RAC Cars News


Top tips for driving efficiently

By raccars Published

Struggling to achieve to your car’s official claimed fuel economy? These tips will help you eke out more miles per gallon

Petrol and diesel prices might be at their lowest since 2009, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drive as efficiently as possible. By making a few small adjustments to your driving style, you can eke a few more miles out of a tank of fuel, potentially saving you hundreds of pounds a year.

To make things easy, we’ve split our tips into three categories: your car, your journey and your driving.


Look after your car

You can start saving fuel even before you’ve turned a wheel. A well-maintained vehicle will not only be more fuel efficient, it will also be kinder to the environment. Furthermore, by staying on top of the manufacturer-advised service intervals, you’ll be able to spot any potential problems sooner, saving you money in the long run.

Take care of your rubber

Research by Continental shows that tyres contribute up to 20% of a car’s total fuel consumption, so taking care of them is vitally important. Reduce rolling resistance by 10% and you can expect a 1.6% drop in fuel consumption, which equates to about 2g/km CO2.

Correctly inflated tyres will not only last longer, they’ll also be safer and will help improve your fuel economy. Check the pressures regularly and replace defective tyres as soon as possible.

Declutter your car!

The more you carry, the more fuel you’ll use. So while we don’t recommend leaving your mother-in-law stood at the roadside, we do suggest removing any unwanted items from the boot. Only carry what’s absolutely necessary, so store your golf clubs at home until you’re ready to use them.

Remove the roof rack

Air resistance is another significant contributor to fuel consumption and carmakers spend millions ensuring their cars are as aerodynamic as possible. A roof rack can increase fuel consumption by around 10%, so when it’s not in use, remove it.


Time is of the essence

Before you set off, think about the journey. Do you have to travel to work at peak times? By driving outside the traditional rush hours, you can expect fewer delays and therefore a more efficient journey. Similarly, if you’re travelling somewhere new, plan ahead to look for the most fuel-efficient route.

Leave home allowing plenty of time to reach your destination, as the faster you drive and the more erratic your style, the more fuel you’ll consume.

Do you really need to travel?

Crucially, ask yourself if you really need to travel by car? Shorter journeys might be possible by walking or cycling, while public transport could be an option for longer trips. If possible, combine a number of shorter trips into one journey, as an engine is at its most efficient when warm.


Now you’ve sorted the car and journey, it all comes down to you. Your driving style could be the difference between saving fuel and spending even more time at the pumps. So think about the way you drive.

Act smooth

Smoothly does it - that’s the name of the game. By accelerating gently and decelerating smoothly, you can expect to save around 20% in fuel. By adopting a non-aggressive style and anticipating the road ahead, this could increase to around 30%.

Gear up for economy

Modern cars often have a gear-shift indicator, telling you the optimum time to change up or down a gear. As a guide, you should look to change up at around 2,000rpm in a diesel-engined car or 2,500rpm in a petrol-engined vehicle. Read the road ahead, looking for hills, junctions and roundabouts, adjusting your speed accordingly.

Speed matters

When it comes to driving efficiently, speed really does matter. The most optimum speed is between 50mph and 55mph in fifth or sixth gear, but shaving 10mph off your speed could make all the difference.

Department for Transport figures suggest you’ll use 9% more fuel driving at 70mph than you would at 60mph and up to 15% more fuel than driving at 50mph. Travelling at 80mph on a motorway can use a staggering 25% more fuel than at 70mph.

Turn things off

These days, we tend to look at our cars as extensions of our homes and offices, with an array of gadgets and accessories designed to make driving easier. But while heated seats, climate control and smartphone chargers might be appealing, using them will increase your fuel consumption. When they’re not needed, switch them off.

Cutting down on air conditioning will improve your fuel economy, but don’t be tempted to open the windows on the motorway. As a guide, you should use air conditioning at speeds over 60mph.


Shop around for the best fuel prices and plan your trips accordingly. We don’t recommend going too far out of your way to save a few pennies, but by filling up at the cheapest forecourt, you could save hundreds of pounds over the course of a year.

There are a number of price comparison sites on the internet and you could find a difference of between 5p and 10p per litre in forecourts just a few hundred yards apart. Don’t forget the various retailer loyalty cards, as these can be used to exchange points for money-off vouchers.

If you have fuel-saving tips to share, let us know on our Facebook page.

Looking to Buy?
Search for cars