Easing the pain of the rising cost of driving

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Rising fuel prices are something drivers now take for granted.

But that doesn’t mean we have stopped noticing the cost of filling up at the petrol pump.

A litre of unleaded will now cost you a minimum of £1.30 in Northamptonshire and you can’t get a litre of diesel for less than £1.40.

New research out this week suggests the rising cost of petrol will mean that many drivers will give up using their car.

The cost of petrol has more than doubled in the last ten years and one in five drivers say they will stop using their car if prices go up any further.

Research by insurance broker Hastings Direct has found 78 per cent of motorists have changed how often they drive as a result of fuel prices and 20 per cent say that if prices rise to £2 a litre, they will stop using their car altogether. A further 12 per cent said they would switch to a hybrid or electric car at this point.

Nearly three quarters of drivers have already cut back as a result of steep petrol prices. Almost half of drivers have cut back by at least 25 miles per week, while nearly a third have reduced their driving by more than 50 miles a week.

But AA president Edmund King says even higher prices are on the way. He said: “Motorists are going to have to get used to seeing prices creeping up.”

Here we offer eight tips for driving more fuel-efficiently and therefore more cheaply.

Maintenance

Your car uses less fuel when the engine is running efficiently.

That means getting it serviced regularly, ideally every year, and using the right specification of engine oil.

You should also keep a close eye on your tyres. Under-inflated tyres create more rolling resistance and so use more fuel, so you should check your tyre pressure regularly, especially before long journeys.

Don’t idle

This sounds simple, but don’t start the engine until you’re ready to set off.

When you get in the car, put your seatbelt on, adjust the mirrow or change the CD before you turn on the ignition.

Idling wastes fuel and the engine warms up more quickly – and more efficiently – when you’re moving.

This tip is particularly important in winter. It may be tempting to de-ice a frosty windscreen by leaving the engine running and the blow heaters turned up to max, but it’s far more efficient to get out the ice scraper and do it yourself.

Lose weight

We’re not talking about your waistline but your boot.

Many of us carrying things round in the boot of our car that we don’t really need, yet extra weight means the engine has to work harder and therefore use more fuel.

You should also get rid of the roof rack if you’re not using it. Roof racks and boxes add wind resistance and so increase fuel consumption.

Slow and steady

Driving smoothly with gentle acceleration and braking is not only good driving, it’s also better for your petrol tank.

When you have to slow down or stop, decelerate smoothly by coming off the accelerator, leaving the car in gear.

If you can keep the car moving all the time, so much the better. Stopping then starting again uses more fuel than rolling.

No coasting

In older cars, you could save fuel when you’re rolling downhill or approaching a junction by taking the car out of gear.

However, this practice isn’t very safe as you lose the ability to suddenly accelerate out of tricky situations.

But in modern cars, you can leave the car in gear and take you foot off the accelerator and the car cuts the fuel supply to the injectors.

Top gear

Without labouring the engine, choose as high a gear for your speed as possible.

You should change up at an engine speed of about 2,000rpm in a diesel car or 2,500rpm in a petrol car. Your handbook will tell you the optimum engine speed for your car.

There is talk of fitting all cars in the future with a gear shift indicator to show the most efficient gear change points because this can make such a difference to fuel usage.

Turn it off

Air conditioning uses more fuel, less so at high speed but certainly when you are driving around town.

If it’s a hot day roll down the windows and save the air con for high-speed driving.

Turning off the heated rear windscreen, de-mister blowers and headlights when they are not needed can also save you money on fuel.

Slow down

The harder you press the gas, the more money you’re spending on fuel.

Driving at 70mph uses nine per cent more gas than at 60mph and up to 15 per cent more than 50mph.

Cruising at 80mph can use up to 25 per cent more fuel than sticking to 70mph.

Traffic jam

If you’re caught up in a bad traffic jam, avoid wasting fuel by switching off the engine.

As a general rule, if you are likely to be stopped for more than three minutes, it is more fuel-efficient to turn off the engine and start it up again when you do move than to leave it running.