10 top tips to keep the pounds in your pocket at the steering wheel
While consumer prices are creeping up alongside recent market uncertainty, there’s no reason to spend more than you need to on your vehicle. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on how to cut down your driving budget. These ten tips can save you hundreds of pounds a year, maybe more.
Ensure you carry out basic maintenance
Like any machine, cars will run better if they’re properly maintained. This isn’t about carrying out in-depth mechanics (which is something you definitely shouldn’t do unless you’re trained); it’s simply about doing the basics. Make sure you’re setting the correct tyre pressure, changing your engine oil and getting your car serviced whenever the manufacturer recommends it.
Put your car on a diet
The more weight your car has to carry around, the less economic it’ll be in terms of fuel usage. Even things like roof racks, top boxes or cycle racks can create more wind drag and lead to the engine having to work harder. In this sense, cars are just like people: the lighter they are, the better they run.
Plan your journeys
There’s no getting around this one: if you get lost or take the long way round, you’re using up more fuel than you need to. If your response to this is, ‘But I’ve got a sat-nav!’ it’s worth remembering that they don’t always get things right. Take a look at Google Maps before you set out to make sure you’re taking the most efficient route.
Don’t use the air-con unless you really need to
The myth that air conditioning devours power and fuel is pretty widespread. However, it doesn’t apply as universally as many people think. If you’re travelling at higher speeds on the motorway, for instance, its impact is fairly negligible. The time to be conscious of using it is if you’re travelling at low speeds: around town, for instance.
Progressive and gentle acceleration is the key to keeping your fuel usage down, so if you’re not naturally a smooth driver it’s something worth working on. Always try to read the road by looking as far ahead as possible: this will help you avoid unnecessary braking, and can save a substantial amount of money over a year or so.
Keep the car rolling where possible
You probably won’t be surprised to hear that stop-start traffic isn’t particularly economical. So, if you can keep the car rolling in these situations through clutch control and engine braking, it’s best to do so, even if you’re in a situation where you’re being overtaken by pedestrians. If a gap opens up ahead don’t worry and maintain a relatively consistent speed, in congested traffic it’ll close up soon enough!
In old-fashioned carburettor cars, coasting - letting the car roll in neutral - could be an effective way of saving fuel over the long term. However, the impact of doing so is virtually non-existent in modern injection cars. Modern vehicles are usually fitted with an engine control unit (ECU) which cuts the fuel supplier as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator. Not to mention, it’s much safer to be in a low gear if you’re going down a steep hill.
Try changing up a little earlier
If you change up through the gears too late, you can cause the engine to work harder and as a result use up more fuel. So, reverse this: try changing up earlier than you usually do. If you change up at around 2000 revs per minute in a petrol car and 2500 revs per in a diesel, you’ll be at about the right level. Many newer cars, of course, come with Gear Shift Indicators that alert you when you’re at the most efficient point for switching: if yours does, pay attention to it.
Keep to the limit
In one sense, fuel consumption is simple: the faster you go, the more fuel you use up. Not only will you be safer if you keep to the speed limits, but you’ll also lower your fuel bill. This makes a bigger difference than people think: a car cruising at 80 mph on the motorway can use as much as 25% more fuel than a car doing 70 mph.
Avoid parking enforcement troubles
The UK parking control industry generates roughly £3B in revenue annually which wouldn’t be possible without many drivers parking riskily. Avoid penalties by always looking around for parking signs. Clearly place pay-and-display tickets and/or disabled badges, and check the time before they expire. Additionally, try not to leave your car unattended - even for short periods. If you do end up incurring a fine, pay it early in order to capitalise on the discount that’s offered by most local authorities. Furthermore, you should avoid parking on private property where possible, as enforcement is relatively unregulated and can lead to clamping or towing of offending vehicles.
When deciding to go ahead with any of the above tips, it’s important to actually keep a note of how much less fuel you use as a result. This way you’ll be able to tell which techniques work best for your vehicle.
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