Five top tips to keep your car fuel costs low

Originally featured on NatWest Content Live

With the prospect of inflation and rising business costs, what are the best ways to reduce fuel spend?

As fans of Top Gear may recall, the show’s former presenter Jeremy Clarkson was once challenged by producers to drive from London to Edinburgh (and back) on just one tank of fuel. With a few tricks up his sleeve, such as running the engine less than 1200rpm for 800 miles and not using the radio, Clarkson succeeded.

While not all of his fuel-saving tips might be for you, it’s still worth considering how to be more conservative with your consumption. Prices of petrol may continue on their upward path thanks to the weak level of sterling, leading many to consider saving cash. Here are the top five things you can do to save fuel, and money.

1. Lose some weight

The heavier the car, the more energy it needs to move. In fact, tests show that every reduction in weight by 45kg improves efficiency by 1% – 2%. So to lower fuel consumption try to reduce as much weight as possible. The obvious starting place is with items like golf clubs in the back seat, but there is one canny trick you might not have thought of: the weight of fuel itself. By filling the tank to only half full, you may save as much as 25kg in weight.

2. Mind your age

According to figures from the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI), the average fuel efficiency of cars has improved from 32.1mpg in 2005 to 38.7mpg in 2015. But not only are newer cars designed to be more fuel efficient than their predecessors, cars become less efficient as they age.

Martin Reeves, head of sales for Lombard Vehicle Solutions, says: “For a long time, companies have had the opportunity to look at, but haven’t necessarily thought that it would be beneficial to, replace vehicles earlier than the current market trends of either 36 or usually 48 months.

“But it can be shown that replacing vehicles earlier, with new and more efficient vehicles, and doing that in bulk and gaining some extra discount, can give you a lower operating cost as well as other associated benefits.”

3. Check the tyres

According to the RAC, older and cheaper tyres may in fact affect your fuel economy by altering stopping distances. By checking the tyre’s EU tyre label, drivers can see the fuel efficiency of a tyre – a measure that runs from A (the best) all the way to G.

But don’t just stop there. The pressure of the tyre is also important, as a deflated tyre will cause more friction on the road, therefore forcing the car to use more fuel as it moves. Figures shared again by the RAC suggest a tyre that is under inflated by 15psi can lead to a 6% increase in fuel consumption.

4. Drive efficiently

So far, we have concentrated on the mechanical side of the equation, but the person behind the wheel can also improve fuel consumption by driving efficiently. A la Clarkson, you could try running the engine so that it stays beneath a set number of revolutions (2,000rpm is probably more realistic than his 1,200), and it’s also best to avoid last-second breaking.

By anticipating the traffic ahead, you can react earlier and slow down over longer periods rather than loosing lots of momentum through breaking later and harder. And you should also be careful when accelerating, especially when the engine is cold and cars are least efficient. Using the air-conditioning also uses up more fuel and, bad luck, so too does driving with the windows down.

5. Shop around

You might be tempted to pay more for ‘good’ fuel, but according to the RAC, most ordinary cars run as efficiently on ordinary 95-octane petrol and regular diesel as they do on more expensive varieties. Given the price difference can often top 12p per litre, that’s more than a 10% price increase for fuel that has no tangible benefit.

In recent months, several supermarket chains have begun to cut the price of petrol. Not by much admittedly, but 2p per litre here and there may add up. While it may be optimistic to hope for a full-on fuel price war, it’s worth shopping around to see which pumps are the cheapest. There are a number of websites (such as confused.com and simplemotoring.co.uk) that can help you monitor prices, and if you opt for a supermarket, there may be customer loyalty or points schemes that reward your custom.

The NatWestGreat British Entrepreneur Awards are currently open for applications, and you can enter here.