How to beat record petrol prices!

Szu Ping Chan
by Lovemoney Staff Szu Ping Chan on 06 January 2011  |  Comments 17 comments

Petrol prices may be heading towards new record highs, but there are ways you can limit the damage.

How to beat record petrol prices!

2011 has not started well for the nation's motorists, with petrol prices rocketing once again. The average price for a litre of petrol has risen to a new record of £1.27, thanks to a combination of spiralling oil costs and the increase in VAT.

And while the Government has once again started making noises about making things a bit easier for beleaguered drivers, in the possible form of a 'fair fuel stabiliser' - a way of subsidising fuel prices - it's probably only a matter of time before petrol breaks through the £1.30 a litre barrier.

However, it is possible to cut the cost of petrol. Here are five measures you can take to help reduce your petrol bill...

1. Hunt down cheap petrol

A handy web tool for locating cheap petrol is petrolprices.com; a simple to use, free website dedicated to finding cheap fuel in your area.

The site lists more than 11,000 petrol stations up and down the country, with prices updated regularly.

You will need to register your details to gain access to the service. But after that, all you need to do is enter your postcode, state how far you're willing to travel, and the site will list a range of cheap petrol stations in your area for unleaded, diesel, and even LPG fuel.

It even has its own iPhone app now for when you're out and about!

2. Make filling up pay you

As well as saving money directly on your petrol costs, it might also make sense to get a credit card which rewards you for filling up. For example, the AA Credit Card Visa lets you earn reward points and every time you pay for motoring purchases, such as petrol, you'll earn double points. You can then exchange these points on everything from car insurance and maps to high street vouchers and cash. The AA credit card also offers 12 months interest-free on all purchases!

Rachel Robson takes a look at which car brands come out best in terms of value for money.

Alternatively, why not get a cashback credit card instead? For example, the American Express Platinum credit card currently offers 5% cashback (up to £100) on all purchases for the first three months, and up to 1.25% cashback thereafter.

3. Lighten the load

One common sense tip which could potentially cut hundreds off your bill is to remove unnecessary items from your car.

Taking off a roof rack you don't need, or unloading a few surplus items from your boot could make a world of difference, as according to insurance provider Swiftcover, a 100kg load reduces mileage by up to five miles per gallon.

In addition, the RAC advises drivers to ensure your tyres are pumped to the correct level, as driving with soft tyres can add a further 2% to your fuel bill.

However, if like me, you don't know your tread from your traction, Kwik-Fit offers some handy tips on how to look after your wheels, such as the importance of inflating them to the correct pressure and how to maintain them on a day to day basis.

You can even check the correct pressure for your own car simply by inputting your registration number on the website.

4. Be an optimal driver

Nobody likes a backseat driver telling you how to run your car. However, by making your driving a little smoother, you could knock a substantial amount off your petrol costs. In fact, according to the RAC, simple measures such as avoiding sharp braking and accelerating could shave as much as 30% off your bill.

In addition, according to Swiftcover, driving like a boy racer could end up costing you more than you bargained for. The insurer says that 55 - 65mph is typically the most fuel efficient speed for driving. Any faster, and fuel consumption increases.

Related how-to guide

Buy a car for less

A car is a significant purchase. Take your time and ensure that you get the best possible deal.

Limiting your air conditioning use is another measure you can take to help save money. Now I'm not suggesting you should swelter in your car to save a few pennies, but bear in mind that depending on the car you drive, turning off the air conditioning when not absolutely necessary cuts around 8% off your fuel bill.

5. Ditch your car!

If you're willing to go one step further, you could slash your fuel bill by 100% by ditching your car completely!

Admittedly, for most car owners this is simply not an option, but next time think about whether you actually need your car for those short journeys before simply hopping in.

And, if you only really need a car for those essential trips, why not think about going halfway and joining a car club or sharing scheme in your area?

Car clubs let you hire brand new or recent models, parked in reserved spaces near where you work or live, while car sharing schemes involve one person driving their own car, with other passengers chipping-in towards the running costs.

Both options often require quite a bit of research to find a scheme which suits you, and won't be suitable for everyone. However, according to research, getting rid of your car altogether and joining a car club could save you more than £2000 a year.

So, hopefully these tips will assist you in keeping your petrol costs down.

This is a lovemoney.com classic article, originally published in 2008 and updated.

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Comments (17)

  • Chorlton1
    Love rating 61
    Chorlton1 said

    Using cruise control on clear roads for long motorway journeys saves a considerable amount and also your license as your speed fluctuates less eratically than if you were controlling the cars speed manually.

    Report on 06 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • mikex
    Love rating 13
    mikex said

    I'll add to Chorlton1's comment. I have a Citroen C5, don't carry too much in the boot, no roof rack. I now use the car only for journeys to visit the family, both reached by motorway. I always set my cruise control for 60mph, traffic permitting, and, on this car, it is possible to set the suspension to a sport setting, which lowers the car fractionally, and reduces drag. I also have the choice of automatic transmission or (electronic) manual. The car is marginally more efficient starting off using automatic, and slipping over to manual on the motorway. You can then see that the car is running in 6th gear. The car has a 2 litre diesel engine, I keep climate control set to 21 degrees, and regularly achieve close to 50 mpg. Not bad for a large family car. I have a bus pass, so use this for local journeys.I keep a spreadsheet detailing all costs, including depreciation, insurance and repairs, in addition to fuel; this runs to around 55p per mile. Quite an eyeopener. Unfortunately, I am disabled, so need a vehicle, and my family are not on the doorstep, so I need a car to visit them and keep in touch.

    Report on 10 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • RocketSteve
    Love rating 32
    RocketSteve said

    Not using the air-con can be a false economy. If you don't use it very often the seals can dry out and the system fail. To have it repaired and regased would more than negate the money saved, plus you don't have the comfort.

    It's way over due that the government were brought to task over the extortion of fuel duty. I like the system in the USA were tax is shown all the time, like its a bad thing, but not the fact they add it after.

    Report on 10 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • Ted
    Love rating 8
    Ted said

    When I use cruise control the fuel consumption deteriorates.

    Report on 10 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • GiMac
    Love rating 0
    GiMac said

    Well having read this article I ran to my I-phone to get the petrolprices.com app, as it sounded like a good & useful thing to have, only to find two things. Although their website is free to use after registration, as the article above states, the i-phone app appears to cost £2.99 per annum (not just a one off cost) not only that but reading the reviews for the app they are not very good at all, comments like "con", "waste of money", "ripped off", "absolutely useless!", "doesn't work", "out of date data" etc don't paint a pretty picture and with an iphone user rating of only 1.5 out of 5 this is one of the lowest ratings I have ever seen for a paid for iphone app. Therefore I for one am out!

    Report on 10 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • wally144
    Love rating 26
    wally144 said

    I always ensure that my tyres are at the correct pressure, and always use my cruise control when driving on the motoways. I have a 2.2 litre Mercedes E class diesel, and always achieve 52mpg on the motorway with the cruise set at 71mph. It seems a strange speed to set the cruise at, but I have had the car for 8 years and 140,000 miles, and have found through experience that the best economy is had at 71mph.

    It is still surprising to me that a large car like the E class can obtain such good mileage. It also continues to surprise me that people rush past me in the passing lanes doing over 80mph, and even more. Their fuel economy must be abysmal!

    Report on 10 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • sludgeguts
    Love rating 56
    sludgeguts said

    "55-65mph is typically the most fuel-efficient speed"

    Well, that all depends on what you are driving and how you drive. I used to own a PUG pickup with a 2.3 oil burner under the bonnet & keeping the needle at 50 gave the best economy, any faster & the fuel guage really moved.

    I currently have a Fiat Doblo 1.9jtd & optimal fuel economy comes from a number of measures - magnets on the fuel line, adding waste veg oil to the tank & not thrashing the engine all help to give me an average 45mpg around town.

    By filtering waste veg oil, I am, basically, getting 90 miles of free motoring per tankful - as fuel prices increase I'll be adding more to the mix.

    It really is about time us motorists saw some real improvements in terms of fuels. LPG has been around for decades and yet it is still a rarety to see a filling point. Diesel introduced his revolutionary engine to the world running on peanut oil and yet motorists are often actively discouraged from using veg oil in diesels.

    Look on youtube & we can see cars running on compressed air and even water but look around the UK and the best we can buy is a glorified bumper car that does about 100 miles per charge.

    Every other facet of our lives has seen vast improvements over the past few decades - I have more computing power in my mobile phone than i had in my first home computer, I could kill a person almost 2 miles away with a single bullet & 2000 miles away with remote aircraft but my car engine still relies on a fuelresource which is rapidly dwindling.

    Report on 10 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • alol
    Love rating 3
    alol said

    To wally144 - in those cars passing you (and me) quite possibly are company car users - they don't give a damn about fuel economy - their fuel is free :(

    Report on 10 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • moneybags
    Love rating 0
    moneybags said

    Petrol ought to cost at least 10 pounds a gallon and public transport should be free - as with the bus passes - but for everyone. With a reliable railway and small electric cars for local journeys ~ we could stop climate change tomorrow. And with all that extra tax on petrol there would be no need for any public spending cuts.

    Replacing your fossil fuel car with an Emerge will save you millions over your lifetime. With freedom from fuel nobody can stop you. It´s enough saving to pay for a country and western cruise every year forever !

    We Enjoy saving money ~ this is a great site ~ thank you.

    And I closed my current account a long time ago :) lol !

    Report on 10 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • balzac
    Love rating 0
    balzac said

    Hi, Moneybags, I think you are not cynical enough!

    Not only are the reserves of petrol gigantic and not diminishing as we are told, for instance , if you dig a little , you will find that the Falklands are an untapped reservoir [does it make you wonder why the war happened?...] but Canada's soil would be a good source as well and there is much more about!!! So why do they do what they do?                                                       

    As for climate change, you will learn a lot about what is / is NOT happening if you read Michael Creighton "State of Fear".You will also be enlightened if you watch any of the Utube videos on Chemtrails!!!!!!!

    Have a great day!

    Report on 10 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • leah AKA global leah
    Love rating 17
    leah AKA global leah said

    Balzac, THANK YOU VERY MUCH for mentioning Mr Crichton's book, I have read it myself and I have told people sooo many times about the so call global warming. Fact is, Michael Crichton DOES a lot of researches while he's writing his books, so even though it is fictional, it also tells the truth at the same time.

    I wish I could "ditch" my car and use public transports to go to work, but unfortunately what takes me up to half an hour driving time, would make me having to use more than 3 hours to get to work by using public transport, which would mean I leave home five days a week before 7am, and doesn't get home until 9pm.

    I do admit the petrol prices is atrocious at the moment, but as I don't have any colleges that work at the same place as me lives as far as I do, I cannot do things such as car sharing or use public transport OR cycle to work. As my job is very physical, so biking for an hour before work would kill me before I even start!

    What I DON'T do is go to the shop in car when it's only a 5 minutes walk away, but since my local shop shuts at 8pm, if I had run out of such as milk, I have to drive 2 miles to the local supermarket, again, it is something that's not really optional for me to not to use my car, but I do try not to use it unless it is necessary, I guess I'm just one of those "unlucky ones" that does need a car rather than have one for luxuries.

    Report on 10 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • MK22
    Love rating 169
    MK22 said

    Not all fuels are the same even though they may appear to come from the same tanks at the teminal. Major oil company (BP, Shell, Esso, etc) fuels have additives that supermarket fuels don't (necessarily) have. If you can buy major oil company's fuel within 2p a litre of the price supermarket fuel and its not out of your way, always buy the major oil company's fuel.

    Otherwise I agree with this, including "ditch the car". What really annoys me is 50mph speeds limits on roads that would be perfectly safe at 70mph ('cos I'm old enough to have driven on them legally at 70+). 50 mph in my car = 5th gear whereas 60 mph = 6th gear and greater economy.

    Report on 11 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • CEL321
    Love rating 2
    CEL321 said

    Cruise control can easily increase fuel consumption. On a hilly road, cruise control will deccelerate on downhill sections to maintain set speed and then have to accelerate again on uphill sections.

    Under driver control the accerator pedal stays where it is, the car gains speed slightly going downhill and that momentum can assist in maintaining speed on the uphill.

    Report on 11 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • MK22
    Love rating 169
    MK22 said

    @CEL321 and when you are not using cruise control the speed camera at

    the bottom of the dip charges you £xxx and 3 points on your licence. lol

    Report on 12 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • billyboy121
    Love rating 18
    billyboy121 said

    Szu Ping, what a great article, thank you.

    sludgeguts said 'Every other facet of our lives has seen vast improvements over the past few decades - ....I could kill a person almost 2 miles away with a single bullet & 2000 miles away with remote aircraft' - not sure that I'd categorise that as a vast improvement in my life to be honest! I will definitely look at your advice on vegetable oils though, thanks for that

    GiMac said 'Well having read this article I ran to my I-phone to get the petrolprices.com app, ... Although their website is free to use after registration, as the article above states, the i-phone app appears to cost £2.99 per annum (not just a one off cost) not only that but reading the reviews for the app they are not very good at all....Therefore I for one am out!' - it sounds as though they've messed up on the iPhone app, but I wouldn't let that discourage you from being on their mailing list. That is free and it will be up to date when it is sent. I suspect that the iPhone app is designed to be up to date whenever used, which means constantly checking fuel prices in the area - that will take time, and therefore will cost money, hence the need for an annual charge. £2.99 is such a small amount that they're probably struggling to make it work as you'd need a fairly sizeable number of subscribers for that to be cost effective.

    Report on 13 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • ticktock
    Love rating 35
    ticktock said

    A number of the above sound a bit like the EX-Mayor who 'seemed' to hate the car. Petrol/Diesel prices are what people will pay, not because the Oil Companies don't make a profit.

    Anyone thinking of moving out of town needs to work on the basis that fuel prices will go up year on year (add 10%) and, it will get to £10 per gallon in the future.

    If most of us stopped driving a private car for 3 months, the petrol companies AND the Govt would lose money (not get the income) they might just reduce their price/tax to get us back into our cars.

    Report on 13 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves
  • roarers
    Love rating 7
    roarers said

    I'd like to endorse the idea of car sharing. I travel ~30 miles each way to the office and typically go in 4 days a week. I don't have the option of public transport, given the route. I've cut my total miles from 240 to 120 a week by finding someone to share the journey with. Half the miles = half the fuel, wear and tear, etc.

    I registered on http://www.liftshare.com although there may be other sites that work for your area. Try it!

    Report on 14 January 2011  |  Love thisLove  0 loves

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