Top tips: How to save money on fuel costs

Top tips: How to save money on fuel costs
Prices at the pumps have skyrocketed in recent weeks, with average fuel prices reaching the highest level on record. Photo: Carl Recine/Reuters

Petrol prices have risen above £1.60 a litre on average for the first time as Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues to affect the cost of oil worldwide.

With fuel prices hitting record levels here are ten ways drivers can soften the blow when stopping at the petrol station, according to consumer group Which?.

Fill up at the supermarket

Branded fuel from petrol stations is often more expensive than at supermarket stations. Typically, petrol at supermarket pumps is a few pence cheaper per litre. Petrol is also generally cheaper in towns and cities than in rural locations.

Read more: UK petrol prices to soar above £1.60, diesel £1.70, says RAC

Many supermarkets also offer loyalty cards. Drivers can collect points every time they fill up, which can be exchanged later for cashback or discounts later on. For motorists buying fuel from the same supermarket where they shop for groceries, signing up to a loyalty scheme could save money.

Avoid premium unleaded petrol

While there's no harm in using super unleaded, there is usually no benefit either, unless you drive a high-performance car that specifically requires it.

Drive smoothly

Driving style can have an impact on fuel consumption. Try to accelerate smoothly while avoiding harsh throttle inputs or slamming on the brakes unnecessarily.

Stick to the speed limit

Driving at higher speeds leads to higher fuel consumption. The Department for Transport (DfT) found driving on the motorway at 80mph uses around 25% more fuel than driving at 70mph, while 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.

Empty boot and close windows to reduce drag

Driving a heavy car automatically increases fuel consumption, as the engine needs to work to get up to speed. Removing any heavy equipment, such as roof and bike racks will also improve efficiency and prevent drag.

Driving with open windows also causes significant drag, so keeping them closed will prevent this.

Don’t warm up your engine

In the winter months, it is normally preferable to drive immediately after starting the engine rather than leaving it running to heat up. Not only will this actually heat the engine faster, but reduces engine wear and uses less fuel.

Use an ice scraper or de-icing spray if your car is iced over — which saves fuel by not relying on the car’s heating.

Turn equipment off

Air conditioning, de-misters, headlights and rear windscreen heaters are big energy-sapping items in most modern cars. Try to use them only when necessary.

Use a sat nav

It pays to plan routes well and in advance of driving, to prevent wasting fuel by going the wrong way. Using a phone or sat nat device is the best way to see the quickest route. Most up-to-date navigation apps can also show drivers the most economical routes and avoid fuel-sapping traffic jams.

Keep car and tyres well-maintained

Drivers should keep their cars in good condition. It is also worth keeping an eye on tyre pressure. Under-inflated tyres and misaligned wheels will drag down a car’s fuel economy and can be costly to repair.

Read more: UK set to ban Russian oil imports

Making sure cars are serviced on schedule can help drivers avoid hefty bills further down the line, plus newly serviced cars with fresh oil and clean filters run more efficiently.

Need a new car? Consider going electric

While it’s not an option for everyone, those looking for a new car can reduce running costs by making the switch to an electric vehicle (EV). If you can charge at home and switch to a competitive tariff, becoming an EV driver could save you money.

Watch: Why are gas prices rising?