How to save money on petrol: Cut costs by changing the way you drive

·6-min read
Man driving a car to illustrate how to save money on petrol
Making a few small tweaks to the way you drive could save you money on petrol. (Getty Images)

More and more of us are having to drive less in an attempt to save money on petrol due to the rising fuel costs. The Office For National Statistics says there has been a recent fall in fuel sales, as people reduce the amount they drive.

Of course, it’s a good thing if people are cutting unnecessary journeys out of their day and choosing other, greener ways to get about. But the ONS has said people are cutting back on both non-essential and essential journeys – and that shows rising fuel costs are putting people in difficult situations.

The good news is that you can make your full tank go further by making small adjustments to the way that you drive. That could help you afford the essential journeys while saving money and it means you also have less of an impact on the environment.

Small habit changes can add up to a significant amount of money saved, especially when petrol and diesel prices are so high.

Read more: What to do if you can't pay your bills

Cut back

Before we get into ways to make driving cheaper, remember that the easiest way to save money on non-essential journeys is to either avoid them or use another, cheaper way to travel like walking, cycling or public transport.

If your journeys are essential and there’s no alternative to a car then perhaps see if car-pooling might be an option (Carpool Karaoke with colleagues is not required, if that is what puts you off).

Female Neighbor Giving Senior Woman A Lift In Car
If a neighbour needs to do a food shop or colleagues live close by, share a car to help you all save on petrol. (Getty Images)

Don’t (be a) jerk

If you’re in the habit of driving in quite a jerky, stop-start way - rapidly accelerating and then having to slam on the brakes regularly - then you’re probably annoying your fellow road users. But you’re also costing yourself more than you need to.

By reading the road ahead you can regulate your speed without having to rely on the brakes and smoother driving can make a big difference.

Harsh acceleration followed by heavy breaking doesn’t just cost more in fuel, it adds to the wear and tear on your tyres and puts pressure on your engine.

Stick to the speed limit

Higher speeds typically mean higher fuel use so don’t be tempted to break the law because you’ll also risk breaking the bank.

And even without exceeding the speed limit, a slightly lower speed may reduce your fuel consumption and your air pollution. The Vehicle Certification Agency notes that driving at 75mph instead of 60mph uses around 18% more fuel.

Read more: 8 smart ways to cut your energy bills

Plan to avoid congestion

Being stuck in traffic is miserable and, with petrol and diesel prices so high, it’s also expensive. If you’re able to plan your journey to avoid the worst of the rush hour then you won’t risk sitting in traffic, burning fuel and going nowhere.

One top tip: map apps will often let you plan a journey and also state the time you wish to travel. They then give you an indication of how busy the roads are likely to be at that time so you can find the most efficient time to leave.

You may not have the option to pick when you drive, but if you do then this is a great way to save money and time.

winter sun on sunday motorway traffic Essex England
Sitting in traffic is a waste of time - and money. Try to avoid peak travel times to cut dow on your fuel consumption. (Getty Images)

Drive in a higher gear

Advice from the Vehicle Certification Agency is that you should change up to the next gear as soon as your car can comfortably manage it. Essentially, the higher the gear the more efficient the drive – as long as it’s an appropriate gear for the speed you are doing.

There may be occasions where you shouldn’t do this, such as when you need power to accelerate and join a motorway, but it’s a good rule for economic driving generally.

Keep your car running well

It’s important to keep your car well maintained because only then can it run at its maximum efficiency.

So, use the correct spec oil recommended by the manufacturer, get any niggles checked out sooner rather than later and get it serviced regularly.

Another important part of that is checking your tyres. Your vehicle handbook will show you what pressure they are meant to be and you should check this regularly. If your tyres are underinflated then that adds to the resistance, which means you use more fuel and wear your tyres out faster too.

Read more: 22 cost-cutting tips

Ditch the dumbbells

What extra weight are you routinely carrying in your car and do you need it? The gym kit you keep in the boot, the golf clubs, the large box full of sample slates – whatever it is, unless you are purposefully transporting it then consider taking it out.

The heavier your car, the less efficient it is. And, while you’re making your vehicle a lean, green, more efficient machine, take the roof box off. Leaving it on simply adds to the drag and makes your car less efficient.

Don’t crank the air con

Summer is coming and it’s very tempting to turn on the air conditioning and enjoy an icy cool blast on a hot day. Unfortunately, that also increases the amount of fuel you use.

The answer is to dress for the weather and avoid heating or cooling your car unless it’s really necessary, for example, if you have young children or pets in the vehicle or if you are particularly vulnerable to temperature.

Sadly, one tip from the Energy Saving Trust is to keep windows closed at high speed to avoid unnecessary drag so that’s only a cheaper alternative when you’re pootling about town.

Bunch your journeys together

If you have a series of smaller trips to make then the RAC says that you should try to make them in one round trip rather than separately. A warm engine is more efficient than a cold engine, meaning that - even if the total mileage was the same – one long journey will use less fuel than several short ones.

The RAC has a route planner designed to help plan more fuel-efficient journeys and you don’t have to be a customer to use it.