While fuel prices have dipped slightly over the past month, overall, they are up compared with this time last year. Even with the government’s 25c per litre reduction in the petrol excise duty, motorists are still feeling a lot of pain at the pump.
According to the latest data from the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE), the average price per litre for 91 octane at New Zealand petrol stations is $3.11 per litre, and the average diesel price is $2.94.
While we can’t control the price of fuel, there are some active steps we can take to lower our vehicles’ fuel consumption and stretch our dollars further when driving around town or taking a road trip.
One of the best ways to save on petrol is to be thoughtful about how you drive. This includes not accelerating fast as soon as the green traffic light appears, or when pulling away from a stop. Slow and relaxed acceleration (such as going to 20km/h in five seconds) can improve your fuel efficiency by around 10%.
How you brake is another key consideration if you’re trying to conserve fuel. To avoid sudden braking, scan ahead to anticipate when you’ll need to slow down, such as when approaching traffic lights, then take your foot off the accelerator. This simple practice can increase your fuel efficiency by around 2%. You should only be using your brakes hard in an emergency.
You should also avoid tailgating (driving behind someone too closely). Not only is it dangerous and annoying for other drivers but it also makes you accelerate and decelerate unnecessarily, which decreases your fuel efficiency.
Don’t warm up your engine or let it idle
Although this used to be a common practice with older cars, it’s not necessary to warm up your engine unless the temperatures are well below freezing. This uses fuel unnecessarily.
Also, if you need to set your GPS or playlist before you leave, do this before you turn your engine on. If you’re also waiting or loading or unloading your car, turn off the engine so your vehicle doesn’t unnecessarily consume fuel.
Plan your trip
If you’re going on a road trip, take the time to plan the fastest route and the stops you intend to take along the way. You should also check for traffic congestion on apps like Google Maps, or by using a satnav system. Try and avoid bumper-to-bumper traffic crawls by, for example, leaving early in the morning, or later, once all the traffic has cleared. This will help save fuel and your sanity!
Check your vehicle’s weight
Carrying extra weight can increase the amount of fuel your vehicle uses. To cut down on this, check the boot of your car and remove unnecessary items and rubbish. Reducing the extra weight your car carries can boost your fuel efficiency. Also remove roof racks and bike racks from your car if they’re not in use, as these add to wind resistance when you’re driving.
Check your tyres
Not only is it unsafe to drive with under-inflated tyres, but it can also impact on your fuel economy. Under-inflated and worn tyres create more friction and ‘rolling resistance’. This means more energy and fuel is needed to keep your car moving.
Checking your tyre pressures regularly will not only reduce tyre wear, but it can also improve your fuel efficiency by up to 4%. Find out the recommended tyre pressure for your vehicle by looking for a sticker on the driver or passenger door or by consulting the owner’s handbook.
Use the air-conditioning sparingly
Air conditioning can increase a vehicle’s fuel consumption by as much as 20%. Instead, open the windows when you’re driving around town and use the flow-through ventilation system with the windows up on the motorway. Open windows cause turbulence at motorway speeds and use a bit more fuel.
If you do use air-conditioning, select the re-circulate option, as this will minimise the impact on your fuel consumption