Fuel is one of the biggest ongoing expenses for motorists everywhere, yet many incur the expense on a daily basis even when it’s not getting any cheaper. You might think that you can’t increase your fuel efficiency without taking extreme steps or random devices you can buy off late night TV shows, but this is far from the truth. In reality, there are a wide range of simple things you can do to get more out of your fuel, and these generally involve keeping your car in good condition, driving sensibly and not making unnecessary short trips. If you happen to be looking for a new car, you can specifically look for a fuel efficient vehicle to gain further fuel savings.
Driving More Efficiently
By far the easiest way to save fuel is to modify your driving style. You can improve your fuel efficiency in several ways:
- Drive calmly and smoothly. Aggressive, stop-start driving is a guaranteed way to waste fuel. At higher speeds, aggressive driving can reduce fuel efficiency by as much as a third. If you’re always racing at the traffic lights and slamming the brakes you will increase fuel consumption as well as reduce the longevity of your car’s components.. Another practical consideration is to avoid rush hour if possible, and try your best to maintain a constant speed – being gentle on both acceleration and braking.
- Don’t drive too quickly. Fuel efficiency actually drops off considerably when you reach 90 km/h. You should stay under this speed where possible, and remember that if you drive at 110 km/h your vehicle is 25 percent less efficient than at 90km/h.
- Don’t idle. Whilst starting your engine does use up more fuel than when it’s running, in many cases it’s probably still better to deactivate the engine when it’s not in use. If you’re held up for a while and you aren’t moving, consider stopping the engine. There is also no need to “warm” your car up before you set off, simply start the engine and go. Otherwise you’ll probably just waste fuel.
- Stay in the right gear. Being in a lower gear gives you more power when you accelerate, but it also wastes your fuel. However, when you need the extra power (when you’re going uphill, for example) it’s better to use a lower gear than struggle in a higher one. Change up a gear when you hit 2,500 revs on petrol cars and 2,000 in diesels.
Maintaining Your Car
Keeping your car in shape can also maximise the amount you get from your fuel:
- Get your car serviced regularly. This prevents any issues going undiscovered and damaging your fuel efficiency. For example, a broken oxygen sensor can improve your fuel efficiency by 40 percent.
- Keep your tyres inflated. Check your tyres regularly to ensure they’re inflated to the right pressure. Flat tyres can actually be dangerous as well as inefficient. With a properly inflated tyre you get the benefit of better handling, less wear on your tyres and cost savings.
- Minimise air conditioning use. The trade-off between the drag created by driving with your windows open and the fuel use of air conditioning units gets complicated, but generally speaking your car will consume less fuel if the air conditioning is not in use.
- Don’t overload your car. More weight equals more fuel, so don’t lug anything around that you don’t need. If you drive a 4WD do you really need 2-3 spare tyres when taking the kids to school in the morning that you had from last year’s camping trip?
- Planning Your Trips. If you plan your trips carefully you can minimise your fuel usage. Your GPS might even be able to assist you in better planning your trips so you’re taking the most direct route for long journeys. Remember, however, that city driving (or constant stopping and starting) uses more fuel, so sometimes the shortest route may not result in the use of less fuel. For short journeys, consider whether you can walk, ride a bike or combine several errands into one trip. Not only does walking for shorter journeys make sense, it also reduces your fuel efficiency considerably. The catalytic converter needs to “warm up” to operate properly, so your car will pollute more. Diesel is slightly more fuel efficient than petrol (especially biodiesel).
- Choose an Efficient Vehicle if You Can. Finally, if you have the option, you can give yourself the best chance of saving fuel by checking the Fuel Consumption guide before you buy a car. All new cars sold in Australia should be listed on Green Vehicle Guide, telling you both the level of emissions you’ll get and the number of litres of fuel used per 100 km of driving. Lower numbers are an indication of lower fuel consumption. You may also like to explore the benefits of electric or hybrid (which combines both electric power and petrol/diesel) models, because they’re highly efficient – simply recharge an electric car and it’s ready to go.