How to drive down your petrol costs

The Jewish Chronicle - - Business -

IT IS no longer safe to men­tion the cost of petrol and diesel in a pub­lic place. The vapours of fury from ev­ery­one in earshot are enough to send even the most placid vicar into apoplexy. For many house­holds, putting fuel in the tank has be­come one of their big­gest bills, cost­ing thou­sands a year — up there with mort­gage or rent, and gas and elec­tric­ity.

The ma­jor­ity is tax that you can do lit­tle about. Of course the no-brainer is sell the car, switch to a more efficient model or drive less. I am as­sum­ing you know all that, so my aim is to show you the key steps to cut­ting your bills on those must-do jour­neys.

There are five main routes to re­duc­ing the cost.

ROUTE 1. MAKE YOUR CAR MORE EFFICIENT

Sev­eral easy things im­prove fuel ef­fi­ciency. Each is worth a per cent or two, but com­bined, they can make a huge dif­fer­ence.

Check your tyres are cor­rectly in­flated; lower tyre pres­sure in­creases drag (or wind re­sis­tance).

Get rid of the junk in your trunk. Ex­cess weight in the boot means the it takes a while for the sav­ing to hit. While cut­ting max­i­mum speed helps, the real fo­cus should be on be­ing less ag­gres­sive in stops and starts, es­pe­cially in ur­ban ar­eas. Think of your ac­cel­er­a­tor as a money pump. The harder you press, the more money is turned into fuel. Your brake is a money burner: press­ing it con­verts the speed you paid to put into the car into heat.

Per­fect driv­ing would be grad­u­ally ac­cel­er­at­ing to the max­i­mum speed, and not break­ing to slow down, just al­low­ing the car to coast to a stop. Sounds great, but it would prob­a­bly make you slightly an­noy­ing on the road.

This is more about not burn­ing away from traf­fic lights only to slam on the brake at the next one 200 yards later. Ac­cel­er­ate grad­u­ally, keep­ing your dis­tance from the car ahead so you have room to slow slowly. Many who try it get 10-30 per cent more out of a tank. If you fill up £50 a week, that is eas­ily £500 a year.

ROUTE 3. FIND THE CHEAP­EST PETROL AND DIESEL

The gaps be­tween fore­courts are widen­ing. The UK’s cheap­est petrol is now £1.36 a litre and the prici­est is £1.50. En­ter a post­code at petrol­prices. com and it shows you the cheap­est petrol in the vicin­ity.

Keep an eye out for petrol dis­count vouch­ers at su­per­mar­kets; these can cut costs by an­other 5-10 pence a litre.

ROUTE 4. GET CASHBACK ON ALL FUEL

Petrol or diesel is the big­gest reg­u­lar ex­pen­di­ture many peo­ple make by plas­tic or cash, mean­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties to boost sav­ings.

The key is to use a cashback credit card. Let me make this plain for you: only do this if you are debt-free and will set up a di­rect debit to clear the bal­ance in full ev­ery month to avoid in­ter­est or it is point­less.

For long term cashback, MBNA Amer­i­can Ex­press pays 1.5 per cent cashback on all petrol and su­per­mar­ket spend­ing and 0.75 per cent else­where. Spend £5,000 a year on food and fuel, and that is £75 back (it is 18.9 per cent APR if you do not re­pay in full).

Other cashback cards pay up to five per cent cashback, but for a shorter time. See the full list at www. mon­eysaving­ex­pert.com/cashback

ROUTE 5. SHARE YOUR DRIV­ING WITH OTH­ERS

Have a word with work col­leagues or par­ents at your chil­dren’s school to see if they fancy shar­ing the driv­ing. Web-based ver­sions widen the net; you can check sites such as lift­share. com and rideshare.co.uk but make sure you are vig­i­lant and stay safe if you are meet­ing some­one via this method.

If you are car­ry­ing pas­sen­gers and it is not a com­mer­cial ar­range­ment, this should not af­fect your in­surance.

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