If you found yourself gasping last time you fueled up your car, there’s a very good reason. Fuel prices tend to jump around a little, but in the last year, they’ve hovered around the $2.50-$2.80 a litre mark for unleaded, and at one stage, even hit a $3 high. That means, for the average small car (which many retirees tend to drive), you’re paying anywhere between $117 and $135 to fill the tank. That’s a whopping chunk out of your weekly budget. So, if you can’t influence the cost of fuel, what can you do to economise? Here are some tips to get you started:
Know before you go
You can waste a lot of fuel driving round town looking for the best deals on petrol. Instead of doing that, compare prices online before you leave home (factoring in, of course, the distance you need to travel to reach the pump).
The speed you drive influences the amount of fuel your car uses, and for each make of vehicle, there’s what’s known as a ‘sweet spot’ – the best speed to produce the most fuel efficient journey. Ask your local service station or automobile association what the ‘sweet spot’ is for your vehicle, and drive to it unless it conflicts with good driving practice or speed safety rules and regulations.
Wherever possible, share rides, but do so generously because fuel accounts for around only 20% of the cost of running a car. By being generous in your contribution, you’ll be encouraging your driver to check with you (rather than the other way round) next time you’re both heading in the same direction.
Park and walk
Fuel use increases significantly with frequent stops and starts. Your vehicle uses more fuel when its engine is starting, than when it’s simply motoring. On top of that, your car is also more efficient when its motor is already warmed up. So, when you head to town, find a central parking spot where you can leave your vehicle for a decent chunk of time while you do as many of your errands as possible, on foot. This might mean you need to carry a light day pack or take a shopping trolley – so go prepared.
Leave it at home!
The most economical place to park your car, is in its garage! Taking public transport is win-win because it’s easy on your wallet, as well as the planet. When you take the bus or train, you not only save on fuel but parking too. Even when you factor in the cost of an Uber from your bus stop to your final destination (check prices here), the trip is still likely to end up cheaper than if you took the car. So, load the Uber and public transport apps onto your phone, apply for your seniors’ free-ride public transport card (if they are available in your town), and enjoy the savings as well as the stress of not having to drive.
A well-serviced car can cut as much as 4% from fuel usage. To keep your car running in best form, make sure it’s up to date with servicing, and the tyres are inflated to the correct pressure (the correct tyre pressure for your vehicle can be found in its manual, or your local service station will be able to advise). Service station staff will also be able to show you how to use the station’s tyre pressure gauge to check tyre pressure yourself.
Timing is everything
Idling your vehicle while it sits at traffic lights or pedestrian crossings, as well as traveling at uneconomical speeds, costs money in terms of fuel usage. Time your trip into town so you are driving at the least busy time of day in terms of traffic. Your journey will be less disrupted, and your fuel usage will be reduced.
Rising fuel costs are no fun, but the more it costs to fill up, the more micro-savings are worth working on!