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Save money at the pumps: fuel-efficient driving

We asked Tariq Musaji, a Which? Local-recommended driving instructor, to explain how we can cut fuel costs using ‘eco-driving’ techniques.

Vehicle fuel gauge

Basic vehicle maintenance

1. Engine oil

Not sure how to carry out these checks?

Watch our videos on basic car maintenance

Use a good quality oil which matches the specifications in your vehicle manual. Check the levels regularly to identify unusually quick usage early, preventing long-term engine problems.

2. Tyres

Check tyres for worn-out tread, bulges or lacerations. Consult the vehicle manual for the correct tyre pressure and use a reliable gauge to check this.

Over-inflated tyres can cause wear around the centre of the tyre, while under-inflation results in wear around the outer edge and poor fuel efficiency.

Possible saving:

The Department for Transport says that under-inflated tyres can increase your fuel consumption by up to 3%.

3. Servicing

Get the car serviced as regularly as the manufacturer recommends to maintain engine efficiency.

Before you set off

1. Remove excess weight

Unnecessary weight in the boot makes your car work harder and consequently uses more fuel. Remove anything you don’t need for your journey.

Carrying excessive fuel also adds weight and damages fuel efficiency. If you're driving short distances locally, consider filling up the tank just half or three quarters full.

Possible saving:

According to RAC, on average, every 50kg will increase your petrol consumption by 2%. This is based on the percentage of extra weight relative to the vehicle's weight so it affects smaller vehicles more than larger ones.

2. Prevent drag

A roof rack or box adds wind resistance, resulting in drag at high speeds on the dual carriageway or the motorway. If the roof rack or box is not being used, take it off.

Possible saving:

The RAC says that an unused roof rack can increase fuel use by as much as 10%

3. Leave straight away

Idling wastes fuel – don’t start the engine until you're ready to go.

On the road

1. Plan for the road ahead

One to avoid: coasting

Though thought of as an acceptable way to save fuel in the 1980s, coasting (driving in neutral or with the clutch depressed) is frowned upon today. Coasting means the car is effectively rolling, without engine braking, which is dangerous.

Look at the road ahead, as far as you can see, for any potential or developing hazards and take early action by easing off the gas pedal and braking gently.

By slowing down in good time, you’ll lessen wear to your tyres and brakes and conserve fuel.

Possible saving:

According to the Department for Transport, driving at 50 miles per hour instead of 70 miles per hour can improve fuel economy by 25%.

2. Easy on the gas

Use of the accelerator pedal, which is very sensitive, should be smooth and gentle.

3. Slow down in gear

Advances in engine and braking technology mean that it is no longer necessary to change down into lower gears to slow down.

Release the accelerator in good time to slow down smoothly and prevent unnecessary braking.

4. Change up gears earlier

Correct manual gear changes when speeding up, rather than labouring in the wrong gear, can have a significant impact on fuel efficiency.

When should I change gear?

Tariq says: "In a petrol engine, a gear change should be done at 2,000rpm. Diesel cars need to be worked a bit harder, say at 2,500rpm, before moving up a gear."

5. Drive at appropriate speed

Driving faster requires more fuel. Stick to the limits and considerable fuel savings can be achieved.

6. Cut unnecessary electricals and air con

Possible saving:

By changing your driving technique, you could improve your fuel efficiency by 30%, according to the RAC.

Don’t use the fan heater or air conditioning when they’re not needed, as they draw their power from the engine.

About our expert trader

Fuel efficient driving advocate Tariq Musaji from Farrah Driver Training Ltd

Tariq Musaji is a Driving Standards Agency-approved driving instructor and managing director of Buy With Confidence-endorsed Farrah Driver Training Ltd. The business is based in Wickford, Essex.

Tariq holds the Driving Standards Agency’s Grade 6 Fleet qualification (the highest grade awarded to professional driving instructors) and is a passionate advocate of fuel-efficient driving.

Read reviews for Farrah Driver Training Ltd