With fuel prices rising and rising, refilling the car is becoming a big part of our weekly budgets. But there are ways to maximise economy. Here are the top 10 ways to save money on fuel.
1. Buy at dawn or dusk
Believe it or not, fuel expands and contracts in hot and cold conditions. During a frosty morning fuel is in its densest form which means you actually get slightly more combustible matter with every litre. Buying fuel first thing in the morning or very late in afternoon or at night will save you money and increase your driving range.
2. Discount vouchers
If you do your weekly shopping at one of the bigger shopping outlets such as Coles or Woolworths, you'll be able to use your shopping docket to save anywhere from four to eight cents per litre when you fill up at the corresponding petrol station. Coles is usually Shell and Woolworths is usually your local Caltex. You can also become a member of Costco, which is a large bulk-buying shopping outlet that also has fuel stations. Members are offered special benefits and cheaper prices.
3. Check prices - online, radio
Prices per litre can differ quite drastically from fuel station to station. Even stations across the road can have pretty big price differences. The best way to keep on top of them all is to use the internet. There are many websites that allow you to search for the cheapest going fuel price in your area. It's a great way to know you're getting the best going rate of the day, so long as you don't have to venture too far out of your way to get to the station. Some of the bigger radio programs in the morning usually talk about the cheapest prices during traffic reports as well.
4. Drive efficiently
You can save lots of money on fuel simply by improving your driving. Limit taking off quickly in your car. The engine requires much less fuel when you drive gently. Rolling down hills and using the gears also helps. If you select a low gear when rolling down hills the engine actually uses zero petrol, as opposed to leaving it in neutral or letting the auto sit in a higher gear. Lastly, plan your day and minimise trips. If you can compile all of your errands into one journey you will conserve fuel and save money.
5. Fill up on Tuesday or Wednesday
The days sometimes vary but usually Tuesday and Wednesday are the best days to buy fuel as the prices are often the cheapest. This is especially important if you fill up in one go. If you end up buying fuel on a Friday afternoon, for example, and you fill the tank from near empty you could end up spending a lot more than on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Prices can vary as much as 10c/litre. If you fill up 50 litres, you could save $5 every week. That's $260 per year, at minimum.
6. Keep your car maintained
Sticking to a regular service schedule not only minimises the chances of mechanical breakdowns, your car also runs a lot smoother and more efficiently when it's running on clean and correct oil. The injectors that spray fuel into the combustion chamber also become dirty and don't spray correctly after time, causing the engine's computer to over-compensate and spray in more than what is needed. It's a good idea to run a premium grade of petrol or diesel through your engine for one tank every month or so to ensure the injectors are kept clean.
The tyres are the only thing between your car and the road. Different tyres and different pressures can have a profound effect on rolling efficiency. Make sure your tyres are in good condition and are set at the certified pressure. If this means learning how to check and fill tyres, do it. It's simple. Tyre pressures should normally be set to 32 to 34 psi, but always check the certified rating which is usually stamped on the inside of the driver's door. If your tyres are a little flat, it means your engine has to work harder to push your car along. You could pump the tyres up to 38psi or more but the ride becomes uncomfortable. Thousands if not millions of dollars were spent engineering your car to get it right, so it's best to stick with the settings that they tried and tested. It's best to check pressures soon after leaving your house or work too, as tyres eventually warm up after a decent drive and the pressure naturally increases due to the expanding air inside. If you check them straight after a long drive the pressure will be around 5psi higher, or more.
8. Empty your car of burdens
Do you really need to lug around all of the contents in your boot or on the back seat? Remove anything that is not needed. Heavy items weigh your car down. Imagine walking around with a heavy backpack every day. Your engine has to work harder to carry things too. Even small items can add up if you have a lot of things. You will save money if you keep your car as empty as it can be.
9. Car pool
If your daily commute goes anywhere near a work colleague's or colleagues' house, car pooling is a great way to save money. It can be especially economical if you're travelling a decent distance between suburbs to the city, for example, and there are two or three of you that all live in near areas. Alternating from week to week means you might only use your car once every third week.
10. Buy an economical vehicle
It might seem like a costly idea to start with, but after time, owning a nice new efficient vehicle can save you in the long run. Modern vehicles are getting more and more efficient. Manufacturers have to meet tightening emission and consumption laws, which means they have no choice but to hone engineering and come up with innovative technologies to reduce fuel consumption on their vehicles. Running around in an old car can seem like a cool idea, but for daily commuting old cars chew through more fuel compared with modern ones. If you keep a new car maintained and follow all of the steps above you could literally save thousands of dollars in fuel costs per year.