Are you spending too much money every year on driving? With petrol prices currently surpassing £1.60 a litre, the highest in almost a decade, it’s no wonder many of us are searching for ways to reduce our petrol costs and keep to a healthy motoring budget.
Why is Petrol so Expensive in the UK?
When we all pulled up to the petrol pump and saw prices earlier this year averaging almost £2 a litre, it’s easy to ask ourselves why petrol has become so expensive? The answer is not a simple one. Global demand for oil, limited supply, lockdowns, war in Eastern Europe and political instability all play a role in driving up petrol (and diesel) prices. Additionally, taxes and production costs also contribute to the high cost of fossil fuel. However, it’s important to consider that while the price of petrol may fluctuate, the cost of extracting and refining petroleum is constantly on the rise. As alternatives such as electric vehicles become more popular, it’s likely that we will continue to see an increase in the price of traditional fuels. So next time you fill up your tank, remember that expensive petrol isn’t just a temporary inconvenience – it’s also a sign of shifting global trends.
When will fuel prices drop?
It is difficult to say with certainty, as the cost of fuel is determined by a variety of factors including global supply and demand, crude oil prices, politics as well as currency exchange rates. However, experts predict that there could be some relief for motorists in the near future.
When that might be is down to the war ending in Ukraine, Russian oil being allowed to sold to the West again and consumer demand dropping to help bring the price of a barrel of oil down further.
In the meantime, fuel prices in the UK hit an all time high in July 2022 and whilst the British government reduced fuel duty by 5p a litre back in March 2022, it hasn’t seemed keen to deliver further cuts to motorists since then.
The best thing drivers can do is to keep an eye on fuel prices and fill up when they see a good deal. Additionally car sharing, cycling and using public transportation can also help lessen the impact of fuel costs on your budget.
With that in mind we’ve written this post to highlight everything you need to know about saving money on petrol and drive down motoring costs in 2023. Read on to find out more.
Cut Fuel Costs by Shopping Around
Perhaps the most obvious way to reduce costs is by making sure the petrol or diesel you buy is cheaper in the first place. However, with fuel prices skyrocketing in 2022, this is likely to be a challenge – but not an impossible one.
PetrolPrices.com is a free app which locates the cheapest fuel options in your area. You can use this savvy tool on the go but be careful not to counteract the benefits by driving too far out of your way to get a good deal – the more petrol you use to get to the station, the more money you spend.
It is also wise to avoid filling up the tank on motorway service stations as prices there are notoriously more expensive than in more local (or independent) petrol stations.
The supermarkets are your best bet for getting the lowest price on fuel. The big chains like Tesco and Sainsbury offer deals with discounts just by signing up to their loyalty programs! If you’re looking at filling up often then this is an easy way save some money in addition too all those other benefits they provide as well. Forget what you’ve heard, supermarket fuel is just as good as any other as it has to meet legal minimums in the UK, though it’s not always cheaper so do check you’re getting the best price!
For the average car, you will not get better miles per gallon by spending extra on “premium” or higher octane fuel. This is because studies suggest that these types of vehicles do not need them and it just wastes money, unless you’re the owner of a high powered Porsche in which case you may benefit from them.
If you are considering buying a new or used car, there are some things to think about if you want to ensure it is a cost effective investment:
Check the cost of road tax – The rates for road tax will vary depending on the vehicle’s CO2 emission levels and fuel type. Typically the lower the CO2 output the less tax you’ll have to pay.
Check the cost & group of the car insurance – High performance cars will usually be more tempting for thieves, attract a certain type of enthusiastic driver or be more expensive to repair so will therefore cost more to insure.
Take the fuel efficiency of vehicle (MPG) into consideration – The number of miles that a car can cover on a gallon of fuel can be determined by using an online MPG calculator. Typically the faster the car the more fuel you’ll use to power the engine. If you want to save costs look at engines below 1500 litres cc, many of them will offer far greater fuel efficiency than larger engine, making the pound in your pocket go that much further. Think carefully about your exact needs, do you really need that 200bhp sporty hatchback? A 120bhp modern engine can be just as much fun and many offer a decent punch during acceleration without the more expensive running costs. Many manufacturers make sporty looking models with smaller, more efficient engines, for example Ford with its Fiesta ST Line and Skoda with its hatchback, the Fabia Monte Carlo.
Three cylinders vs. four – Being relatively new, three cylinder engines have been designed to be a lot more economical than their 4 cylinder counterparts. Many car manufacturers have moved over to these platforms, certainly on smaller engines so they’re worth considering to get far better mpg. Their only downside, due to the lack of one cylinder, is a slightly louder engine and rougher idling which some might not get along with.
Shop around for the best deal – It can be exciting buying a new car, and while it can be tempting to go for the first one you see, always keep your options open and search for the best deal. Most dealers will offer you a test drive in their most powerful and luxurious model in a bid to entice you to spend more, we say try to avoid the temptation. The more power the more fuel you’ll burn and this will definitely hit you in the pocket. Avoid adding too many options as well, come part exchange in a few years time the dealer won’t pay you any extra for these, though they’ll definitely add them “as an extra” when they sell your car on!
Buy a second hand motor – A sure way to keep the costs down is to buy a used car. If you go to a dealership, you may even be able to haggle the price down further; a customer of ours recently had almost £3000 taken off the price of a 4 year old Mini by a Mini main dealer – it’s just a matter of letting the sales person know you’re shopping around (and that you’ve done some research and know their competitors pricing). A 10 minute search on AutoTrader could help you save thousands!
Bigger isn’t always better – Large, luxury, SUV’s are still highly popular with British motorists but being bigger they weigh more, cost more to run, insure and service as well as attracting higher road tax rates. Think carefully before buying one. Do you really need a large SUV like a Volvo XC90 or BMW X5 sitting on your drive just to impress the neighbours? Many manufacturers now offer smaller SUV’s which are surprisingly economical, still offer plenty of space inside and are worth looking at. Ones to consider are the Skoda Kamiq, Seat Arona, Peugeot 2008 to name but a few.
Practice Economical Driving Habits
1) Drive in a consistently efficient manner
Maintaining a constant speed rather than regularly speeding up and slowing down is more economical and saves on petrol consumption. This is easier to do on motorways or dual carriageways than around town. Certainly harsh acceleration and braking is going to cost not only more in fuel but also in maintenance costs too.
Driving at 70mph instead of 60mph, for example, is estimated to use up to 9% more fuel. Similarly, driving at 80mph not only breaks the legal speed limit and is dangerous, but can use up to 25% more fuel than maintaining a steady speed of 70mph while on motorways.
For instance if we take our petrol powered Mini Cooper (with its 1.5 litre, 134 bhp, engine) we typically see these “real world” mpg figures whilst driving along the M4 motorway:
80 mph – 43 mpg – an estimated figure, we don’t drive at these speeds!
70 mph – 48 mpg
60 mph – 57 mpg
56 mph – 60 mpg
Also in the real world you’ll not save that much time by driving faster to your destination, you’ll typically have to deal with slower moving traffic – in front of you – holding you up whilst you wait to then speed up again. Best to keep it slow and steady for better overall mpg and enjoy the ride.
You’ll also want to consider changing into a higher gear earlier if in a manual or if in an automatic choose an “efficiency” mode over a “normal” or “sport” mode. Ideally keeping the revs low will help increase your car’s mpg but it does require you to look ahead and anticipate traffic and your next move(s).
2) Keep your tyres inflated
A tyre pressure which is both too low or too high can adversely impact your driving and cause your vehicle to consume more fuel. Tyres underinflated by 15psi generate more drag and can use up to 6% more fuel.
Your car’s instruction manual will list recommended tyre pressures to use and we recommend a weekly check with a tyre pressure gauge. It should only take a couple of minutes but it can help save you a good deal of money over the coming months.
3) Avoid driving with an empty or full fuel tank
Driving with an almost empty tank will cause your petrol to run out more quickly and could potentially lead to a breakdown.
It can also cause damage to your car’s fuel pump by sucking in dirt and debris from the bottom of the tank. Eventually your fuel pump will clog, and this could mean an expensive repair job.
Similarly, a tank that is full to the brim will be heavy and so will cause you to burn more fuel just by running the vehicle itself. Try and stick to half or three quarters of a tank and your car will run much more efficiently.
We’ve also had a number of customers comment that they set a fixed budget to around £45 a week and look to stick to that by “hypermiling” and planning their journeys in advance in a bid to avoid wasted trips. This has seemingly helped them avoid having to pay for more fuel most weeks as costs rise and as one client of ours states “a little pre-scheduling goes a very long way!”
4) Avoid traffic jams where possible
Even a small car with an idling engine in a traffic jam can use up to 2 litres of petrol in an hour and emit over 5.26kg of CO2.
To save both money and time, avoid congestion where possible by planning ahead and try to avoid rush hour and busy routes. Apps like Google Maps can help if you check them before you go. Some cars have the in-car ability to legally use Google whilst on the road and can redirect you on the move, but it’s not generally available in cars before 2017. If you do find yourself stuck in traffic, you might want to turn the engine off to save on petrol and reduce carbon dioxide emissions, though do bear in mind this can put an extra drain on your car battery certainly during colder months.
It might be an idea if you plan to drive into a city to find the nearest park and ride and let public transport take you in and out to avoid the worst of the traffic. Sounds more expensive but you’ll also save on emission zone charges (certainly more of these in the future) and expensive car parking tariffs.
5) Switch off heating and cooling accessories
Using electrically powered heating and cooling accessories is going to reduce your MPG so it pays to switch them off when not in use. With air conditioning you can switch it off but set your car’s ventilation system to recycle, allowing the cold air in the system back into your cabin to help save on fuel. Likewise with heated steering seats or wheels you’ll want to turn them off once they’ve warmed up to get better MPG.
6) Reduce the weight and drag of of your car
We’re not suggesting you rip out your back seats (!) but we are highlighting many drivers do seemingly drive round with heavy items stored in their boot or keep the roof and or cycle rack left on (yes we know it’s a pain removing it and putting it back). A roof rack seriously disrupts the streamlined shape of your car; removing it could get you 25% better fuel efficiency!
Not only will an electric car mean not having to pay for fuel, but most zero emissions electric cars do not (yet) pay UK road tax which can save you hundreds of pounds a year. However with the cost of electricity seriously escalating it might pay to consider how much of a saving you’ll make – most will be negated as many electric cars cost a LOT more to buy and the government has seriously reduced the grants available. A hybrid version may be one to consider but it all depends on what you plan to use the car for.
MOT Checks and Servicing
Keeping your vehicle well maintained is key to saving money in the long run. Regularly regularly servicing your car is a great way to reduce the risk of a breakdown or expensive repair costs and ensure decent economy from a properly cared for engine. It will also give you peace of mind that your vehicle is road-safe too.
You are required by law to take your vehicle for an MOT three years after its registration and then once per year after that. Be sure to book your MOT in advance to avoid fines of up to £1,000 and extra points on your licence.
It’s useful to find an MOT Testing station that doesn’t charge for MOT retests if your car fails and you allow them to carry out the repair work needed, just make sure they are offering value for money.
Find the Best Car Insurance Deal
Car insurance can be expensive, particularly for younger drivers, and so finding the cheapest deal can save you money on your motoring from the start.
Use comparison sites such as Compare the Market for insurance quotes and consider having a black box fitted to bring the price of insurance down.
Other ways to make your car insurance cheaper include:
Take an Advanced Driving Course
Drive safe and protect your no claims bonus
Keep your car parked in a safe place at work and at home
Review your mileage, are you doing less than intended?
Increasing your insurance Excess
Dropping Legal Assistance (check if you have it with a credit card or on your home insurance)
Cancelling your No Claims Protection – not something we’d recommend but it will cut the cost of your insurance
Dropping from fully comprehensive to third party, fire and theft – though check as if your car is on finance you may have to be comprehensively insured
Book Your Next Service or MOT with Autocare Chepstow & SAVE!
Our highly qualified and specialist team have years of experience carrying our servicing, repairs and MOTs on a wide range of vehicles, including all electric and hybrid vehicles. and at highly competitive rates to save you money. For more information, get in touch or call us on 01291 627 137 to speak to a member of our team.
Watch this Video for more Information on Saving on Fuel Costs