How to get more out of the fuel you buy

When 50 AA employees took part in an eco-driving experiment with Auto Express magazine they saved an average 10% on their weekly fuel bills, with the best achieving an incredible 33% saving.

Each drove normally for the first week and then applied our advice (below) to see how much they could save in the second week...

Maintenance

  • Servicing: get the car serviced regularly (according to the manufacturer's schedule) to maintain engine efficiency
  • Engine oil: make sure you use the right specification of engine oil (check the handbook)
  • Tyres: check tyre pressures regularly and before long journeys; under-inflated tyres create more rolling resistance and so use more fuel (check the handbook and increase pressures for heavier loads as recommended)

Before you go

  • Lose weight: extra weight means extra fuel so if there's anything in the boot you don't need on the journey take it out
  • Streamline: roof-racks and boxes add wind resistance and so increase fuel consumption. If you don't need it take it off – if you do, pack carefully to reduce drag
  • Leave promptly: don't start the engine until you're ready to go as idling wastes fuel and the engine warms up more quickly when you're moving; in the winter, scrape ice rather than leave the car idling to warm up
  • Don't get lost: plan unfamiliar journeys to reduce the risk of getting lost and check the traffic news before you leave
  • Combine short trips: cold starts use more fuel so it pays to combine errands such as buying the paper, dropping off the recycling, or collecting the kids

Driving for economy isn't difficult

Study the map
The route you take to your destination plays a huge part in your fuel economy.

Taking the freeway will obviously result in a more economic drive than the surface streets crammed with traffic lights. Likewise a road that is straight and flat will see fewer prods at the throttle than ones that are hilly and twisty.

Sure, it’s not always possible to find an alternative, especially if you’re usual route isn’t serviced by freeways. But some lateral thinking – or the use of your sat-nav – could really help trim your fuel bill.

The black and rounds
If you’re really serious about saving fuel, the logical place to start is where rubber meets the road. A lot of tyre manufacturers now make compounds specially designed with economy in mind. Low rolling resistance tyres, as they’re known, typically have a higher silica content than regular tyres, and will coast further due to the decrease in friction between the tread and tarmac.

It’s also worth noting that alloy wheels are lighter than conventional steel rims (which reduces your vehicle’s unsprung mass), but that thinner tyres offer less air resistance than the wider rubber usually found on that gleaming set of alloys. Catch 22, perhaps?