Cut your petrol costs by a third
Petrol prices are set to rocket to a record high of £1.20 a litre in the next few weeks. Check out Mark Adams' top tips on cutting the cost of fuel.
If you're already sick of handing over wads of cash at the petrol pump, I have some bad news.
The AA said on Tuesday that petrol prices could hit a record high of £1.20 within the next few weeks, following a 17% rise in the cost of wholesale petrol in the past month. With a 3p increase in petrol duty also set to take place on April 1st, and the average family already paying £52 more a month on petrol than a year ago, motorists are feeling the pinch.
Luckily, a few simple tricks could help you cut your overall fuel spend by a much as a third. Here's how it's done.
Your first step should be the obvious act of shopping around for the cheapest petrol. Price comparison website petrolprices.com will help you locate the lowest-priced fuel in your area. All you have to do is register your details then input your postcode: the site will then locate the lowest prices for petrol, diesel and even LPG fuel near to where you live. Small savings can soon add up if you're filling up your tank - but do bear in mind that driving five miles out of your way will eat into any savings you make!
It's also worth checking petrol offers at your local supermarket - the big retailers often sell heavily-subsidised fuel to help coax us inside their stores.
Get cash back when you pay at the pump
The big petrol firms and motoring organisations are using loyalty schemes operated through own-branded credit cards to help secure our returning custom - and used in the right way, they can see you being paid to fill up. This month the AA launched its Rewards Credit Card, which offers members reward points which are the equivalent of 2% cashback for motoring purchases (including fuel) and 1% cashback on other purchases. Non-members get 1% off motoring purchases while the card also offers 0% on balance transfers for 12 months.
Shell operates a 'driver's club' loyalty card from its stations - you receive 50 bonus points on registration and additional points every time you fill up. Points can be exchanged for money off at the pump - 500 points gains you £2.50 off your total fuel spend. This replaces the Shell Mastercard which offered 3% cashback on fuel purchases. Supermarket credit cards are also worth investigating - the Asda Rewards Credit Card offers the equivalent of 2p off each litre every time you fill up at one of their stores.
There's a great new credit card which allows you to earn extra cash when you're doing your petrol shopping.
Be a smarter driver
The way you drive can also affect your petrol spend - and a few good habits can bring down your fuel bills significantly. Switching to a more fuel-efficient driving style is easy and the first step is to watch your speed. Driving fast and crunching through the gears without mercy can see your fuel consumption soar. Insurer Swiftcover says that 55 - 65mph is typically the most fuel efficient speed for driving. Any faster and consumption increases dramatically.
Be a patient driver and step off the accelerator whenever possible. When slowing down or driving downhill, remain in gear but take your foot off the accelerator early. This reduces fuel flow to the engine to virtually zero. Check your revs regularly too - change up before 2,500rpm (petrol) or 2,000rpm (diesel) as you move through the gears. Always drive off from cold: modern cars are designed to move straight away. Warming up the engine just wastes fuel - and actually causes engine wear
Finally, if you can do so safely, kill the engine when appropriate. Figures from the AA show that a car gets through 15-25ml of fuel every minute on tickover. If you're halted by 15 traffic lights on your morning commute, and you average a one-minute stop at each, that's three-quarters of a litre burnt daily without purpose.
Plan your journeys
One simple common sense measure can help bring down your petrol spend even further and save you time too. A cold engine uses almost twice as much fuel and catalytic converters can take five miles to become effective. The reason? It's mainly down to the chilly oil, which hasn't yet warmed and thinned to properly lubricate the moving bits. So there's lots more friction, and to overcome that the engine demands greater amounts of ffuel. To keep fuel consumption down when you've several stops to make, go to the furthest destination first and try and use other forms of transport for shorter journeys if you can.
Streamline your car
What you really need to bolster your fuel efficiency is a light car that's properly serviced. To that end, keep an eye on your tyre pressure - tyres underinflated by 10% will suffer a 2.5% rise in fuel consumption, so check them regularly.
Accessories such as roof racks, bike carriers and roof boxes significantly affect your car's aerodynamics and reduce fuel efficiency, so remove them when not in use. Stow the seats when you're driving alone and clear any heavy junk from the boot too (although not the spare tyre!). The US Department of Energy has calculated that an each 50kg of weight increases your fuel consumption by 2%.
Finally, make sure you change the oil in your car regularly - dry engines use more fuel and compromise your safety on the road.
Get help from lovemoney.com
If you need a bit of help cutting your driving costs, we can help.
First, adopt this goal: Cut your car costs.
Then, watch our video on the best value cars:
Rachel Robson takes a look at which car brands come out best in terms of value for money.
Then why not have a wander over to Q&A and ask other lovemoney.com members for hints and tips about what worked best for them?
This article has been updated from an earlier version published in 2009.