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Tips for reducing your fuel consumption

There are lots of ways to improve your petrol or diesel car’s fuel economy, including making changes to the way you drive, use and maintain your car.

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By Cazoo editorial team

Published: 28th July 2022

With the price of petrol and diesel at record levels, you may want to find ways to save money on fuel. The good news is that there are lots of things that you can do to maximise your car’s mpg and most of them won’t cost you a penny! 

Here are our top 10 fuel-saving tips – the first five cover driving techniques and the next five look at ways to make your car more fuel-efficient.  

1. Accelerate and brake gently

The quicker a car accelerates, the more fuel it uses to build speed. Sometimes you need to  gain speed quickly, but most of the time you can afford to accelerate more gently and – therefore – burn less fuel.

Then, going easy on the brake pedal whenever possible conserves the precious momentum that you’ve built up by accelerating because your car will need to burn less fuel to get back up to speed.

Braking and accelerating gently not only improve your car’s efficiency – as an added bonus, you and your passengers should get a smoother ride and you may not need to change your brake discs and pads as often (saving you even more money).

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2. Use a higher gear

The core components of a car engine rev (or spin) faster when you use lower gears – and more revs mean you’re using more fuel. In a car with a manual gearbox, using a higher gear means the engine revs less, using less fuel. 

You need to judge it carefully, though, because each gear works best at a certain speed. You’ll likely have to experiment to find which gears work best at which speeds for your car. As an example, you may normally use second gear to drive at 20 mph, but your car may feel perfectly comfortable in third or fourth gear at that speed.

This technique doesn’t really work in a car with an automatic gearbox because you have less control over which gear is being used – most of the time the gearbox will automatically select the most efficient gear.

3. Reduce your speed

The faster a car goes, the harder its engine needs to work and the more fuel it uses. Small changes can help. On the motorway, cruising at 60mph rather than 70mph can significantly improve fuel consumption. So can slowing from 60mph to 50mph on an A-road. 

As we’ve mentioned above, try to ensure that the car is in the most efficient gear for the speed you’re doing. At 70mph, using sixth gear in a car with a manual gearbox is more efficient than using fifth gear. 

4. Anticipate rather than react

When driving, it’s easy for your eyes to settle on a point a short distance ahead of your car, or on the back of the vehicle in front of you. However, that means that you could be a bit slower to spot developments further up the road that may require you to slow down and that could result in heavy braking. 

It’s more efficient to look as far down the road as safely possible, giving you more time to respond and allowing you to brake more gently. Maintaining a bigger gap between your car and the vehicle in front of you can help, too.

5. Plan your journey carefully

Stop-start driving in heavy traffic leads to greater fuel consumption. If you can plan your journey to avoid any potential hold-ups, you’ll go further before you next need to fill up your car’s fuel tank.

You could also consider leaving a bit earlier or later to avoid the rush hour. Check if there are any roadworks on your intended route and try to find a diversion around them. Likewise, check for any known congestion hotspots.

6. Keep your car’s tyres pumped up

If there’s too little air pressure in a tyre it generates more friction with the road surface and the engine has to work harder to overcome that friction, using more fuel.

You should check your car’s tyre pressures regularly to make sure they are at the recommended pressure. You can usually find those on a label inside one of the front door openings, in the car’s manual or by searching online.

Be careful not to pump your tyres up too much – that can decrease grip and increase the risk of skidding.

7. Empty the boot

It can be tempting to keep a lot of stuff in the boot of your car because it’s easier than lugging it in and out of the boot every time you need something. But loading up the boot unnecessarily will cost you money because the more weight you’re carrying the harder the engine has to work. Emptying the boot, especially if you keep really heavy stuff in there, will make the car lighter, giving the engine an easier time and improving your car’s mpg. 

8. Keep the windows closed and remove your roof rack

Air puts up a lot of resistance when you try to move a large object – like a car – through it at speed, so the shape of a car is designed to move through the air as easily as possible, reducing the work the engine has to do.

Opening a window or sunroof increases the aerodynamic resistance, also known as drag, forcing the engine to work harder. There isn’t enough drag at low speeds for an open window to make much difference, but it can have a big effect if you drive faster than about 50mph.  

The principle is the same if you’re driving with a roof rack or a roof box, so it’s worth removing it as soon as it’s not needed to avoid unnecessary fuel consumption.

9. Use your car’s stop/start, eco mode and cruise control functions

Modern cars have lots of clever features that help you to get the most out of every drop of fuel. Most sold new since 2010 have a stop/start system that switches the engine off when the car isn’t moving (at a set of traffic lights, for example). The engine restarts almost instantly when you need to pull away (as you press the clutch in a manual or select Drive in an automatic).

There’s usually a way to turn the system off completely (via a switch or menu setting), but if you want to reduce fuel consumption we’d recommend leaving the stop/start system on.

Many cars also offer you a choice of driving modes. This function varies between models, but the range of modes generally includes Normal (the car’s ‘default’ mode), Sport (which makes the car feel faster and more responsive) and Eco (which switches the car into its most efficient settings, reducing the engine’s power, the responsiveness of the accelerator and the strength of the air con). Eco mode won’t turn things down so much as to make the car feel slow or uncomfortable but it can be enough to noticeably improve your fuel consumption.

It’s often worth using your car’s cruise control function if it has one, too. When driving at a constant speed – on the motorway, for instance – cruise control can maintain a steady speed for you, eliminating any subtle acceleration or deceleration that could cause the engine to work harder.

Cruise control buttons on a Seat Ateca

10. Keep your car properly maintained

A car is a complex, finely balanced machine – if any mechanical or electric part isn’t operating properly it can increase the amount of fuel the engine uses. Regular servicing and maintenance is the best way to keep your car working as efficiently as possible.

It’s worth noting that your car’s fuel consumption getting worse can be an indication of a problem before any more obvious symptoms develop. So it’s worth regularly checking the fuel consumption readout on the dashboard to help keep tabs on your car’s general health.

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