How to Get the Best Fuel Efficiency from a Car

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 12 days ago

5 min read

  • How to
  • Car ownership
A woman filling her car up with fuel.

WhoCanFixMyCar discusses how to get more miles for your money.

Do you hate heading to the petrol station knowing you'll have to spend yet more money on fuel? Do you wonder how you got through a tank so quickly when you were sure you'd only just filled up?

We know how it feels; the cost of owning and maintaining a car has never been higher. That's why we've pulled together this guide of handy tips and tricks to help maximise your car's fuel efficiency.

Contents

What will reduce fuel consumption?

What is hypermiling?

Frequently asked questions


How to reduce fuel consumption

Follow the advice below to boost your miles per gallon (MPG).

1. Check your tyres are fully inflated

Checking tyre pressure

Underinflated tyres have a higher rolling resistance. Consequently, with every mile you travel, your tyres generate unnecessary friction and use more fuel.

Maintaining the correct tyre pressure is an excellent way to minimise fuel consumption.

2. Avoid carrying heavy loads

The more weight your car transports, the more fuel it uses. Avoid carrying heavy loads when possible and empty unnecessary items out of your boot - even if this only makes a slight difference initially, the savings will add up over time.

3. Drive smoothly

Allowing your car to slow down before accelerating again uses more fuel. Sometimes, this is unavoidable - for instance, in traffic - but maintaining the same speed where possible can significantly boost fuel economy.

4. Have your engine tuned

Engine tuning involves modifying a car's engine for enhanced performance, power or fuel efficiency (or a combination of all three). As a driver, you can decide what you want the outcome to be.

Tuning can cost anywhere from £200 to over £400.

5. Check your spark plugs

An old vs new spark plug.

Worn spark plugs can have a significant impact on fuel efficiency. They usually need replacing every 30,000 to 90,000 miles - you can find the correct replacement intervals for your car by consulting your vehicle handbook.

This guide discusses how to tell when your spark plugs need replacing.

One of the best ways to ensure your spark plugs are changed at the right time is to follow a regular servicing schedule.

6. Drive in the highest gear possible while sticking to the speed limit

iStock-changing-gear

The faster your engine spins, the more fuel it uses. Driving in as high a gear as possible (without exceeding the speed limit) will increase fuel efficiency by keeping the engine revs low. 

When driving in urban areas, try to change up through the gears as quickly as possible, aiming to maintain around 2,000 rpm

7. Remove roof bars or boxes

Storing anything on top of your vehicle, such as a roof box, creates extra wind resistance, which has a 'drag' effect. Just like when your tyres are underinflated, your car has to work harder to achieve the same speed, using more fuel.

The Energy Saving Trust estimates that having a roof box on your vehicle increases fuel consumption by an incredible 39% at 75 mph.

8. Only use your AC if you need it

The dashboard controls of a car's aircon.

It isn't a myth - your air conditioning really does use extra fuel because it requires additional engine power. The story is the same whether you're using it to blow hot or cold air, so avoid using it during moderate weather for extra fuel savings.

9. Combine journeys

Your engine is far more efficient when it gets up to temperature. That's why doing one round trip rather than multiple journeys in a day is a good idea, especially during winter, when it takes longer to reach the optimal operating temperature.

10. Take advantage of cruise control

Cruise control and volume buttons on steering wheel

Cruise control can be a handy fuel-saving tool when used correctly. It's ideal for motorway driving because it requires a constant flat surface to be effective; otherwise, using cruise control could be detrimental to fuel economy because it's slow to react to gradient changes.

When you reach the brow of a hill, you'd usually take your foot off the accelerator, but because cruise control can't detect that you're about to go downhill, it will keep the power on for longer.

11. Practice predictive driving

Driving a car

Keep your attention focused on the road ahead so you can detect or even anticipate the need for a speed change in advance - by doing this, you can use engine braking to slow down gradually. Avoid braking harshly or accelerating too quickly; everything you do should be gentle.

This approach works well for traffic lights - sometimes, you can avoid stopping altogether if you spot the red light and adjust your speed accordingly. Similarly, if you see a hill further up the road, accelerate a little before you reach it and ease off as you ascend. Little tricks like these all contribute to your car's efficiency.


What is hypermiling?

Hypermiling involves making your car as fuel-efficient as possible, often aiming to exceed the manufacturer's reported MPG. It's an idea that became popular in America in the early '00s when fuel prices skyrocketed.

Wrong fuel

Believe it or not, some drivers view hypermiling as a pastime and a convenient way to save money. For example, there are MPG marathon events where enthusiasts aim to get the maximum efficiency from their cars.

Hypermiling might involve:

  • Choosing the most direct route with the least braking/accelerating.

  • Driving when there is less traffic.

  • Parking in the shade during summer and in direct sunlight during winter.

  • Keeping your car working efficiently by having it serviced regularly.

  • Keeping windows closed.

  • Driving slowly (within reason).

  • Parking in the closest space when you enter a car park, even if it means a longer walk.

  • Reversing into spaces so you can drive straight out.

  • Parking on a slope so you can 'coast' away.

  • Avoiding unnecessary manoeuvres.


Frequently asked questions

Does fuel expire?

The short answer is yes. If fuel is left for an extended period, it starts to degrade. Petrol generally lasts around six months if stored properly; diesel can last between 6 months and a year.

When is fuel consumption at its highest?

Fuel consumption is at its highest when accelerating, especially if you do so quickly rather than gradually.

How can you avoid wasting fuel?

The best way to avoid wasting fuel is to avoid unnecessary journeys. If the destination is nearby, why not walk instead or consider using a bike?

Other ways to avoid wasting fuel include driving smoothly and not carrying a heavy load if you don't need to (e.g. emptying the clutter from your boot).

What does fuel efficient driving achieve?

Fuel efficient driving achieves two things:

  • You'll get more out of a tank, so you'll have to stop at a petrol station less often.

  • You'll save money.

What's most likely to increase fuel consumption?

One of the biggest factors affecting fuel consumption is your driving style; harsh acceleration and braking will result in your car using more fuel.


Has your car been serviced in the past year? If not, your car might be less fuel efficient than it should be.

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