How to save money on petrol

By Joe Marczynski

Petrol, diesel, fuel, gas… whatever you use and whatever you call it, it can be very expensive.

The stuff that makes our cars get from A to B is pretty darn expensive, to say the least. While some influencing factors can’t be changed, there are several ways to save money on petrol and diesel.

What’s the deal with fuel prices?

One of the primary reasons that fuel is more expensive today is because the price of oil has increased. This price increase is due to a number of different factors, including taxes, inflation, refining costs, distribution and marketing; everything increases and inevitably impacts the end buyer – you.

There is also the issue of supply and demand at play here. The type of oil that is easier and quicker to be refined into fuel is slowly becoming harder and harder to obtain. There is still a demand for this type of fuel, however, which means that the price of it is rising.

On the other hand, other types of oil are easier to find but harder to process. The higher costs to do this naturally increase the cost of it once it reaches your car.

Bear in mind that there are also more cars, lorries and vans on the road than ever before. While supply is down, demand is up, and again, this disparity hits prices.

Fuel prices fluctuate over time and across the country for dozens of reasons. It could be something as simple as two garages across the road from each other needing to compete to get customers. Or it could be something far more global, like security threats to oil supplies. The market factors we’ve already mentioned, like tax and inflation, play their parts also, as do advancements in technology and alternative sources of energy.

The British Government also get quite a chunk of their income from fuel duty, and the tax prices on fuel in the UK are some of the highest in the world. This is partly down to the reasons mentioned above, but the desire to discourage people from driving, thereby reducing levels of pollution, also has a hand.

Make smart decisions early on

If you’ve don't yet own a car, you might want to consider a Hybrid. While these are quite a bit more expensive to buy and rare to find used as they’re such a recent development, you may be able to recoup the cost difference in what you pay for fuel. They use an awful lot less fuel than petrol and diesel cars.

You might also want to consider paying a higher cost for an automatic car. Automatic cars basically do the work for you when it comes to choosing the right gear, switching between gears effortlessly and on your behalf. However, there is some disagreement between different bodies as to whether or not diesel or automatic cars are more efficient. The AA, for example, claims that manual cars use between 10% and 15% less fuel than automatics.

However, if you’re already committed to a car, there are dozens of ways to save money on fuel. Read on to find out how.

How to use less petrol

Drive slower and drop your revs

Driving at 60mph rather than 70mph could save up to 35% in fuel, while driving at 70mph instead of 80mph could save you 25%, according to the AA. Changing gear as soon as possible, rather than letting your revs get too high, can also bring down costs, as can getting into higher gears (five and six) as soon as you can.

Make smart journeys

Not driving in rush hour, when you have to sit in traffic and keep moving between low gears, is a pretty obvious way of saving money. But did you know that driving a car after it’s been parked for more than a couple of hours is bad news? This is because the engine becomes cold, and for the first few miles – around five – burns extra fuel while warming up again. So, rather than going out three or four times a day, try to incorporate as many errands together in one journey.

Don’t be a drag and lighten up

Drag is what happens when your car is not aerodynamic enough, and as a result, the car has to make extra effort to travel. Things like having the windows or sunroof open, or carrying roof racks with bicycles on the car all force the car to use extra petrol. Be sure you’re not carrying around unnecessary weight inside the car, either, as this also has an impact.

Accelerate better

Sticking at a constant and steady speed is the most fuel-efficient way to drive. Don’t speed up and slow down erratically, like racing up to traffic lights and speed bumps just to slam on the brakes. Drive smoothly and be sure to not press the accelerator unnecessarily far down so you don’t have to change down a gear.

Care for your tyres

Once every fortnight, check your tyres for their firmness. Low tyre pressure means more fuel consumption. Most petrol stations have the kit you’ll need and it’s worth spending the time and money, as the RAC suggest that your fuel consumption can be improved by 2% if tyres are inflated correctly.

How to save money on petrol

For starters, be aware that petrol and diesel prices fluctuate in price depending on areas of the country and even areas of the same town. Take some time to find the cheapest stations in your areas. However, try and find places that you will regularly pass on your commutes or that are close by. You’re not going to save money on fuel by driving an hour for petrol only two pence lower than the station at the end of your street!

Also, know that fuel stations on motorways are not your friend! These places regularly have higher prices of fuel due to their convenience for motorway travellers. Of course, if your car’s tank is almost empty you might have to on the odd occasion, but avoid doing this whenever possible.

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