HomeBusinessTop 10 tips to drive efficiently with fuel prices at record highs

Top 10 tips to drive efficiently with fuel prices at record highs


The nation’s motorists are currently paying more for fuel than they’ve ever had to before.

Latest data shows that the average UK price of petrol is now above £1.56 per litre, while diesel has exceeded £1.62 on the back of the war in Ukraine and oil surging to $125-a-barrel in recent days. 

Experts and bookmakers says the possibility of motorists paying over £1.70 for a litre of fuel is now odds-on to happen, with no respite from rising costs for Britons already facing a cost of living crisis. 

But there are things you can do to extend the time between visits to forecourts – if you’re willing to change how you drive and prepare your vehicle to be as economical as possible.

Ten tips to drive efficiently to avoid soaring fuel prices: With petrol and diesel at record highs, it’s imperative that motorists drive as efficiently as possible to make the most of their fuel

The AA says that currently the average family car with a typical 55-litre tank will cost an extra £18 to fill with unleaded than it did a year ago, going up from £67.62 to £86. 

With no signs of the conflict in Ukraine easing, more price hikes are expected on our forecourts, with bookmakers last week placing 2/5 odds on petrol prices breaking £1.70-a-litre in 2022, while £2 per litre was at 9/4.

Bar replacing your car with one that’s more economical – or even electric – and driving less frequently, there are ways of driving more efficiently that can help you to cut down on your fuel bills.  

For motorists desperately wanting to get the most out of the expensive fuel they’re currently pumping into their cars, This is Money has compiled our top 10 best tips to drive as efficiently as possible. 

Using really simple eco-driving techniques like those listed below ‘can easily save the equivalent of 9p-a-litre’, says the AA. 

1. Make sure the vehicle is in tip-top running order 

If you drive an older car that hasn’t been serviced for a few years, now might be the time to get it booked in to ensure it is running as efficiently as it possibly can be. 

Sticking brakes, ageing tyres, faulty sensors, old oil and general poor engine maintenance are just some of the factors that could hit your car’s optimum miles per gallon (mpg) performance. 

Ensuring tyres are correctly inflated is one of the easiest ways to ensure your car isn't being inefficient with its fuel

Ensuring tyres are correctly inflated is one of the easiest ways to ensure your car isn’t being inefficient with its fuel

2. Check tyre pressures

One of the easiest fixes to ensure your vehicle is running at peak efficiency is to regularly check that the tyres are inflated to the correct level. 

Underinflated tyres are estimated to impact a car’s fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent. 

Check the car’s owner’s manual to find out what the optimum pressures are. Most models also have the tyre pressure info detailed on a sticker on the driver’s door sill – while modern cars might also display the pressure in the instrument cluster, or alert you to pressure that is incorrect. 

Most modern cars have adjustable driving settings that modulate how quickly they accelerate. If yours has an 'ECO' mode, like the one pictured, you should use it

Most modern cars have adjustable driving settings that modulate how quickly they accelerate. If yours has an ‘ECO’ mode, like the one pictured, you should use it

3. If your car has an ‘eco’ mode, use it

Many modern motors are now fitted with adjustable driving modes. 

If yours does, it likely has an ‘eco’ setting. Using these mode will restrict how quickly the car accelerates. 

Slower and smoothers acceleration will but will help reduce fuel consumption. 

4. If your car doesn’t have an eco setting, be gentle on the throttle

If you have a car that doesn’t have adjustable driving modes, try to replicate what it does with your right foot. This means taking it easy on the throttle pedal when you can.

Excessive speed is the biggest fuel-guzzling factor so having a light right foot and ensuring all acceleration is gentle is very important to fuel-efficient driving.

When you set off from a standstill, such as at traffic lights and junctions, try not to react like you’re on the starting grid at Silverstone.

The RAC says choosing a higher gear will mean you're not overworking the engine and therefore lessening the demand for fuel

The RAC says choosing a higher gear will mean you’re not overworking the engine and therefore lessening the demand for fuel

5. Use the highest gear possible 

The RAC says that the biggest secret to achieving high mpg is driving in the highest possible gear for your vehicle while keeping within the speed limit. 

‘The best advice in urban areas is to change up through the gears as quickly as you can with the lowest revs possible, probably at around 2000rpm,’ it says. 

6. Anticipate well ahead to preserve fuel when braking

Heavy acceleration will sap fuel economy, but braking too heavily also has the same impact, as you can use less fuel by coming to a standstill more gradually.

This requires a driver to anticipate traffic flow ahead, but is a great way of limiting fuel use.   

If you're a long-distance driver who relies on cruise control, it might be worth avoiding using it while petrol and diesel prices are as high as they currently are

If you’re a long-distance driver who relies on cruise control, it might be worth avoiding using it while petrol and diesel prices are as high as they currently are

7. Cruise control isn’t your friend if you want to save fuel 

While many will believe that using cruise control functionality will provide the lowest fuel use, this isn’t always the case.

Cruise control is most likely to benefit mpg on motorways with a constant speed and a flat surface.

However, if you were to use your cruise control regularly and not on flat roads, you would see fuel consumption increase.

‘This is because your cruise control would be slower to react to gradient changes, meaning when reaching the brow of a hill – at which point you would normally take your foot off the accelerator to maintain more of a constant speed when descending – your cruise control will keep the power on for a little longer as it’s unable to see the gradient change in front of you. 

‘Driving in this way regularly would lead to worse fuel consumption,’ says the RAC. 

Don’t use your air conditioning unless you really have to as it uses engine power and therefore increases fuel consumption.

8. Avoid using the air-con and heater

Don’t use your air conditioning unless you really have to as it uses engine power and therefore increases fuel consumption by as much as 10 per cent on shorter journeys.

This shouldn’t be an issue during the cooler months, though using a car’s heater will have a similar impact, with it running off the engine power and therefore lowering fuel economy.

Dress accordingly for the weather, is the best advice.

9. A warm engine is more efficient, so run multiple errands in a single journey

Once an engine is warm it will operate most efficiently, whereas several cold starts will increase fuel consumption.

So if you have a number of errands or trips in a day, try to do all of them in one go.

The AA adds that the changing season from winter to spring should also help improve fuel economy.

Warmer temperatures should improve mpg ‘significantly’ with an extra three miles to the gallon ‘almost guaranteed for most’, it claims. 

Having an empty roofbox fitted to the top of your car will make it far less drag efficient, which means the engine will have to work harder - and use more fuel - to counteract this

Having an empty roofbox fitted to the top of your car will make it far less drag efficient, which means the engine will have to work harder – and use more fuel – to counteract this

10. Lighten your car’s load

While this isn’t going to make the biggest difference to your mpg figures, emptying heavy clutter from your car will fractionally improve its fuel economy.

And if you’re not using roof bars and a roof box, take them off as it could make your motor less drag efficient.  

According to the Energy Saving Trust, an empty roof rack adds 16 per cent drag when driving at 75mph. At the same speed a roof box adds 39 per cent, making your vehicle much less fuel efficient.

Driving with a window fully open also has a similar effect.

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