5 of The Best... Tips to Save Money on Petrol/Diesel

by - Tuesday, May 26, 2009

With the summer holidays just around the corner, there has never been a better time to learn how to save money on your petrol/diesel bills. Whether you commute daily to work or simply use your car for shopping trips, there are several different tips you can adapt to lower the amount of fuel you use (and which have little impact on the time taken to reach your destination).

In this post, I'll offer my 5 favourite tips to lower the cost of fuel bills for your family car which could help you save as much as 20% from your annual spend on petrol/diesel.

1. Find out which stations offer the cheapest fuel

One of the most wonderful things about the Internet is the ability to compare prices of just about everything, to ensure we get the best possible value for our money.

There are several websites which offer comparisons of fuel prices:
  • PetrolPrices.com - Search over almost 10,000 stations across the UK by town or postcode to locate the cheapest fuel stations near you.
  • FindCheapPetrol.com - Again, you can search by postcode to locate the cheapest stations close to where you love (this site also compares the prices of supermarket stations such as Tesco and Morrisons). I've just noticed this site is undergoing maintenance though it should be available again in the next couple of days.
  • KeepMoving.co.uk - This inenious site offers loads of information about travelling and traffic across the country, and the special "fuel prices" section allows you to search for the cheapest fuel prices along a route - reat for when you're travelling long distances!
You will need to register (for free) to be able to use these sites effectively, though when this could save you up to 5% on your fuel bills the benefits of registration speak for themselves.

For example, when I searched prices for my home town, there was a difference of 9.4p a litre between the highest and lowest prices of unleaded fuel. For someone who fills up with £50 of petrol each week, this could save almost £250 in fuel each year!

2. Make your car more efficient

Remove excess weight from your car, which will lighten the load and reduce the amount of fuel used per journey. So remove any roof racks not currently being used and empty all the junk from your boot!

Switch off the air conditioning unless it's really nescessary as this uses quite a lot of power when in action. Winding down the windows in warm weather is almost as cooling, and uses no excess power.

Make sure your tyres are correctly inflated. Under-inflated tyres can decrease fuel efficiency by around 3% as more power is required to get the car moving. Check the correct tyre pressure for your particular car on this page of the RAC website, and top up with air (if needed) the next time you fill up with fuel.

Lastly, don't completely fill the car with petrol. A full tank adds more weight to the car, which makes it less efficient. By filling only half (or even a quarter) of the tank and refuelling more often, you can increase efficiency and actually use less fuel in the long run.

3. Drive more efficiently

When I was learning to drive, I was lucky to have an instructor who taught me about the benefits of driving with fuel efficiency in mind.

The key to driving efficiently is understanding this:
Each time you put your foot on the accelerator, you are using fuel. 
It sounds simple, but once you keep this in mind, you can easily learn how to use the accelerator less often without reducing speed or the time of your journey. Here are some useful tips:
  • Accelerate gradually, without over-revving the engine. A rule of thumb is to ensure you always drive at under 3000RPM.
  • Drive in the highest gear you can without putting stress on the engine
  • Slow naturally, without using your brakes unnecessarily. This is easier if you leave a 2 second gap between you and the car in front, leaving you time to slow using the momentum of the engine (and accelerate more easily afterwards).
  • Consider your position in the road. By being more alert while driving, you can reduce the need to slow and accelerate, ensuring a smoother more efficient drive.

4. Find ways to make filling up pay you!

There are several schemes you can join to earn cashback or rewards when refuelling at certain petrol stations. Most notably, the Morrisons Miles scheme (which I discussed in an earlier post) offers a voucher for £5 off your shopping in store for every 500 litres of fuel purchased from these stations. Here are some other schemes you could try:
However, don't go out of your way to be loyal to a particular scheme: this may cost you more in fuel over the long term than you will receive in rewards. Instead, use your reward scheme when this particular station offers the lowest priced fuel (see #1).

5. Ditch the car (or rather, choose to use it less often).

Of course, the ultimate fuel savings would be based on never using our cars... But for most of us, this is simply not a practical solution!Instead, we can consider ways of using our vehicles less, and making our journeys more efficient so we use less fuel over the course of each month.

For example, run all errands (eg: grocery shopping, post-office, recycling, library) on a single planned round-trip. Between each stop, your engine will remain warm and altogether you'll use less fuel than running each errand on a different day of the week.

Those who work (or shop regularly) in city centres may like to consider a park-and-ride scheme. This involves parking your car in a secure park on the outskirts of the city then catching a designated bus/tram/tube/train to your final destination. Usually these park-and-ride schemes are fee-based, but these will reimburse themselves when you consider how much fuel you'll save not getting caught up in slow-moving traffic or driving round for hours looking for a safe place to park (not to mention parking fees!).

Car-sharing can also offer savings on fuel. If you live close to friends, take it in turns to go shopping together, share the school run or drive each other to work, and share the costs of fuel. While it may be marginally less efficient to drive with more passengers in the car, you'll both be saving money on fuel costs on your regular excursions!

Do you have any more tips to share?

If you have any other tips for saving money on fuel costs, I'd love to hear from you! Please feel free to leave your comments below and if you enjoyed this post, a mention on Twitter would be very warmly welcomed :)

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