Five ways you can beat April’s fuel duty hike
1. Where you buy
Don’t just wait until your tank is nearly empty or you happen to pass a petrol station to fill up – this is one of the most expensive mistakes you can make, as prices vary from forecourt to forecourt.
The website PetrolPrices.com is one of your best tools in fighting the rising cost of fuel. You can search by postcode or location and it will tell you the most expensive and cheapest prices in the area. For example, searching the postcode E1 8AA (Moneywise HQ) shows you could pay as much as 124.9p per litre of unleaded - or as little as 110.9p (correct 17/03/10).
You then get the option to see which petrol stations are the cheapest (in this example, Tesco comes out top) although you will have to sign up to the website to see these. However, it is free to do so, and you can also opt to receive monthly, weekly or even daily alerts for prices in your chosen postcode.
You can also select how far you’re prepared to travel to find the cheapest prices so you have more options.
PetrolPrices.com also has an iPhone app for £2.99 to help you find cheaper petrol when out and about.
Generally speaking, supermarket forecourts are one of the cheapest places to fill up your tank.
Many also run promotions; both Sainsbury’s and Tesco, for example, regularly offer 5p off a litre vouchers (valid up to 100 litres) when customers spend £50, so keep your eyes peeled at the checkout.
If you are planning a long drive, fill up your tank before you go and avoid using petrol stations on or near motorways, as a lack of competition means their fuel tends to come at a premium.
2. How you pay
If you do buy from a supermarket, make sure you take advantage of any loyalty schemes on offer. Tesco, for example, allows cardholders to collect points on fuel purchases. With a Nectar card you can collect points at Sainsbury’s forecourts and BP garages.
Using the right credit card can also help keep costs down. Citi used to offer a Shell MasterCard, which offered drivers 3% cashback, but this has now been withdrawn.
An alternative is a Morrisons Miles Card - you’ll earn up to 15 Morrisons Miles with every litre of fuel you purchase. But you will need to purchase 333 litres of fuel and collect 4,995 miles on a single card in order to receive a £5 shopping voucher to spend in-store.
As this offer is quite limited – for example, if you don’t shop at Morrisons it won’t suit – a standard cashback credit card is another option.
Cashback schemes could earn you up to £200 a year, as long as you pay off the card balance each month and depending, of course, on how generous the terms of the offer are and how often you frequent the same forecourts.
You can search for the best cashback deals in our best-buy credit card review.
3. The way you drive
The most effective way to reduce your motoring costs is to reduce the amount of fuel you use. And the easiest way to do this is to change the way you drive.
Reducing the weight of your car will mean it burns less fuel. This means ditching roof racks when not in use and emptying the boot of any heavy items you don't need. Keeping your tyres properly inflated will also increase your fuel-efficiency as will driving in the correct gear and avoiding heavy braking.
Sticking to the speed limit is not only a legal requirement, it is also a good way to reduce your fuel consumption. According to The Slower Speeds Initiative, driving at 50mph instead of 70mph can cut your fuel bill by 30%.
If you keep your car in top-notch condition, you’ll improve its miles-per-gallon efficiency significantly. For example, a poorly tuned engine can increase fuel consumption by as much as 50%, and, according to AA figures, when you drive on under-inflated tyres, you will use 5.8% more petrol in a small car than if you take the trouble to keep them fully pumped up.
Air conditioning also uses a lot of fuel, so on a short trip or if you don’t really need it, switch it off - the RAC calculates you could improve energy efficiency by up to 8%. On the other hand, if it’s hot and you’ve got the windows down, the air drag could make the engine work harder than the air conditioning would. So it’s basically a question of common sense.
Other simple steps you can take include planning your route before you leave and accelerating gradually without over-revving.
However, saving money through strategies such as coasting (driving out of gear) or filling up your car at night are urban myths.
4. Club together
The most obvious way to save money on petrol is to simply drive less. This might mean walking, cycling or using public transport for some journeys.
Alternatively, you could look into joining or starting a lift-sharing scheme at your work - find if any of your colleagues live near you, and suggest taking it in turns to drive each other to and from work.
If you don’t drive that often, then it might be more cost-efficient for you to ditch your motor and join a car club instead.
The cost of hiring a car through a car club varies, although most companies charge an annual membership fee plus an hourly or daily rental rate. This may or may not include petrol. Be aware that mileage caps may also apply.
Carplus, a national charity promoting responsible car use - including car clubs - estimates that if you drive less than 6,000 miles per year then a car club could save you up to £3,500 a year.
Replacing a second family car with car club membership is likely to bring even more cash savings.
Another advantage often cited is that car clubs offer drivers more flexibility, as you'll only be charged for when you use the car rather than when it is sitting in your drive. However, the fact remains that you don't have the instant access to a car that ownership offers.
Car clubs don’t always cover the whole UK, so if you don’t live in a city or big town then your ability to hire a car may be restricted.
5. The car
If you’re buying a new car, it makes economic sense to choose a more environmentally friendly one. According to the RAC, if you buy a £10,000 car, you could save around £12 a week with a more fuel-efficient model.
When looking for a new fuel-efficient car, remember that size does matter. Don’t opt for a people carrier if you only expect to ever carry one passenger at a time. Equally, look at the weight of the car as this is more important than engine size when it comes to how much fuel it uses, according to the AA. The heavier it is, the more gas it will burn through.
Other points to bear in mind when shopping for a fuel-efficient car include the fact that manual cars tend to use less fuel than automatics and two-wheel drives are generally more fuel-efficient than four-wheel drives.
Visit dft.gov.uk for the 10 most fuel-efficient cars.
Used by the holder to buy goods and services, credit cards also have a monthly or annual spending limit, which may be raised or lowered depending on the creditworthiness of the cardholder. But unlike charge cards, borrowers aren’t forced to pay the balance off in full every month and, as long as they make a stated minimum payment, can carry a balance from one month to the next, generating compound interest. As the issuing company is effectively giving you a short-term loan, most credit cards have variable and relatively high interest rates. Allowing the interest to compound for too long may result in dire financial straits.