It’s not much fun being a motorist at the moment. Petrol prices have hit an all-time high and options are limited for people looking to make some savings. There are a few options though.
On the forecourt
If you caught me on Rip Off Britain Live on BBC One recently, you’ll have seen we conducted some research that showed that there wasn’t that much difference in the average price for petrol. The supermarkets were a little cheaper than the big brands – though only by a few pence per litre. However, some big brands operate as franchises so don’t assume all forecourt prices are the same.
If you want to find out the best deals near you, why not sign up to some of the free neighbourhood apps or groups on social media? There are often conversations dedicated solely to petrol prices – which may well be the best way to find out the nearest bargain to you on a day-to-day basis.
One other suggestion you might want to try is to sign up to the loyalty schemes offered by most petrol providers. Again, the savings aren’t massive, but if you are limited in options in your local area, it might be a good idea.
How to make the most of your tank
Given the limited savings you can make by trying to find the cheapest fuel on the forecourt, the best returns can come from how you run and operate your vehicle.
Firstly, check your speed. It’s a bit of a misconception that going slower saves you cash, but aggressive driving, accelerating quickly and hitting the brakes more does cut in to your fuel efficiency. Chill out and save some cash! The same goes for leaving the engine idling. Turn the engine off when you can – but only when it’s safe to do so. The experts tell us that driving in the highest gear possibly helps you save cash too as you’re laying off the accelerator – and overuse of that brake can impact on your wallet too.
You can also save a lot of money by lightening the load. Overfilling the petrol tank can make your car heavier which costs you more in fuel efficiency. But the simplest thing to do is clear your car of anything that might be adding to the load, which will make it run much more efficiently. Just by removing the things you don’t need in the boot you could make your car more efficient to run.
Another tip is to take off things like roof racks, which can add weight to the vehicle and produce drag. Make sure your tyres are fully inflated too – though I have heard of some petrol stations starting to charge for air, which is a bit cheeky in my view. Lower tyre pressure can also add to the drag on your car. There’s a bit of a debate among drivers about what you save by having the air con off versus open windows. This may be a bit moot with the current weather, but in general, if you’re going at slow to normal speeds, open the window. If you’re going faster, then having open windows might add to the drag, making it slightly cheaper to shut them and pop on the air con.
Buying a new vehicle
Prices have been high for a while now – and when the wholesale prices dropped, the savings did not find their way in to our pockets. So realistically, we are going to have adapt to higher prices for the time being.
As a result, many motorists might be considering an upgrade to a more efficient or greener vehicle. There are challenges here, because demand has reduced the number of vehicles available. That means good prices for second hand vehicles. However, you might find a newer electric car harder to source. Either way, there are grants available for people purchasing low emission vehicles. This should be factored in to the price but make sure you ask. More details are available on the Government website.
Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.