How to be more fuel efficient

Rates and Fees verified correct on December 9th, 2016

Save money the next time you’re holding the petrol pump with these easy tips.

Petrol

The costs of owning a car are ongoing.

With so many expenses like insurance and registration, you need to save money where you can. Minimising your fuel consumption not only increases your savings, but will also help reduce your environmental footprint.

Fuel efficiency refers to getting the most out of your car (e.g. a high amount of mileage), using the lowest amount of fuel possible, whilst also reducing the impact on the environment.

Different cars will have varying fuel efficiencies and different impacts on the environment, depending on their size, weight and type of engine. Buying a car that is not fuel efficient (such as large 4WDs and older cars) will mean you will have to spend more on a weekly or sometimes daily basis just to get around. Buying a car with good fuel efficiency will ensure you won’t have to spend big to fill up your tank, as well as ensuring you lessen your impact on the environment.

How can you make your vehicle more fuel efficient?

The most effective way to save money on fuel is to consider how you drive, and how well you’re taking care of your car. Here are a few things to consider the next time you’re driving:

  • Drive economically and use the correct gears. If you drive a manual car, ensure you use the gears sensibly. Revving the engine high while driving in a lower gear will waste fuel unnecessarily. Change the gears appropriately so the engine doesn’t have to work harder.
  • If you have an automatic transmission, don’t press down too harshly on the accelerator. Once the car is driving at a sufficient speed, the gearbox will shift with more ease, putting less pressure on the engine, using less fuel.
  • Travel light. The weight of the car will affect how much fuel the car will use. This is a large reason why larger cars will use up more fuel more quickly. Some of us use our cars as a second wardrobe or tool shed. Keep your car light, and don’t store any unnecessary items in your boot. The extra weight means your car will have to use extra fuel to travel at the same speed.
  • Maintain your car. Poor maintenance will affect the efficiency and reliability of your car. You should aim to get your car serviced regularly (usually at least once every six months). This ensures the quality of your engine, filters, ignition and oil will be maintained. By getting regular services, your car will run smoothly and efficiently, meaning less fuel consumption and less air pollution.
  • Check your tyres. Deflated tyres can put more pressure on the engine to keep the car moving. By making sure the tyres are inflated to the correct pressure (as per the specific manual of the car), not only will the life of the tyres increase, but you will not need to use as much petrol to keep the car rolling.
  • Use your car less frequently. This is the best way to save money on fuel and lessen your environmental impact. The next time you need to pop up to the local shops or post office, ask yourself if it’s possible for you to walk. Your car uses more fuel with a cold engine, so several shorter trips will use more fuel than one longer trip.

If there are bus stops or train stations near by, you may save money by using public transport, especially if you’ll have to pay for parking at your destination or drive around to find parking.

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How to save more fuel when driving

Car wheel

The best way to save more fuel when driving is to be more conscious of your driving style and how to use the features of your car most effectively.

When you’re on the freeway or motorway try to drive at a slow but safe speed limit. Decreasing your speed by 20km/hour can reduce your fuel consumption by up to 25%. If you know you will be travelling at the same speed for quite some distance, turn on your cruise control. Smoother driving at a constant speed will put less pressure on the engine, and your car won’t use up as much fuel.

On a hot summer day, turning the air conditioner on can seem mandatory, but this could be where a lot of your car’s fuel disappears. Use the air conditioner as little as possible, and pull down your windows instead, especially if it’s just a short trip.

If your car is an older model and doesn’t have air conditioning, try driving with the windows down. However, if you’re travelling a long distance at higher speeds, the car will use more fuel if the windows are down, as this increases the aerodynamic drag.

As mentioned, saving fuel whilst driving comes down to being conscious of your actions when in the car. Accelerating too fast and using the wrong gears will increase the fuel consumption substantially. Drive consciously and sensibly, and you could see just what a difference this makes to your cars fuel efficiency.

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How to select a fuel efficient vehicle

If you’re looking to buy a new or used car, it’s imperative that you research its fuel efficiency if you want to save money.

Cars

If you’re looking to buy a regular non-performance car, you will need to compare the size of the car, the age of the car, and the type of engine. Generally, the larger the car, the heavier it will be, and the more fuel it’ll use. Larger cars will typically have more powerful engines that will need more fuel to run. The older the car is, the less fuel-efficient the engine will be. Today’s engines are much more fuel-efficient than engines made 20 years ago, especially since the introduction of hybrid cars that run on both petrol and electricity.

All new cars have a fuel consumption label that tells you how much fuel will be needed per 100km. Buying a car is a long time investment, and choosing a fuel efficient car could save you a substantial amount of money in the long run.

Motorcycles and scooters

As motorcycles and scooters are smaller and lighter than a car, they have smaller engines and so will not use as much fuel. However, just like different cars, different motorbikes and scooters will also have varying fuel efficiencies. If you are driving long distances and will be carrying some personal items in the back seat compartment, you may want to consider something with a larger engine, as a smaller engine would have to work harder. If you’re using the motorbike or scooter to go a short distance to and from work or university, a smaller engine may be more ideal.

Trucks

If you’re looking to buy a truck, the engine will obviously have to be much larger, and will need more fuel. Consider what size truck you will need. If you run a house maintenance company that needs to carry tools and slightly larger equipment, a medium sized truck may be sufficient. If you truck will be moving large pieces of furniture or large amounts of foods across long distances, a large truck would be necessary. Sometimes, choosing the least expensive truck will cost you the most money, so choose an engine that will be able to cope not only with the weight of the truck, but the weight of the contents you will put into it.

Green vehicles

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It’s also important that you consider the environmental footprint of the vehicle. The Australian Government has created a “Green Vehicle Guide”. This is a star rating system that rates the air pollution performance of the vehicle out of five stars. The higher the rating, the less pollution the car will produce. This guide also gives a fuel consumption figure, making it easier for you to compare different vehicles.

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How to save money on transport costs

Many people don’t take full advantage of using public transport. Fuel consumption and paying for public parking can really add up if you use your car every day for work or running errands. Using public transport could save you time and money.

Some public transport systems charge less if you buy a monthly or quarterly train, bus or ferry pass. If you’re a student or pensioner, you could also receive concession rates, which is generally half the price of an adult rate.

Of course, for those who don’t live close to their work, it may not work out cheaper. Regardless, it doesn’t hurt to draw up a comparison table and calculate how much you would spend on a weekly basis on fuel and parking, and how much you would spend if you used public transport. Especially if you’re working in the city. You might be surprised about how much money you save by taking the bus.


Saving money on fuel is something everyone can do. From choosing the right car, to maintaining the quality of your car, you can do your bit to ensure your car is using up the least amount of fuel necessary. Not only does making your car more fuel-efficient reduce your spending, it also reduces your environmental footprint. The next time you get behind the wheel, consider the ways you can save your fuel, and be content knowing you are also lessening your environmental footprint.

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