The ultimate guide to saving money on fuel

Caltex Fuel sign

There are a few things people take note of on a daily basis: The latest news, the weather forecast, local traffic conditions and, of course, petrol prices. The cost of fuel is often a topic of conversation, a frequent news piece that networks love to use to stir up our emotions; after all, which other product that we buy has a price that’s so unpredictable?

Finding the cheapest gas is a game we all play, some more successfully than others. Often our success is based on whether that little yellow fuel-gauge has lit up on our dashboard or not.
Plenty of myths abound on the internet, though. No, you won’t save by waiting until your tank is half full. No, it’s not better to fill up in the morning when the fuel us colder. Rather, keep in mind the following tips and tricks that we’ve compiled, and you’ll keep that coin in your pocket.

Plan Ahead

Every night the news features the best fuel prices, a handy segment, for sure. But unless you’re travelling near one of those cheapest locations, it doesn’t help you much. That’s where websites like Australia’s Fuel Watch come into their own.

By clicking on a home page map, you can determine the best price possible in your area, or one you’ll be travelling to. Because fuel prices are set the day before, you can plan your trip; all of the major capitals are covered.

But in general, is there a best day to buy fuel on? Well, that depends on where you live. Again, let’s use Australia as an example.

Perth’s fuel price cycle is distinctive – Wednesday is the day. Everywhere else seems to follow a general pattern with some exceptions. In Brisbane, it’s most likely to be Tuesday, where as Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, usually drop around Wednesday. To keep a close eye on pricing, visit the ACCC’s website to see how the cycle goes in each capital city.

Use Discount Vouchers

By shopping at one of the major supermarkets, you’re entitled to a discount on fuel at a participating petrol station. If you already shop there, why not use it?
Of course, there are a couple of caveats. It only really works if such a petrol station is close to your house, or if you’re always travelling past one. And unless you’re filling up a Toyota Prado from empty (150 litres or more), don’t bother with the notion of spending five dollars in store to save a further four cents – you’ll end up spending more than you save.

Keep it clean

It doesn’t matter whether you drive a car with the aerodynamics of a brick (like a Hummer) or if you’re driving the sleekest Jaguar, keeping your car clean will help it glide through the air more easily. Polish or wax your car every once in a while and it becomes more slippery, meaning a reduction in drag and less strain on the engine. Less power needed means less fuel used.

Service and maintain

A car with oil that hasn’t been changed for a while is not only a hazard to the engine’s health, but more wear and tear on a motor will mean more fuel gulped down. Keeping your car serviced regularly will keep it in top condition, and when it’s in tune, it’s running at its most efficient.

Even more critical, and something that most motorists need to pay more attention to, is tyre pressures. Each time you fill up your car, make sure the tyres are set at their correct pressures. If you’re doing a high-speed run through the country or along a freeway quite often, bump up the tyres to their max pressure. It reduces rolling resistance and friction (which both improve economy) and keeps the tyres cooler.

Drive Smarter

John and Helen Taylor have made their name performing economy driving feats which beggar belief. They’ve even got their name etched into the Guinness Book of World Records. So, what are their top tips for saving fuel?

  1. Preparation – Ensure the Vehicle is in top tune, by having it serviced regularly. Watch for black exhaust smoke, which indicates the engine is burning fuel needlessly. Check tyre pressures regularly. Soft tyres not only result in up to 5% of your fuel being wasted, they also wear out quicker.
  2. Attitude – Relax! Drive smoothly. Fast starts burn four times as much fuel as gentle acceleration. Observe the traffic flow ahead to avoid sudden braking.
  3. Plan Your Trip – Avoid peak hour traffic if possible and work out the most direct route before your journey commences. Using motorways, autobahns, uses less fuel than driving on suburban streets.
  4. Travel Light – Don’t carry excess weight by using the boot/trunk as a storage area, for tool boxes, etc. You are simply calling on extra effort from your engine every time you accelerate.
  5. Keep It Shut – Keeping windows closed improves your cars aerodynamic efficiency. An open window can increase fuel consumption by up to 5%. Remove roof racks if not being used, they cause significant air drag.
  6. Minimise Use Of Air Conditioning – Unless it’s freezing, or sweltering, keep the air conditioner off (fan is usually sufficient for cool or warm air flow into the vehicle). It is a major fuel thief in traffic, increasing fuel consumption by up to 10%.
  7. Go For The Higher Gears – Automatic transmissions know how to select a higher gear when you ease off the throttle. If you are using a manual car, go for the next gear as soon as the car can handle it, without lugging.
  8. Slow Down – If the cameras don’t catch you, your wallet will. Travelling at 90 kmph on the open road uses 25% less fuel than at 110 kmph in most cars.
  9. Turn Off – Don’t let your car idle unnecessarily in the morning, in major traffic hold ups, or when waiting for someone. Don’t rev the engine before switching off, it wastes fuel and contrary to popular opinion, doesn’t make it easier to start next time.
  10. Driving Ability – To be a successful economy driver, you need to be able to read the road ahead, have good concentration, understanding of your vehicle, and most importantly, the will to be a Winner, with dogged determination.

If you add all the above ten tips to your driving style, the Taylors reckon every driver has the ability to slash up to 20% off their weekly fuel bill. And who wouldn’t want that?

About Karl Peskett 435 Articles
A passionate writer, editor and driver, Karl is the go-to man when it comes to four wheels. With stints in television, radio, print and online, Karl has been writing about cars for more than a decade. He drives around 100 vehicles every year and has tested everything from Bugattis to Suzukis. Sometimes on track, sometimes off-road, his focus is on producing objective journalism without fear or favour.

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