9 Ways to improve your fuel efficiency

Updated August 10, 2017

With petrol prices high and rising, fuel efficiency is on everyone's mind. Improving your fuel economy isn't just good for you bank balance, either -- by cutting down on the amount of fuel you use, you're reducing the harmful carbon emissions generated by your car. Fortunately, there are a number of small changes to your driving habits you can make to reduce fuel use, save money and help the environment.

Slow down

Driving at high speeds reduces your car's fuel efficiency. The most efficient speed varies from car to car; your vehicle's handbook should tell you the speed for your car. The more you exceed the optimum speed, the less efficient your engine becomes. Slowing from 70 mph to 50 can improve fuel efficiency by as much as 25%.

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Travel light

Moving your car's weight uses up energy, which means that it uses up fuel. It doesn't matter whether that's the weight of the car itself, the weight of passengers or the weight of luggage -- the lighter your car is, the less fuel it will use up to move itself. Having a good clearout of your car's boot is not only a good way to stay organised, it can save you money as well!

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Keep a steady pace

The more you accelerate and decelerate while driving, the more fuel you burn. Cruising at a steady speed is the most efficient way to drive; this is why urban driving, which is full of starts and stops, generally consumes more fuel than driving in the country. It isn't always possible to guarantee a smooth journey, but anything you can do to reduce the number of times you speed up and slow down will save fuel.

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Shift gears wisely

Being in the right gear is one of the most fuel-efficient things you can do while driving. In order to maximise fuel efficiency, you'll want to change gears early, at around 2,500 rpm. Changing down is important as well -- if you can feel your car struggling, chances are good that it's burning more fuel than it needs to.

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Don't idle

You may have heard today that starting the engine frequently is wasteful, making idling the fuel-saving option. If this was ever true, it isn't with modern cars. If you're going to be parked for more than a minute or two, shut off your engine rather than idling. If your engine is running but you're not moving, you're wasting fuel.

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Get regular maintenance

Keeping your engine in good shape is an excellent way to save fuel, as well as to extend your car's lifespan. Always follow the recommended maintenance schedule for your car, and don't be afraid to take it in for a checkup if you're not sure how long it's been -- by improving fuel efficiency and reducing the risk of breakdowns, you'll save money in two ways!

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Check your tyres

Tyres naturally lose some of their pressure over time. As the pressure in the tyre decreases, the rolling resistance increases, meaning that your car has to burn more fuel to get the same amount of forward momentum. Making sure that your tyres are full of air and not overly worn ensures that your car is operating at maximum effiency.

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Plan ahead

Planning your route is an important part of saving fuel. Choosing the most fuel-efficient route isn't just a matter of picking the shortest path in terms of distance. If a planned journey is shorter in terms of miles but includes lots of high-traffic areas, you'll probably be running your engine longer and starting and stopping more often, making the trip less fuel-efficient.

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Find alternatives

This isn't a driving tip as such, but changing your attitude about driving can have important benefits. If you can, try walking or cycling for short journeys. You'll not only save fuel but improve your health through exercise. If you commute to work, explore ridesharing options; the more people a single car transports, the lower each individual's costs.

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About the Author

Dr James Holloway has been writing about games, geek culture and whisky since 1995. A former editor of "Archaeological Review from Cambridge," he has also written for Fortean Times, Fantasy Flight Games and The Unspeakable Oath. A graduate of Cambridge University, Holloway runs the blog Gonzo History Gaming.