Petrol and diesel prices reached record highs in 2022, putting an added strain on motorists at a time when living costs are also on the rise.
But, thankfully, there are things you can do to improve your car's fuel economy, reducing the number of times you need to visit a fuel station.
We've provided some of the best ways to improve your miles per gallon and make your life on the road that little bit easier.
Drive more efficiently
Don’t worry, it’s not about driving at a snail’s pace – going slow can often mean lower gears and higher revs. Instead, simply driving smoothly is better for your fuel consumption.
In fact, most cars return the best economy at around 45-55mph. Driving too fast or too slow on a road where it’s legal and safe to travel at a higher speed can be detrimental to fuel efficiency.
Of course, it’s always best to drive at normal, legal speeds. But try to time gear changes to perfection, never rev madly to accelerate and avoid harsh braking by looking ahead and anticipating traffic conditions. See congestion ahead? Ease off the accelerator and slow naturally, rather than keeping the power on and braking close to the queue.
Choose the highest gear you can as often as you can and take your foot off the accelerator as frequently as possible.
Keep your car maintained
A car isn’t a living thing, so it won’t always tell you that something’s not right.
For a car to operate as close to the peak of its efficiency as possible, it’ll need to be serviced by a reputable mechanic according to the manufacturer’s required schedule.
Even tackling mechanical jobs like cleaning spark plugs and changing the engine oil can help fuel economy. Keeping on top of car maintenance in general will help your car perform at its best.
If you’re thinking of buying a car from us, cinchCare can be a great help in this regard.
Lighten your loads
We know it can’t always be helped, but your car will use more petrol or diesel if it’s packed to the brim.
Imagine you’re running with a giant rucksack on your back – it's hard work to reach higher speeds, right? Your car feels the same.
If you’re heading out on a road trip then you’ll likely be carrying a heavier load, but it’s a good idea to lose some weight off for everyday use.
Shedding your roof rack can help you achieve a better mpg, and do you really need that roof box? Essentially de-cluttering you car can make a big difference.
Consider the weight of fuel
Here’s one to ponder: you could save perhaps 1% of your fuel consumption by only half filling your car – because of the added weight of carrying a full tank of fuel.
Of course, if you have to drive 20 miles to fill up that saving may be undone by cost of the extra miles. Nevertheless, it’s worth considering whether visiting twice as many times and half filling will save you money overall.
Tracking your fuel costs and other car expenses is a good way to decide which changes will be most beneficial for you. Give it some trial and error until you see which tips suit your needs.
Use fewer gadgets
Every extra bit of power used by your car can make a small difference to fuel consumption. Sound systems, heater blowers and even lights may have a tiny negative effect on economy.
Most of us will consider those devices essential – but there's certainly a time and a place for them. Take air conditioning, for example. At low speeds, try opening the window instead to save that extra bit of fuel.
Does using the heating or aircon in my car use extra fuel?
Sadly, cranking up the heat in your car does use extra fuel, so you may want to cut down on your usage if your aim is to increase your mpg.
We don’t want to be one of those people, but layering up might be a better choice than reaching for the heated seat button if you really want to be efficient.
Turning on your air-conditioning can also use more fuel, but opening a window can also increase drag on your vehicle and drive up your fuel consumption.
You might want to experiment between the two and see which one offers a lower increase in fuel consumption.
Check your tyre pressures
Tyre pressure is easily one of the most common causes of poor fuel economy in cars.
The wrong pressure in a car’s tyres can be unsafe, speed up the rate at which they wear – and it can make your car use too much fuel.
Ever pedalled a bicycle with nearly flat tyres? It’s a right old workout. It’s the same thing when it comes to under-filled tyres on a car.
Best to keep an eye on pressures with a proper gauge, and make sure they’re topped up correctly as per the car manufacturer’s handbook.
Plan your route carefully
The most fuel-efficient roads aren’t slow city streets or quiet country roads – they’re motorways. They give the best chance of staying at a smooth constant speed in your highest gear, avoiding harsh braking and hard revving. It’s why satnavs often suggest using a motorway for a route even if it adds a few miles to the total journey.
Also, consider that a warm engine is much more fuel-efficient than one starting from cold. This means that one longer combined journey is better for your pocket than lots of little ones.
Find the cheapest garages
The difference between the highest and lowest fuel prices can be as much as 10%. That means you could save a tenth of your fuel bill by shopping around for the best prices.
It’s not as easy as it sounds though. Forecourt prices for different fuels change constantly due to the global market and local competitors.
The easiest way is to check your location with a specific comparison tool, and these are readily available online.
Of course, it’s best to avoid driving too far to save a few pence, because the added distance can quickly offset the saving at the pump. And be sure to plan journeys so you are never forced to fill up in a captive, high-price environment like motorway services.
Supermarkets often offer the cheapest fuel and vie with each other to compete for trade, hoping you will shop there, too. Don’t believe the myths about supermarket fuel quality – it’s the same stuff as other forecourts. And note that supermarkets usually offer loyalty point schemes.
Switch to an electrified car
Thanks to their use of electric motors alongside petrol or diesel engines, you're not entirely reliant on battery power. But, crucially, your engine's workload is significantly reduced, meaning it'll use much less fuel.
Hybrid cars to save fuel
There are three main types of hybrid car: mild hybrid (MHEV), hybrid and plug-in hybrid (PHEV).
The first is basically a petrol/diesel car with a tiny electric motor to slightly improve fuel efficiency, the second gets a bigger electric motor to have a bigger saving effect. While the third uses the most electric power, saving the most fuel and even offering the ability to drive for as many as 50 miles with the engine off.
As the name suggests, you need to charge a PHEV up overnight to achieve its best - but the result can be more than 100 miles per gallon of efficiency.
How to work out your average miles per gallon/mpg
You can get a proper insight into your fuel usage, and decide whether you need to make some changes to your driving habits, by calculating your mpg through your onboard computer:
Take a look at your average mpg and note it down
Reset your onboard computer to begin recording a fresh average
Start recording your mpg from various trips, to get an idea of how your vehicle performs in different circumstances.
If you haven’t got an onboard computer in your car, you can use a more manual method:
Record the starting mileage on your car the next time you fill up your tank with fuel
Keep an eye on your mileage and record how it increases until you next fill up
Record any extra fuel purchases so you have an accurate idea of what's going in and out of your car
Divide your total mileage since the first time you filled your car by the total number of litres of fuel that you’ve used, then multiply the result by 4.544
For example – if you’ve travelled 500 miles and used 50 litres of fuel, your calculation would be:
(500/50)x4.544 = 45.55mpg
Once you know how much fuel you use on a regular basis, you can start making adjustments and aim for a more efficient drive.