A fifth of households are currently unable to make ends meet, according to recent moneysupermarket.com research, with 30% near their affordability tipping point – and rising fuel costs are cited as the main factor.

Despite the fact oil plunged by $10 (£6) a barrel last week, it only led to a tiny average fall of 0.5p for a litre of petrol according to the AA.

The drop should have meant a 4p cut in pump prices. But even though prices remain cripplingly high, there are things you can do to keep the cost of motoring down. We explain how…

Improve your car’s fuel efficiency

Make sure your car is as light as possible, so clear out any junk or items that you are carrying around unnecessarily. If you have a roof rack but aren’t using it, you should take this off too to reduce drag and relieve the pressure on your engine. This in turn will cut down on the amount of fuel you use.

Keep the air-con off

Although air-conditioning is going to be necessary at certain times, try and use it as infrequently as possible, as having it on often will dramatically increase your fuel consumption.

Pump up your tyres

Make sure your tyres are fully inflated, as the lower the pressure the higher the drag on your car and the more fuel you will need. You should check the pressure on your tyres is correct every couple of weeks – doing so could help improve the fuel efficiency of your car by 3%.

Accelerate slowly and choose the right gear

The harder you push on the accelerator, the more fuel you will use, so try and speed up slowly to reduce power. You should also always make sure you are in the correct gear and aren’t straining the engine, as this will also use up more fuel.

Find cheaper fuel

Use the website petrolprices.com to find the cheapest fuel where you live. The site allows users to search for the cheapest petrol in their area quickly and, if they choose, to receive regular e-mail alerts so they will always be the first to know when the prices change. All major service stations are covered including BP, Shell and Texaco as well as smaller chains and hundreds of independent stations.

Also, if you pay your credit card off in full each month, consider paying for your fuel with a cashback card – the American Express Platinum Cashback Card for example, pays 5% for the first three months (up to a maximum spend of £2,000). You then earn up to 1.25% on any spending you do on the card thereafter.

And if you apply for a Barclaycard before 27th June, you’ll qualify for 10% cashback on petrol purchase until 31st August. The amount of cashback you can earn is capped at £30. This offer applies across Barclaycard’s card range but given you’ll be taking out a credit card to spend on, the best options are the Barclaycard Platinum with Purchase which offers a 12-month 0% period new purchases, which is a good option if you can’t afford to pay your credit card off in full each month (once that ends you’ll be charged a representative APR of 16.9% variable).

Another alternative is Barclaycard Simplicity which has a low standard representative APR of 7.9% variable. There is no interest-free period though.

Share costs

Do you have a work colleague or a neighbour who works near you and who you could share your car with? If you agree to split petrol costs and only take one car you can slash your motoring costs, and be kinder to the environment at the same time. Car sharing will also reduce your mileage, and if you aren’t travelling much then you’ll usually pay less for your insurance too.

Drive a car with a smaller engine

If you own a gas guzzler then you should consider trading it in for a more fuel efficient model. The bigger and faster your vehicle, the more it will cost to insure too. According to research by moneysupermarket.com, many people are already going for cars with smaller engines. The average engine size of the top twenty most searched for car was 1.6 litres suggesting Brits are opting for more economical cars. Opting for a low emission car will also save you thousands in Road Tax. Cars within Road Tax Band A with the lowest emissions are free from Road Tax altogether, while the most polluting cars are liable for a massive £460 a year.

Don’t make modifications

Don't modify your car in any way. A spokesman for More Than said; “Adding to the value of your car though alloy wheels or expensive stereos, can increase the chances of the car being stolen.” As a result, performance or style modifications will always increase your insurance premium – so if you are searching for cheap car insurance you should keep any changes to a minimum.

Shop around for insurance

Never just accept the renewal quote offered to your by your existing insurer as you might be able to save hundreds of pounds just by shopping around.

Peter Harrison, car insurance expert at moneysupermarket.com said; "Although there is little motorists can do about the rising cost of fuel, they can take control of some of their motoring costs. Rather than accepting a renewal price on car insurance, shopping around for a better deal and using price comparison sites will save you money. The average saving consumers achieve switching car insurance through moneysupermarket.com is a staggering £292.

Pay for insurance annually rather than monthly

Although annual payments require a larger initial outlay, in most cases the total cost over a year works out cheaper than monthly payments. Many insurance companies charge interest if you choose to pay monthly which can further increase the overall cost of your policy. If you cannot afford to pay for your insurance in one lump sum, consider using a 0% purchase credit card and fund the premium on this. However, make sure you pay off the balance within the promotional period so that you don’t get stung by steep interest charges.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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