Driver tips: fuel-efficient driving

We’re all more aware of green issues than ever before and making little changes to your daily life can help you to reduce your carbon footprint. Whether you commute to work every day or use your car for longer road trips, you can take simple steps to improve fuel efficiency, so that your vehicle is kinder to the planet and saves you money on fuel.

Of course, the car you buy is the main factor which affects fuel consumption, so choosing an eco-friendly vehicle is a great place to start. But there are plenty of other things you can do to really make a difference when it comes to fuel-efficient driving. According to the AA, you could save between 10 and 33% on your weekly fuel bills by adopting smarter driving tips, with an average improvement in MPG of 15%. That’s a saving of up to £230 a year on your fuel bills and a reduction in carbon dioxide output of 400kgCO2.

New drivers who are still getting used to their vehicles and the open road may be more likely to drive aggressively, braking hard and increasing their speed more often. If you’ve just passed your test (congratulations!) then these tips will help you to smooth your driving habits and boost your vehicle’s fuel-efficiency.

Before setting off

There are some things you can do before you even hit the road to boost your average MPG:

Lighten the load: Remove boxes and roof racks if you’re not using them – these can add wind resistance to your car that burns fuel faster. Take anything you don’t need out of the boot, or you could find yourself using more fuel on the road.

Plan your route: Use a sat-nav or map to plan new journeys so you don’t waste fuel getting lost, and check traffic news for delays and roadworks before you hit the road.

Organise your time: Try combining short trips such as popping to the hairdressers or picking up milk from the corner shop – remember that cold starts use more fuel.

On the road

These tips will help you improve your driving to ensure you have the most fuel-efficient journey:

Drive smoothly: Take time to assess the road ahead of you and avoid aggressive driving. Hard braking and ‘jackrabbit’ starts can increase fuel consumption by up to 40% as well as raising emissions. Accelerate gently and brake smoothly. Where possible, use the gears to help you slow down.

Feel the breeze: You want to stay cool when driving in summer, sure. But at low speeds, air conditioning can increase fuel consumption, becoming less noticeable when travelling at 60mph or above. If you’re on a short trip around town, wind your windows down and turn the AC off. Hitting 60mph or above on the motorway? Close your windows and use the air con for better fuel economy.

Use your gears wisely: Don’t linger too long in low gears – move your way up smoothly through the gears, changing gear ideally before you hit 2,500 rpm in each level. Get into the highest gear for the current speed as soon as possible: driving in a lower gear than you need can waste fuel.

Obey the speed limit: Did you know that driving faster can significantly impact how much fuel you use, as well as your vehicle’s CO2 emissions? Cruising at 80mph burns up to 25% more fuel than driving at 70mph, whilst driving at 70mph could use as much as 9% more fuel than sticking to 60mph.

Switch off your electricals: Always forgetting to turn off your heated rear windscreen? Electrical loads can lead to increased fuel consumption, so make sure you turn off your head lights, demister blowers and other electrics when not needed.

Unplug your accessories: If you regularly plug accessories such as your smartphone, sat-nav or MP3 player into your cigarette lighter, make sure you turn them off and remove them before you shut off the ignition. Failing to do so means the load on your engine is increased the next time you start up, increasing fuel consumption.

Use cruise control: If your vehicle has cruise control, it’s a good idea to use this on motorways and long, straight stretches of road, to help maintain a steady speed (avoid that right foot going down too heavily). However, make sure you turn it off on steep hills as it could increase fuel consumption.

Vehicle maintenance

Regular vehicle maintenance can play a part in the fuel-efficiency of your vehicle, so bear these tips in mind:

Check your tyres are properly inflated: Under-inflated tyres use more fuel as they increase rolling resistance – in fact, your fuel consumption could increase by up to 6% if you don’t keep an eye on tyre pressure. Check them regularly, ideally at least once a month and always before long journeys.

Service your vehicle regularly: Maintaining the efficiency of your car’s engine starts with having your car serviced regularly and it’s a good idea to follow the manufacturer’s schedule. You could find you’re using up to 50% more fuel if your engine isn’t running optimally.

Once you’ve got the hang of all these tips and tricks, and get into the good driving habits, you will see the difference in your cumulative fuel usage (and the fill-up bills!). You may even find it reduces your driving stress, and makes cruising more of a pleasure.