If you’re a driver, you can’t have failed to notice the rocketing price of petrol. The cost at the pumps has been inching upwards and the average price of a litre of unleaded is now £1.20.
That’s even higher than the previous peak of 119.7p set back in 2008, but this time it’s not soaring crude oil prices pushing it up – it’s the weak pound. Oil is traded in dollars, so we’re being hit hard by the US recovery.
Some drivers simply can’t afford to use their cars, with two-thirds of families cutting back, according to the AA. But many people have no choice but to get behind the wheel – meaning high prices are forcing them to trim expenses elsewhere.
If you’re one of them, how can you reduce what you pay at the pump?
Find frugal fuel
Garages are still competing for your business, so it’s worth hunting down the cheapest places to fill up near you.
Does your supermarket offer a discount on fuel when you spend a certain amount in store? Making regular use of discounts like this will make a real difference to your pocket over the long term.
Using a fuel price comparison site like PetrolPrices.com allows you to find the cheapest fuel in your area – plus, if you’re on the move, there’s an iPhone ap that shows you the lowest costs.
Drive more efficiently
Believe it or not, changing some of your habits behind the wheel will make your car more efficient, meaning you use less fuel.
In fact, the government-run project ACT ON CO2 claims you could cut your car's CO2 emissions by 8% a year by following the tips below – saving the equivalent of one month’s fuel. Not bad.
Before you go:
Pump up your tyres. Under-inflated tyres mean your car has to work harder, using more fuel. Be careful though, as over-inflated tyres can be dangerous, so check your manual to find the right pressure.
Empty the boot. Carrying unnecessary weight adds to the work your car needs to do, increasing the amount of fuel it burns.
Remove the roof racks. When you’re not using roof racks, take them off – they just increase your drag factor unnecessarily.
Get your car serviced. If your car’s engine hasn’t been serviced when it should have, it’s less likely to be operating at its most efficient. Check your manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations for servicing.
Plan your journey. Getting lost isn’t just frustrating, it’s a waste of fuel. Plan in advance and if you don’t have a SatNav, use Google Maps or similar to find the fastest route.
As you drive:
Stick to the speed limit. Driving at 70mph on the motorway can result in savings of as much as 10% compared to driving at 80mph, so not only is speeding illegal, it’s expensive. Of course, getting a ticket means a fine and even higher car insurance premiums, so the cost of speeding can be much more than you expect.
Be a smooth driver. Try to speed up and slow down more smoothly as this uses less fuel than speeding up only to slam on the breaks. Watch the traffic ahead and slow down early when you can by gently lifting your foot off the accelerator while the car’s in gear.
Don’t be too cool. Air conditioning really burns fuel, so avoid turning it on unless you really need it – wind the window down instead. Interestingly, ACT ON CO2 reports that if you’re driving at speeds of 50-60mph then opening the windows is more inefficient as it increases drag, meaning you’d be better turning on the air con if the heat really is too much.
Don’t be idle. If you’re stuck in traffic for several minutes at a time, get in the habit of switching the engine off rather than sitting there idling. You’ll burn less fuel.
Cut costs elsewhere
However efficiently you drive and wherever you shop for fuel, you’re likely to pay more for your fuel – especially as the staggered fuel duty rise is introduced (it rose by 1p at the start of April and will now go up by a further 1p a litre in September and then again in January).
So, if you can bring down your motoring costs elsewhere, you could take some of the sting out of the hike.
When it comes to renewing your car insurance, comparing the market and finding the best possible price for the right price can save you a fortune. You can save an average of £218 a year by using our car insurance comparison tool – that’s going to offset a fair amount of fuel hikes.
Changing vehicles now isn’t going to save you any money – but when you next come to replace your car, consider finding a more fuel efficient model.
Not only will that shield you from runaway price rises like we’re seeing just now, it will also attract a lower rate of road tax, so there are other savings to be made.
The great thing about making your car more efficient is that your driving also becomes less harsh on the planet. Having said that, it’s still best to walk or take public transport when you can – that will really cut your emissions and could cut costs.