Half of drivers are tracking their car’s miles per gallon (MPG) performance more closely now that fuel price are at record highs, according to a huge survey of British motorists exclusively shared with This is Money.
With the cost of filling an average-size petrol model surpassing £100 in recent weeks, more are trying to monitor how far fuel is going – and how best to adjust to be as economic as possible.
Two-fifths are watching their car’s on-board computers like a hawk to keep track of their vehicle’s MPG, while 13 per cent are reviewing receipts and making a note of mileage to calculate how far their petrol and diesel really is going, according to the survey of nearly 15,000 Britons.
Are you keeping a closer eye on your car’s MPG? Motorists shouldn’t rely entirely on their on-board computer – follow out seven-step guide to calculating fuel economy more accurately
The latter method is a far more accurate way of understanding how efficient you and your vehicle is, with a car’s computer reading reportedly exaggerating economy performance by 15 per cent. We explain how to measure MPG with more precision.
Younger drivers are particularly conscientious when it comes to recording mileage and forecourt receipts, the study highlights.
Of those surveyed, one on five 18-to-24-year-olds said they use the more diligent method to track their fuel expenditure.
And this youngest driving age group is also the least likely to rely on the fuel economy reading provided by their cars.
On average, 29 per cent of motorists say they use the MPG reading on the instrument cluster to understand their fuel economy, while just 19 per cent of younger drivers rely on it.
Overall, the youngest and oldest (65 years and over) drivers are the most likely to be either tracking consumption via their MPG display or receipts – 55 per cent of both age groups, the research found.
Drivers aged 25 to 34 are the least likely to keep an eye on their fuel economy, with just 46 per cent of this age bracket saying they do so.
The report also found that young drivers are the most likely to be cutting back on spending elsewhere while the cost of petrol and diesel is so high.
A car’s on-board computer is said tell give reading up to 5% worse than your actual MPG to 15% better than what it really is
More than half are reducing the number of days and nights out they have, more than a third are spending less on food and almost three in ten are not taking a holiday this year. For all these parameters, younger drivers are taking these measures more commonly than the average motorist.
Low-income drivers – who are inevitably feeling the fuel-price pinch the most – are monitoring their fuel receipts more so than any other earners, with 16 per cent saying they are currently running their own economy calculations.
Just one in twenty (6 per cent) of drivers whose cars have an MPG display say they ignore it entirely, saying it is of no importance to them, even while fuel costs are at record levels.
Mark Oakley, AA Driving School managing director, said: ‘Everyone is feeling the impact of high fuel prices at the moment so it is little wonder drivers are taking a keen interest in their MPG displays, or using other methods to track their consumption.
‘The fact the youngest and oldest groups of drivers are the most likely to be checking their consumption really hammers home who is being impacted most by the current cost-of-living crisis.’
How to measure your car’s MPG more accurately in seven steps
1. The next time you enter a fuel station, brim your car with fuel.
2. Make a note of your mileage before pulling away. Alternatively, reset your car’s trip computer to zero so it keeps a record of how far you drive.
3. Drive as normal until the fuel gauge tells you that you only have half a tank remaining and return to a petrol station to brim the tank again.
4. Once you’ve brimmed the tank for a second time, make a record of how many litres the fuel pump says you put in your car.
5. Convert litres to gallons. There are 0.22 gallons to every litre. If you’re struggling to work it out yourself, Which? has a litres to gallon conversion tool that’s free to use.
6. Record how many miles you travelled between the two refills by checking your previous note or the trip computer.
7. Divide the miles you travelled by gallons pumped into the tank on the second visit. The result will be your car’s average miles per gallon for that particular period.
This is Money’s top 10 eco-driving tips to save fuel
AA Driving School says drivers can make simple changes to their driving to bring fuel consumption down, with a number of small modifications adding up to a ‘noticeable saving at the pump’.
Bar replacing your car with one that’s more economical – or even electric – and driving less frequently, there are plenty of ways to drive more efficiently that can help you to cut down on your fuel bills.
Using really simple eco-driving techniques – like those listed below – ‘can easily save the equivalent of 9p-a-litre’, says the AA.
For motorists desperately wanting to get the most out of the expensive fuel they are currently pumping into their car’s tank, This is Money has compiled our top 10 best tips to drive as efficiently as possible…
1. Make sure the vehicle is in tip-top running order
If you drive an older car that hasn’t been serviced for a few years, now might be the time to get it booked in to ensure it is running as efficiently as it possibly can be.
Sticking brakes, ageing tyres, faulty sensors, old oil and general poor engine maintenance are just some of the factors that could hit your car’s optimum miles per gallon (mpg) performance.
Ensuring tyres are correctly inflated is one of the easiest ways to ensure your car isn’t being inefficient with its fuel
2. Check tyre pressures
One of the easiest fixes to ensure your vehicle is running at peak efficiency is to regularly check that the tyres are inflated to the correct level.
Underinflated tyres are estimated to impact a car’s fuel consumption by up to 10 per cent.
Check the car’s owner’s manual to find out what the optimum pressures are. Most models also have the tyre pressure info detailed on a sticker on the driver’s door sill – while modern cars might also display the pressure in the instrument cluster, or alert you to pressure that is incorrect.
Most modern cars have adjustable driving settings that modulate how quickly they accelerate. If yours has an ‘ECO’ mode, like the one pictured, you should use it
3. If your car has an ‘eco’ mode, use it
Many modern motors are now fitted with adjustable driving modes.
If yours does, it likely has an ‘eco’ setting. Using these mode will restrict how quickly the car accelerates.
Slower and smoothers acceleration will but will help reduce fuel consumption.
The Karai by Drive Key app uses location tracking to measure your driving efficiency and provides a real-world eco score out of 100 and offers advice for how to improve it, a bit like a fitness tracker
4. If your car doesn’t have an eco setting you can use a free fuel-efficiency app
If you have a car that doesn’t have adjustable driving modes, try to replicate what it does with your right foot. This means taking it easy on the throttle pedal when you can.
The app that tells you where the cheapest fuel is near to you
While we’re on the subject of apps that will help you to reduce your fuel bills, PetrolPrices.com is one you should definitely have downloaded on your phone right now.
It will give you up-to-date pricing information at all the filling stations near to your location – that way you can see who has the cheapest and to work out if it will save you money if you travel slightly further away to brim your car’s tank.
Excessive speed is the biggest fuel-guzzling factor so having a light right foot and ensuring all acceleration is gentle is very important to fuel-efficient driving.
When you set off from a standstill, such as at traffic lights and junctions, try not to react like you’re on the starting grid at Silverstone.
If you want some additional help to make you drive more economically, there is a new free app that could be of assistance.
Karai by Drive Key can be downloaded to your smartphone and claims to be able to reduce you fuel usage – and carbon footprint – by up to a quarter.
It measures your driving in real time with location tracking and provides a motorists with a real-world, eco-driving scores and advice to improve this to get more out of the fuel in their tank.
Users have the choice of allowing the app to run in the background to track your driving automatically – though if you’d prefer to activate it manually you can start it at the beginning of a journey (granted you do this before you set off and don’t break the law by touching your phone on the move).
Like a fitness tracker for your driving, it promotes adjusting driving habits accordingly, and ultimately saving money through a more efficient driving style.
For instance, the smoother you accelerate, the more carbon emissions and fuel saved, the better the score will be.
Rated out of 100, drivers can then see where to improve and therefore save money.
The RAC says choosing a higher gear will mean you’re not overworking the engine and therefore lessening the demand for fuel
5. Stick to the limit while using the highest gear possible
It might sound pretty obvious to say, but going faster does result in higher fuel consumption.
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Drive at 70mph and you’ll use up to 9 per cent more than at 60mph and up to 15 per cent more than at 50mph, says the AA. And taking it up to 80mph can use up to 25 per cent more fuel than at 70mph, so it’s recommended you drive at an appropriate speed based on the limit.
The RAC adds that one of the biggest secret to achieving high mpg is driving in the highest possible gear for your vehicle while keeping within the speed limit.
‘The best advice in urban areas is to change up through the gears as quickly as you can with the lowest revs possible, probably at around 2000rpm,’ it says.
Most modern cars also come with a gear shift indicator in the instrument cluster. These are often tuned for the most economical driving rather than outright performance, so if you see an upward arrow and a number representing the next year higher you should shift straight away.
6. Anticipate well ahead to preserve fuel when braking
Heavy acceleration will sap fuel economy, but braking too heavily also has the same impact, as you can use less fuel by coming to a standstill more gradually.
This requires a driver to anticipate traffic flow ahead, but is a great way of limiting fuel use.
If you’re a long-distance driver who relies on cruise control, it might be worth avoiding using it while petrol and diesel prices are as high as they currently are
7. Cruise control isn’t your friend if you want to save fuel
While many will believe that using cruise control functionality will provide the lowest fuel use, this isn’t always the case.
Cruise control is most likely to benefit mpg on motorways with a constant speed and a flat surface.
However, if you were to use your cruise control regularly and not on flat roads, you would see fuel consumption increase.
‘This is because your cruise control would be slower to react to gradient changes, meaning when reaching the brow of a hill – at which point you would normally take your foot off the accelerator to maintain more of a constant speed when descending – your cruise control will keep the power on for a little longer as it’s unable to see the gradient change in front of you.
‘Driving in this way regularly would lead to worse fuel consumption,’ says the RAC.
Don’t use your air conditioning unless you really have to as it uses engine power and therefore increases fuel consumption.
8. Avoid using the air-con and heater
Don’t use your air conditioning unless you really have to as it uses engine power and therefore increases fuel consumption by as much as 10 per cent on shorter journeys.
This shouldn’t be an issue during the cooler months, though using a car’s heater will have a similar impact, with it running off the engine power and therefore lowering fuel economy.
Dress accordingly for the weather, is the best advice.
9. A warm engine is more efficient, so run multiple errands in a single journey
Once an engine is warm it will operate most efficiently, whereas several cold starts will increase your fuel consumption.
So if you have a number of errands to run or trips to do in a day, try to combine them into one car journey so you avoid turning the ignition on your fuel costs.
There is also a climate benefit at this time of year.
The AA says that warmer temperatures should improve mpg ‘significantly’ with an extra three miles to the gallon ‘almost guaranteed for most’ in the summer.
Having an empty roofbox fitted to the top of your car will make it far less drag efficient, which means the engine will have to work harder – and use more fuel – to counteract this
10. Lighten your car’s load
While this isn’t going to make the biggest difference to your mpg figures, emptying heavy clutter from your car will fractionally improve its fuel economy.
This is especially the case at this time of year when families are preparing for their summer holidays by installing roof boxes for additional luggage space.
However, if you’re not using the roof box or roof bars, take them off as it could make your motor less drag efficient.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, an empty roof rack adds 16 per cent drag when driving at 75mph. At the same speed a roof box adds 39 per cent, making your vehicle much less fuel efficient.
Driving with a window fully open also has a similar effect.
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