with the shape of your car and its aerodynamics.

It’s ok if your window is down whilst you’re nipping around town for errands and need a bit of fresh air. What we’re talking about here are dual carriageways, country roads, and the motorway – roads where the car is moving faster.

The car’s aerodynamics – the drag and lift – are heavily affected with the windows down on these specific roads, at higher speeds. Same goes for the sunroof too. All of this adds extra pressure on performance and results in less economical fuel usage.

If it’s too hot outside, the sensible option is to use the air-conditioning. And it’s better to use the air vents for most of the year when the temperature is cooler.

Carpool (and karaoke) when possible

It goes without saying that the best way to save on fuel is to share the cost (or not drive at all). Luckily, many UK businesses offer and support car share initiatives. Check out national car share websites like Lift Share or Go Car Share for longer drives too.

Co-ordinated journeys like these allow you to stick with a budget and, as James Corden encourages, put your favourite tunes on for some karaoke along the way.