Cut your fuel costs

Caroline Cassidy
Cut your fuel consumption
Cut your fuel consumption

Pic: AFP/Getty

Though petrol prices aren't making the headlines in quite the same way they were a few years ago, the cost of fuel is still a burden on most families. However, there are ways in which you can cut your usage, and thereby the cost, so here are a few eco-driving tips to set you on the right road.

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Watch your speed
A 2008 survey by What Car? magazine identified 40mph as the most efficient in terms of petrol consumption. Peter de Nayer, the fuel economy expert who led the research, recommended using top gear whenever possible, even at 40mph, as this can also affect consumption.

Of course, driving too slowly on a motorway can cause problems but the good news is that there are savings to be made on the fast roads. The research found that the average small family car driven at 60mph will get almost double the miles per gallon as the same car speeding along at 90mph.

Driving in towns presents a different challenge - stop-starting, particularly for commuters, eats up the fuel - anticipating traffic flow will reduce sharp acceleration and breaking, and cut fuel consumption as a result. Moving off smoothly and rolling to a stop by lifting off the accelerator will minimise your fuel consumption.

Don't be fooled into thinking neutral equals less fuel - in fact, when idling, your car will use more petrol than if running in gear with the throttle closed. Meanwhile, if you're stuck in traffic and at a standstill for more than three minutes, switch off to save petrol.

Change your car
We don't mean buy a new one, although if you are in the market for a shiny new vehicle, consider going smaller and more efficient, as modern vehicles are becoming ever more eco-friendly.

In fact, there are other simple changes that you can make that could help to slash your fuel consumption.

Air conditioning, for example, uses fuel - switch it off and improve your fuel efficiency by eight per cent. As long as it's not too steamy outside, avoid opening windows and sunroofs, as this will also create drag.

Check your tyres - if your tyres are on the soft side, they create more resistance and your engine will drink more in order to work harder, potentially adding two per cent to your petrol bill. When the time comes to replace your tyres, it's worth considering low-rolling resistance "eco" tyres.

Removing excess weight will also help to make your motor more energy efficient so get rid of the rubbish cluttering up the boot and take off the roof rack if it's not being used.

Plan ahead
Set off on a journey without properly planning your route will often lead to a wrong turn, and thus an extra few pounds at the pumps. By planning your route in advance, you may discover a short cut which will mean you're not wasting fuel driving endlessly around searching for your destination. Satnav, obviously, is a help here and some, such as Econav, will even advise you on how to conserve fuel.

And do shop around when it comes to the petrol pumps. Websites such as can be helpful. The site can show you where to find the cheapest fuel in your area (though beware of driving too far to get there or it's a false economy). And if your regular pump is at a supermarket, do take advantage of any money-off vouchers that come your way.

What do you do to save on fuel? Leave your comments below...