Petrol and diesel prices have hit yet another record high despite a slow in wholesale prices.
On Sunday, March 13, the average cost of petrol, according to data firm Experian Catalist, was 163.5p, while diesel moved to 173.4p.
That makes for increases of 15.5p a litre for petrol and 21.8p for diesel compared to just a month ago. However, there is hope that a substantial drop in oil prices last week, leading to a cut in wholesale prices for retailers, will soon offer some relief to motorists.
Oil prices surged as traders feared supply issues in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. However, with those fears not realised, Brent crude, which is the most common measure of the UK’s oil prices, has now dropped from a 14-year high of $139 on March 7 to around $109 two days later.
With petrol, diesel and electricity prices all at record highs, here are some ways motorists can save on fuel and other tips to consider:
1. Drive smoothly
When driving, try to accelerate smoothly and avoid harsh throttle inputs. It also helps to ease off the gas where possible to help lower your fuel consumption.
As a general guide, keep the revs between 1,500 and 2,500rpm (petrol engine) and 1,200 and 2,000rpm (diesel engine).
Avoiding any sudden breaking will also save on fuel as braking wastes the energy used to get a car up to speed. Gentle acceleration and avoiding unnecessary braking applies to electric cars, too.
2. Change gears earlier
Similarly, changing gears slightly earlier can help to reduce fuel consumption.
Every car will be different, but there will be a happy medium between opting for a higher gear earlier and not labouring the engine too much.
Many new cars will also have a gear-shift indicator, informing you of the most economical point to change gear. Short shifting (skipping gears such as going directly from 1st to 3rd) can also help to reduce fuel consumption.
3. Stick to the speed limit
The faster you drive, the higher your fuel consumption will be. Department for Transport (DfT) figures show that driving on the motorway at 80mph uses around 25% more fuel than driving at 70mph. Travelling at 70mph instead of 60mph in an open speed limit zone will use 9% more fuel, and an additional 5% more than driving at 50mph.
The RAC says : “While there is an ideal speed, road conditions and gradients don’t often allow you to do that speed so you have to improvise and learn to adjust your driving according to the road ahead, a technique often referred to as hypermiling.
“Generally speaking, there is no one driving speed which is optimum for fuel economy.
“Over the years the speed of 56mph has often been talked about as being the optimum speed. This was due to the old fuel consumption test being run at three speeds: urban, 56mph and 75mph – and 56mph was always, unsurprisingly, the most efficient of these. Typically, cars are most efficient at 45-50mph.
“As well as fuel economy differing from vehicle to vehicle, it is also dependent on a number of other factors such as tyre pressure, presence of roof racks, and driving style – all of which are covered in this guide”
4. Check your tyre pressure
Underinflated tyres develop more rolling resistance than correctly inflated tyres, so you’ll have to work your engine slightly harder when there isn’t enough air in them.
5. Reduce drag by emptying your car
Remove all unnecessary equipment. Roof racks and external boxes and bicycle carriers all add weight, so detach them when they’re not needed. Extra weight means the engine has to work harder to get the car up to speed, thereby increasing fuel consumption.
According to the Energy Saving Trust an empty roof rack adds 16% drag when driving at 75mph. At the same speed a roof box adds 39%, making your vehicle much less fuel efficient.
6. Close your windows
On a similar note, wind resistance can also impact fuel consumption.
Opening your windows can also cause significant drag, so keep them closed if you can when driving at higher speeds.
7. Turn equipment off
It is quite a well-known fact that additional equipment, such as using the air con, can impact the amount of fuel used.
The same goes for the heated rear screen, demisters and headlights – if you don’t need them, switch them off.
8. Don’t warm up your engine
While advice varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, it is normally preferable to drive your car gently immediately after turning it on, rather than leaving it to warm up.
Not only will the engine warm up more quickly, reducing the potential for engine wear, you’ll use less fuel in the process.
9. Cut back on how much you use your vehicle
While we are all conscious of how much we use our vehicles, this might be a better time than ever to get in the habit of leaving it at home where possible.
Obviously, this is not always a feasible option, but nearly all of us are guilty of driving somewhere we could easily walk or cycle.
Similarly, if you are driving to a new location, use a satnav to avoid unnecessary driving.
10. Think about where you buy your fuel
Now more than ever is the time to shop around, with fuel prices varying from station to station.
It is a common fact that supermarkets typically cost less than other forecourts to fill up at, so it might be worth stocking up while you do your weekly shop.
Petrol is also generally cheaper in towns and cities than in rural locations. But supermarkets – even those in the countryside – are often still cheaper than oil-company-owned petrol stations in cities.
11. Avoid premium unleaded
While there’s no harm in using super unleaded, there’s usually no benefit either – unless you drive a high-performance or imported car that specifically requires it.
So for most drivers, given that super unleaded typically costs 10 to 15p more per litre than normal unleaded, avoiding the premium pumps is definitely going to save you money.
12. Maintain your car
Regular maintenance and servicing improves the efficiency of your vehicle, and therefore can improve your fuel consumption.
It’s particularly important to make sure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressure as indicated in your owner’s manual as underinflated and overinflated tyres both adversely affect fuel economy. Tyre pressures will vary depending on the load you are carrying: if you have four passengers and luggage then you will need your tyres inflated to the maximum recommended pressures.
13. Does cruise control use more fuel?
Cruise control only aids fuel economy when driving on a constant flat surface, hence why it is usually best reserved for motorway driving.
One of the keys to saving fuel is driving at a constant speed, cruise control can do this effectively on flat surfaces, making your driving as fuel efficient as possible by negating unnecessary acceleration.
However, if you were to use your cruise control regularly, not on flat roads, you would encounter problems that would increase your fuel consumption. This is because your cruise control would be slower to react to gradient changes, meaning when reaching the brow of a hill – at which point you would normally take your foot off the accelerator to maintain more of a constant speed when descending – your cruise control will keep the power on for a little longer as it’s unable to see the gradient change in front of you. Driving in this way regularly would lead to worse fuel consumption.
14. Choose a greener car
You can reduce your running costs by making the switch to an electric car. If you charge it at home and switch to a competitive tariff, you will save money. If you’re not yet ready to go electric, you could try a petrol-hybrid.
Even though diesel cars have traditionally been seen as more fuel efficient, Which tests have uncovered some incredibly economical petrol-hybrid models. But you need to choose carefully. One hybrid they tested had very high emissions in independent tests, while others also exceed their conventional counterparts for fuel consumption.
15. Use electric charging ports
For a lot of people installing an electric vehicle charger at home isn’t possible. In this case, try making use of free charging points near you. Various businesses, retail parks and regular car parks offer free charging, typically for paying customers of that business or service. A number of supermarkets also now offer free charging.
However, if you do have the ability to install a port it could be the best option.
Charging at home is almost certainly cheaper than using public chargers. There will be an initial outlay, though. To buy and install a charger you’re looking at paying upwards of £500, but you’ll earn this back over time with the money saved on fuel and public charging. Find out more about electric car charging at home.
Another tip to possibly save money on fuel is to join a loyalty scheme at a supermarket where you regularly fill up.
The schemes usually work in the same way: every time a customer buys fuel, they swipe their loyalty card and points are accumulated that can be exchanged for discounts at a later date. If you regularly fill up at the same station or you always fill up after your food shop, signing up to a loyalty card could help you save money.
Speaking of rising fuel costs, RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said the average price of petrol “appears to be on a collision course with £1.65 a litre”.
He went on: “While there will almost certainly be more rises this week, drivers should soon get some respite from pump prices jumping by several pence a litre every day as oil and wholesale prices appear to have settled. The price hikes seen over the weekend are still a result of the oil price rise which began at the start of the month and peaked early last week.
“As the oil price has now fallen back, we should hopefully reach the peak and start to see prices going the other way to reflect the big drop in wholesale costs seen at the end of last week, subject to no further spikes in the barrel price this week.”
He explained: “In one town this weekend, filling a tank at one forecourt was more than a pound cheaper than directly across the road at another. They normally match each other, but the petrol station resupplied earlier in the week at the much higher price was nearly deserted while its neighbour had a small queue.
“Unless the price of oil takes off again this week, the AA expects these wild pump prices to stabilise this week and even fall back at fuel stations that were supplied at peak prices but will eventually get cheaper deliveries.”
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