Petrol prices to hit £1.20 a litre!
Petrol prices are set to rocket, and could even reach new records by the New Year!
Drivers often feel like a persecuted bunch, and that feeling is only likely to increase with the news that petrol prices are about to hit £1.20 a litre by the August Bank Holiday.
According to RMI Petrol, the association that represents around two-thirds of Britain's petrol forecourts, the increasing cost of crude oil will lead to a 4p jump in the coming weeks. Filling up a tank of an average car will now cost British families £7 more than it did a year ago.
What's more, other analysts have warned petrol costs will inevitably pass the previous record of 121.6p a litre by the New Year. It's all looking pretty grim for those of us who rely on our cars.
So if the costs of filling up your car are on the rise, what can you do to lessen the blow?
Shop around for fuel
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. The AA offers a 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.
John Fitzsimons looks at a brilliant new credit card which is a must-have for drivers.
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 fuel.
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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.