How To – Drive Economically

Written on:February 3, 2012
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Fuel is only going to get more expensive; no matter how much fracking they do, the oil companies aren’t going to reduce the price of crude oil in our lifetime. So short of giving up driving what can a chap do? Well, you could drive a bit more economically. After all, if you do, you can then indulge in the odd hoon with a clear conscience…

Here are Motoring Journo’s top tips on How To Drive Economically:


You need to do everything that you can to save a few kilos because hauling around any unnecessary weight wastes fuel. Car manufacturers have made leaps and bounds in the reliability of their cars, so do you really need that huge box of tools in the boot?

Tyre pressures

If you tyre pressures are too low you don’t only risk a blow-out and premature tyre wear – you’ll be wasting huge amounts of fuel too. Remember how hard your pushbike was to pedal when the tyres were a bit flat? Well, it is just the same for your car’s engine.

The tyre pressures given by the car manufacturer are a good place to start but will be an average figure that has been calculated to give decent levels of grip as well as acceptable fuel economy and tyre life using an original equipment tyre. You can check how close they are for your tyres by drawing a chalk line across your tread. Now drive forward a couple of metres and look at the line. Has it worn away equally? If so then your tyres are correctly inflated as they’re sitting square to the road and have a full contact patch. If the line has worn away on the shoulders but is still visible in the middle then they are under-inflated. Conversely, if the line has disappeared in the middle but can still be seen on the shoulders then you need to let a couple of psi out.


Change up as early as you can without making the engine labour. Short-shifting is cool and saves a bundle. Why not make it a game by trying not to exceed 2,000rpm on your daily commute?


Pretend that your throttle has an egg attached to it. Squeeze it gently when you accelerate and try not to be too harsh; be gentle – accelerating hard might be fun but it wastes money. There is a contradictory school of thought that suggests that it is more economical to accelerate firmly up to the speed at which you want to travel, and then ease off. We aren’t convinced though.

Fuel prices

If you use a site like this then you can be assured that you will always be buying the cheapest fuel in your area.

Oh, and don’t buy any snacks when you get fuel; you’ll waste money, get fat, have a heart attack and die early – all for the sake of a bit of mechanically-recovered meat covered in fat-soaked pastry.

Convert your car to run on alternative fuels

If you’ve got a petrol car that you are going to be keeping for a while then check out whether it is worthwhile converting your car to run on LPG. It’s half the price of petrol and performance is very similar. It really is a win:win situation; diesel running costs and petrol performance!

Diesel owners aren’t left out either, as their engines can run on waste cooking oil that has been filtered and had the water removed – but only if the engine is old and crude; think series Land Rover and pre-90s Mercedes for example. If you have a newer car then you’ll need to spend about £500 to convert it to biodiesel first. With a bit of practice you’ll be making biodiesel that’s environmentally friendly and better for your engine than anything you can buy commercially.

Don’t warm your car up when it’s cold

Don’t thrash your car when its cold but there is no need to sit there letting it warm up on the drive. It will warm up faster, and more thoroughly, if you just drive it quietly until the temperature gauge is showing that everything is nice and warm. Do take the time to defrost it properly in the winter though, won’t you?

Air conditioning

Using air conditioning will mean that you burn about 5% more fuel. You don’t have to sweat like James Murdoch giving evidence but if you don’t need to use it then turn it off!


Anticipating the need to slow down is the biggest money-saving tip I can give you. If you can anticipate the need to brake further down the road then you can ease off the throttle earlier; after all, braking is just converting your cash into heat. Again, why not make a game of it and try to brake as infrequently and as gently as you can? No need to risk an accident, obviously; just try and up your game a bit.


Modern engines use zero fuel when you are coasting in gear. If you knock the gear lever into neutral then the engine will use a small amount of fuel to keep it running. Old habits die hard, eh?

Turn your engine off

If you’re going to be stationary for longer than about 10 seconds it is cheaper to turn the engine off and restart it when you are ready to set off. It’s cheaper than a Stop-Start system and just as effective.

Better still, why not try setting off for work a bit earlier to avoid the traffic altogether?

Walk more – or cycle

We love cars but even we have to admit that if your car journey is less than half a mile away then it’s just as fast, and much cheaper, to walk. If your journey is less than a couple of miles then taking your bike is cheaper, faster, and better for you!  You can also take advantage of some quite decent tax savings by using the Cycle to Work scheme if your employer subscribes.

Drive below the speed limit

Driving at 60mph instead of 70 is boring, tedious, no fun, and makes you look like your Dad. However, it only adds 13 per cent to your journey time and will decrease your fuel consumption by 17 per cent. You can work your own figures out here.

That’s it – simple, eh? Why not leave a comment telling us how you save fuel – we’ll publish them all!




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