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Eco-friendly tips to improve your car’s fuel economy

Vidhu Bajaj avatar
Vidhu Bajaj
- 6 min read
Eco-friendly tips to improve your car’s fuel economy

Fuel prices have increased significantly, leading many people to rethink their commute. In a nationwide study by customer research firm Toluna, about one-third of those surveyed had reduced their driving to save money on the cost of fuel. But not everybody can cut down on car trips to save money.

Most people rely on their cars to commute to work, run errands, and pick and drop kids to school. Not everybody stays close to their place of work or where the kids study, making it necessary to get a car on the road almost daily. But that doesn’t mean one is helpless when it comes to saving money on the cost of fuel. 

Learning eco-driving techniques and maintaining your car properly can help you boost its fuel economy and get more mileage per litre.

Eco-driving tips to improve fuel economy

The Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) defines eco-driving as a smart, smooth, and safe way of driving your car that can lead to fuel savings of up to 15 per cent in a year.  It’s also good for the environment, as it can help reduce the carbon emissions from your vehicle.

The University of Technology Sydney reviewed eco-driving technology for sustainable road transport and found it to be a “relatively low-cost and immediate measure to reduce fuel consumption and emissions significantly”. The study also identified some major factors of eco-driving as acceleration/deceleration, driving speed, route choice, and idling. By improving on these aspects, you can, therefore, reduce your fuel consumption and the money you spend on fuel. 

Aside from the way you drive your car, it’s also important to consider purchasing a fuel-efficient car in the first place and maintain it properly.

  • Driving smoothly

The way you drive is a contributing factor to your car’s fuel consumption. Eco-driving studies suggest smooth driving to improve fuel economy in cars and increase safety on the road.

You can implement this in your daily life by looking ahead at the traffic flow and maintaining a safe distance from vehicles ahead of you. This can help you avoid unnecessary accelerating and braking that lead to high fuel consumption.

You should also try to maintain a constant speed as far as possible. If you regularly speed up and apply the brakes, your car will end up consuming more fuel than if you drive at a moderate and consistent speed. Of course, you can’t always avoid speeding up or braking, but be aware of your driving style and try to drive smoothly as often as possible.

  • Minimising idling time

Switching off your engine, or reducing idling, can lower your fuel costs by up to 10 per cent or more. Some people believe it’s cheaper to idle the engine than restart their car. However, this doesn’t hold for modern cars that are known to consume less fuel when turning on than being left to idle.

  • Avoiding the air-conditioning when possible

The AC in a car is powered by an alternator which is powered by the car’s engine. And what powers the car’s engine? Fuel.

A car with the AC turned on is always going to consume more fuel than when the AC is turned off. If you’re looking to increase the fuel economy of your car, you could consider driving with the AC turned off. That being said, driving with the AC turned off could be unpleasant and uncomfortable if you live in an area where the climate is hot and humid, so it’s important to strike a balance between comfort and efficiency. You can consider turning the AC off for short stretches if not for the entire journey.

  • Dropping any dead weight

The heavier the car, the harder the engine has to work, and the more fuel it is going to need per kilometre. This is why heavier cars like SUVs generally have a lower mileage when compared to lighter cars like hatchbacks (of course, other factors affect mileage too). It’s understandable though you can’t change the build of your car. But you can control what additional weight it carries. 

Try and remove any unnecessary weight from the car before you set out. Empty the boot of any unwanted items, remove the bike rack when not in use, and if you have a detachable roof, you can take that off as well. You can take such measures to reduce the weight of your car and, in turn, improve its fuel efficiency.

  • Checking tyre pressure

Every car has a standard tyre pressure value set by the manufacturer. Lower tyre pressure increases drag, and your car has to work harder to move, consuming more fuel in the process. So make sure you check the pressure in your car tyres regularly and fill them up to the standard set by the manufacturer.

It’s also important to get your car serviced at regular intervals to ensure maximum efficiency. 
Issues like a misfiring engine or a dirty carburettor affect a car’s mileage, and these problems are sometimes difficult to catch because the car could continue to operate normally. 

Besides monitoring the way you drive and maintain your car, purchasing a fuel-efficient car in the first place can help you automatically cut down on fuel costs. If you're planning to buy a new car, you can check the Fuel Consumption Label on new vehicles to compare their fuel
efficiency and running costs. You could also consider purchasing an electric or hybrid car to save on fuel costs.

Even though electric cars can be more expensive to purchase than their petrol or diesel counterparts, the lower operating costs could balance out this difference over time. Electric vehicles are also considered better for the environment, as they help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. You could potentially save money on financing costs as well if you make an eco-friendly choice.

Some lenders offer green car loans for buying eco-friendly electric and hybrid cars. These loans typically offer more competitive interest rates than regular car loans, leading to some savings if you plan to take out a car loan for your purchase. But it’s important to compare your options, including different types of car loans and your monthly repayments, to purchase a car that fits your budget and meets your present and future requirements.

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Product database updated 16 Jun, 2024

This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Alex Ritchie before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.