As the cost of filling a tank hits £100, ditch the roof rack, turn off the air con – and slow down 


Soaring fuel prices beginning to bite? As the cost of filling a tank hits £100, ditch the roof rack, turn off the air con – and slow down

  • The cost of filling up an average family car has shot past £100 for the first time 
  • There are ways to take the sting out of the price surge at the petrol pumps
  • By following a few simple driving tips you will greatly improve how far you can go on the same amount of fuel 

The cost of filling up an average family car has shot past £100 for the first time – that’s £33 more than 12 months ago and comes as energy, broadband and food bills also soar ever higher.

There are ways to take the sting out of the price surge at the pumps, but you have to be canny about it.

And by following a few simple driving tips you will greatly improve how far you can go on the same amount of fuel – it’s also worth knowing that getting just one extra mile per gallon is equivalent to saving 3p a litre next time you fill up.

SHOP AROUND FOR PETROL

Supermarkets, especially Asda and Morrisons, tend to be cheaper than specialists such as BP, Shell and Esso.

The price gap has shrunk recently to 3p a litre on average, but can be 6p in some areas, AA figures show.

Prices go up even more at motorway service stations, with Martin Lewis’s Money Saving Expert site spotting it at 12p a litre more. Diverting off a motorway for ten minutes can save £10 on filling a tank. The website petrolprices.com is a great tool to help drivers shop around for the best price. Enter your location and how far you are willing to drive.

PLAY YOUR CARDS RIGHT

Loyalty schemes are vital to boost savings on all shopping and can be a big boost with fuel, too. The key ones are Nectar, Tesco Clubcard, Shell’s Go+, BPme, and Texaco Star Rewards.

Nectar offers a point for every litre you buy at Sainsbury’s or Esso petrol stations, while Tesco offers one Clubcard point for every £2 spent. If you put £60 of petrol in your car every week at Tesco – that’s £3,000 a year – you’ll gain 1,500 Clubcard points.

Diesels still cost more to buy but fuel costs no less – and they are now only marginally more economical than the newest petrol engines (File image)

Diesels still cost more to buy but fuel costs no less – and they are now only marginally more economical than the newest petrol engines (File image)

NO MORE TIRED TYRES

Worn or soft tyres increase the drag on your car, burning more fuel. Pump them up to the correct pressure and the car is three per cent more efficient, according to Money Saving Expert.

The type of tyre is key, too. A good-quality energy-saver tyre improves fuel economy by 2.5 miles per gallon compared with the worst, Which? found. That is a saving of £50 a year on fuel.

Look out for the tyre label – A is the best rating and G the worst. Pricier branded tyres tend to be better but the fuel savings offset that.

LIGHTEN YOUR LOAD

Making the car as light as possible and reducing any extra drag are big boosts to fuel efficiency.

Carrying junk in the boot of your car uses extra petrol. Every 110 lb uses two per cent more fuel.

Roof bars weigh up to 11 lb and also increase drag, using ten per cent more fuel. A roof box is worse, with three times as much drag, according to the Energy Saving Trust. It gets worse the faster you drive.

Air-conditioning and heating also use fuel, so dress for the weather. But don’t open the windows wide when you are hot and going at speed – it creates drag like a roof rack.

DON’T RACE AROUND

Easing off on the accelerator and brakes can reduce fuel usage by 30 per cent.

Fast acceleration burns more fuel, which is wasted when the brakes are slammed on. Instead, predict when you’ll need to slow at junctions, traffic lights and roundabouts.

Roll up to a roundabout, and if the route is clear you save money as you don’t have to get the car going again from stationary – the manoeuvre that uses the most petrol.

Watch your speed. Going at 70mph rather than speeding at 80mph uses about 25 per cent less fuel, the AA says. Dropping to 60mph uses nine per cent less again.

Driving less like Lewis Hamilton and more like your sensible dad can shave a quarter off fuel bills, or about £750 if you put in £60-worth a week.

BE INSURANCE-SMART

Car insurance is the biggest cost of motoring after fuel and the vehicle itself.

The average annual premium is £416, according to the Association of British Insurers, and it has been one of the few costs to fall, down five per cent on a year ago. But don’t accept your renewal quote – call up and haggle, or compare deals on a comparison website.

Insurance costs can be further cut by driving fewer miles or storing your car in a garage. Tweaking your job title (without bending the truth) can help too – for example, using ‘marketing manager’ rather than ‘creative director’ to describe yourself can save £300.

MOVE ON FROM DIESEL

For years, diesel was a cost-effective alternative to petrol: the cheaper per-litre cost and superior mileage offset the higher price of the car. But the RAC says that’s not the case now. Diesels still cost more to buy but fuel costs no less – and they are now only marginally more economical than the newest petrol engines.

You would have to drive a high annual mileage, above 10,000 and mostly on motorways, for any real savings. Diesels also face more punitive congestion charges for driving in towns and cities.

The cost of filling up an average family car has shot past £100 for the first time – that’s £33 more than 12 months ago and comes as energy, broadband and food bills also soar ever higher (File image)

The cost of filling up an average family car has shot past £100 for the first time – that’s £33 more than 12 months ago and comes as energy, broadband and food bills also soar ever higher (File image)

AN ELECTRIC REVOLUTION

Electric cars were once the future, but now Teslas, Renault Zoes and Nissan Leafs are becoming more and more common. One in ten new cars registered is electric.

They are pricier to buy but have lower running costs – no road tax, electric power rather than fuel and exemption from congestion charges can cover that premium in a few years, experts claim.

Transport research group New AutoMotive has calculated that someone who drives a Peugeot 208 for 173 miles a week and goes into London a few times a month could save £810 a year by going electric.

AVOID FINES

Taxing your car costs, on average, £145 to £155 a year but it can be as much as £600. But dodging it will cost more: a fine of up to £1,000, or getting your car clamped which brings a £200 release fee and an extra £21 a day until you pay it.

If you’re driving in some cities in Europe, including Paris, Marseille, Berlin and Munich, you risk a fine of £70 or more if you don’t have an emissions sticker.

…OR DON’T OWN A CAR

If you live in a town or city and need a car only occasionally, you can now rent one by the day or even just for an hour or two.

Zipcar has 3,000 cars all over the UK, parked on residential streets, and prices start at £3.50 an hour. You can also do one-way rentals to, say, the airport.

Ubeeqo, owned by rental giant Enterprise, also does them, from £7 an hour.

Others, such as Turo and Getaround, are like Airbnb for cars – you can hire out your car when you aren’t using it, or you can use the service to rent a car.

Another option is to grab a lift with someone already doing the same journey and contribute to the cost of petrol. Website blablacar.co.uk is the place to list journeys. 

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