With fuel prices reaching record highs in Australia and around the world due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, drivers are having to keep a close eye on how much they spend at the pumps.
The price of unleaded petrol has increased by an average of 4.5% since the invasion began on February 24th. With the average Aussie spending around $150 a month on fuel, that amounts to $81 a year in extra fuel costs.
And since early 2021, petrol prices have nearly doubled in Australia. With prices soaring well over $2 per litre.
When combined with increases in the price of heating oil and food, some families could find themselves several hundred dollars a year worse off. And with no sign of the crisis ending anytime soon, things could get worse before they get better.
So what can you do about it? Well, you could walk more, but this is not practical, especially if you have a family. A better alternative is to reduce your fuel consumption. So in this post, we are going to explore 10 tips to save money on petrol.
1. Change your driving style
Changing your driving style has the potential to save you a bundle at the pumps. A recent study in the UK shows that using more fuel-efficient driving techniques can improve fuel consumption by as much as 14%.
Driving smoothly made the biggest difference. You can do this by reading the road ahead to avoid any unnecessary acceleration and braking. Acceleration uses more fuel and braking wastes fuel. So the less you do of either, the better.
Another fuel-saving driving tip is to leave the car in gear and step off the accelerator when going downhill. This saves more fuel than coasting in neutral because the momentum of the vehicle is driving the engine.
If driving a manual, you should also shift up early to reduce revs. The higher the revs, the more fuel you are consuming. The most fuel-efficient technique was to shift at a low rpm and 50% accelerator position.
2. Keep your car well maintained
Regular servicing is one of the best ways of reducing fuel consumption. You should keep up with your vehicle's maintenance schedule, but there are some other checks you can make to further reduce costs.
Tyre pressures – Low tyre pressures cause the tyre to spread which increases road resistance. Increased resistance leads to higher fuel consumption and greater tyre wear. So make sure you check tyre pressures once a month.
Wheel alignment – Australia’s pockmarked roads can knock your wheels out of alignment. Poorly aligned wheels not only impact handling and braking. They increase road resistance, thereby increasing fuel consumption.
3. Go electric or hybrid
Buying an electric or hybrid car is one of the best ways of reducing fuel costs. Data from Australia’s Electric Vehicle Council says that driving an EV can reduce running costs by as much as 70%. For the average driver, that amounts to around $1,600 per year.
However, the biggest obstacle to buying an EV or hybrid is the upfront costs. But the price of electric vehicles is coming down all the time as demand increases. And many local governments have launched schemes to reduce the cost even further.
4. Take care when filling up
Many motorists don’t realise how much fuel they are wasting at the pump. The valve that opens when you pull the trigger on the pump is located about 10 cm from the end of the nozzle.
That means there could be as much as 250ml of fuel left in the nozzle when you let go of the trigger. So wait a few seconds after letting go of the trigger to let the fuel drain out because 250ml adds up to around 3-litres a year if you fill up once a month.
5. Turn the air-con down
Many motorists don’t realise how much energy their air con system uses. They assume it works off the energy generated by the engine, which would otherwise be wasted. But this is not the case, air-con systems use more energy than you think.
On a hot day, air conditioning can amount to 30% of total running costs. And even on a cold day, it can add up to 5% of running costs. So try to avoid using air conditioning when the outside temperature is below 18 ºC. And on hot days, turn it down a degree or two.
6. Reduce air resistance
Car manufacturers spend a lot of time trying to reduce the coefficient drag of new cars. That’s because the easier a car slices through the air, the less fuel it uses. The trouble is, many buyers undo all this hard work by adding roof racks, mud flaps and wind deflectors.
So avoid adding these accessories if possible. Roof racks are the biggest offender. If you need a roof rack, make sure it’s removable and take it off the car when it’s not in use. You’ll be surprised how much fuel you can save that way.
7. Use cruise control
Cruise control is not only great at taking the stress out of long journeys, it can help you save money as well. Cruise control is great at maintaining a consistent speed on flat roads, so it removes any unnecessary braking and accelerating.
But, you need to be careful where you use it. Cruise control is less economical in hilly areas because it’s not very good at reading gradient changes in the road ahead. So for best results, limit its use to flat roads and motorways.
8. Remove excess weight
The heavier a car is, the more fuel is required to push it along. A report from the US Environmental Protection Agency shows that carrying an extra 45 kg in your vehicle can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 1%.
While you can’t do much about the weight of the vehicle, you can reduce weight in other ways. Take a look in the boot, do you need to carry all that stuff around? Have a good clear out and leave the gym bag, buggy and dog crate at home until you need them.
9. Plan your journey
When trying to save fuel, it's not just about how you drive but where you go. Planning your route to prioritise fuel consumption over journey time can make a big difference on long journeys.
When planning your route, avoid areas with heavy traffic. Constant stop-starting and idling can significantly increase fuel consumption. And avoid hilly areas if possible. You will save fuel by taking a flatter route even if it takes a little longer.
10. Make fewer trips
This last tip sounds obvious, but it goes hand in hand with the previous one: plan your journey. A little time invested in planning your tasks for the week can halve the number of trips you have to make.
For example, can you go to the gym after taking the kids to school? Or combine a doctor's appointment with a trip to the supermarket? Planning your journeys better will not only save time, but it will also save you money as well.
As you can see, saving fuel is not too difficult. Most fuel-saving tips only require a change of habit. And you’ll be surprised just how effective they are. Implementing just a few of the above tips could save more than enough fuel to offset the rise in prices.