Smart Consumer: 10 easy ways to save €€€ on petrol costs
Cutting the cost of running your car can be as simple as giving up some bad habits, says John Hearne
Fuel prices may have halted their upward spiral, but they're still 75pc higher than they were three years ago. It's now costing the average family more than €250 to put petrol in the car, up from €142 in 2009.
The thing about driving is it's hard to cut back on. You can't change the distance between home and work or home and school. But there are still plenty of no-cost and low-cost ways of reducing the amount of fuel you consume. Here are 10 of the best. Savings are calculated based on monthly fuel consumption of €250.
Change your behaviour -- Part I
Decreasing motorway cruising speed to 90km/h from 120km/h can raise fuel consumption by as much as 20pc. The next time you're on the motorway barrelling along at 119.9km/h, ask yourself what it is you will do with the 10 minutes you gain by not driving at 90km/h.
Potential saving: Up to €50 a month
Not you, your car. How many people travel around with a fullset of golf clubs in the boot? Or a box of tools? According to the US Department of Energy, an extra 45kg in the car will reduce miles per gallon by up to 2pc.
While you're at it, remove any unused roof racks or roof boxes. Not only do they reduce your street cred, they create extra wind resistance and so increase fuel consumption.
Potential saving: Up to €10 a month
Pile on the pressure
Not maintaining tyre pressure is a common cause of poor fuel economy. Conor Faughnan of AA Ireland explains that under-inflated tyres create rolling resistance as the car moves, thereby making the engine work harder. Getting tyre pressures right is important for safety too.
The correct levels will be listed in the manual, and a decent gauge will tell you when it's right. Ask a friendly garage man if all this is gibberish.
Potential saving: €7.50 a month
Change your behaviour -- Part II
In the US they call them 'jack-rabbit' starts. A trade mark of aggressive driving, this is when you jerk abruptly forward. Closely related is the hard brake, when you suddenly and rapidly decelerate. These are sure-fire ways of wasting substantial amounts of petrol.
Tailgating too is always a bad idea. It's unsafe, plus all that sudden braking burns fuel.
AA Ireland recommends that you change gear as soon as possible without labouring the engine. Try changing up at an engine speed of around 2,000rpm in a diesel car or around 2,500rpm in a petrol car.
This can make such a difference to fuel consumption that all cars in the future are likely to be fitted with gear shift indicators that light a lamp on the dashboard to indicate the most efficient gear change points.
Potential saving: €35 a month
Turn it off
The more dashboard gadgetry you have switched on, the more fuel you're going to burn. Air conditioning at this time of year -- especially at low speeds -- can drink up petrol faster than you'd think. Open the window instead.
Any other electrical loads should be kept to a minimum. Turn off your heated rear windscreen, demister blowers and headlights when you don't need them. In the same vein, if you get caught in a queue, turn the engine off if it looks like you could be waiting for more than three minutes.
Potential saving: €20 a month
It's easy to convince yourself that cutting back on car maintenance is a good way of saving money. It's a false economy.
Stick to the manufacturer's servicing schedule. It keeps the engine efficient, and a full service record will help sell the car if and when that needs to happen. And make sure too that you use the right specification of engine oil. Check the handbook for details.
Potential saving: €30 a month
If you drive unfamiliar routes regularly, invest in a sat nav. There's nothing like getting lost to fray the nerves and burn fuel unnecessarily. Alternatively, plot the route before you go, or use the AA Route Planner.
A little planning too should also allow you to combine short journeys and cut down on everyday mileage. Is it possible to drop the kids and dump the recycling in the same run?
Also, don't start the engine until you're ready to go. And in the winter time, don't leave the car 'heat up' for half-an-hour before it's time to leave. Scrape the ice rather than burn fuel to get rid of it.
Potential saving: €12.50 a month
Check pumps.ie to find the cheapest fuel in your area. It's astonishing the differences in price you'll find between petrol stations that might be only hundreds of metres apart.
Also, break the euro habit. Don't buy €20 worth or €50 worth. It desensitises you to changes in price. Instead, buy in litres. That way, you'll get a much better feel for the actual cost of the fuel going into the car.
Potential saving: €12.50 a month
Don't fill her up either
Instead, avoid filling the car each time you pull into a petrol station. Fuel is heavy. If you can get away with half or three quarter fills instead of topping up every single time, the car will run more efficiently.
Potential saving: €2.50 a month
If walking isn't an option, cycling may well be. Besides the health benefits, the taxpayer will even chip in on the cost of the bike.
Under the Bike to Work scheme, your employer will help buy a bike and safety equipment worth up to €1,000. You can save up to 52pc of the retail price, and pay for it out of your salary in monthly instalments.
If you're just too far from work to make cycling an option, it may still form part of a commuting strategy. Cyclists taking their bikes on Intercity services can now book bicycle spaces online at irishrail.ie for €6 per journey.
The best way of saving petrol? Leave the car at home.
Potential saving: €250 a month