The media is brimmed with information on reducing motoring costs but GEM’s technical specialist, Rob Marshall, puts some of the most popular quotes to the test.
1. “Drive below 60mph”
It is true that hard acceleration increases fuel consumption but encouraging motorists to reduce their speed alone, in order to save fuel, is too simplistic. A useful fuel saving tip is allow the vehicle’s speed to reduce slightly on inclines and allow it to build on downhill stretches, assuming it is safe and legal to do so.
Yet, using the controls smoothly and planning ahead does not mean dawdling progress, because a vehicle that is driven at a steady average speed on the open road is likely to use less fuel per mile than one that is moving slowly in heavy traffic. Planning ahead is not only key to advanced and safer driving but also fewer applications of the footbrake will reduce wear and assist to conserve fuel.
Many modern diesel engines self-clean their diesel particulate filters (DPF) at higher engine and road speeds only and so driving them slowly for long periods of time can cause the essential regeneration process to fail. In extreme cases, a visit to a garage might become necessary.
2. “Buy a more fuel-efficient car”
Even the quoted fuel consumption figures, championed in the dealer showrooms, are doubted by many consumers. Many drivers are frustrated, as they can neither match nor beat their cars’ Official Combined fuel figure.
Ironically, high-output, turbocharged petrol cars tend to have greater potential to beat their official calculation. For example, when I took part in the ALD Fuel Economy Marathon in 2008, with a Subaru Impreza WRX STI, its official combined MPG was improved by over 40%, compared to certain models, which are considered to be eco-friendly, that had great difficulty matching their government figures.
Despite the pain experienced at the filling station, depreciation remains the single biggest annual cost in the private motorist’s budget. Consequently, many car owners, including the fleet sector, are keeping their vehicles for longer. So, your old car might be less efficient on fuel than a brand-new one but keeping it for longer could save you thousands of pounds in depreciation alone.
3. “Visit the garage less”
Neglecting maintenance will not only increase mechanical wear but it also means that a breakdown is more likely and these can not only be expensive, unless you are a member of a reputable breakdown organisation, but also inconvenient. An incomplete service history record will also reduce the car’s value, at trade-in time.
By having your car maintained annually, you prove that you are looking after it, which is paramount to prolong the vehicle’s life, so that it can offer you the best long-term value.
4. “Turn off the air conditioning”
As the air conditioning compressor uses fuel, switching this function off might seem to be a good idea. Unfortunately, the system can either leak or fail completely, if it is not used regularly, and this will also reduce the car’s value to a prospective purchaser. A typical repair can cost at least several hundred pounds.
Therefore, more balanced advice to reduce fuel bills, while maintaining the air conditioning’s efficiency, is to operate the system for several minutes at least once a fortnight.
5. “Check the tax-band”
Although a car’s VED banding is an important draw for many car buyers, its cost is often eclipsed by that of depreciation. Still, it is more cost effective to buy a license disc that lasts for twelve months, rather than six.
Yet, VED is not the only consideration, because other fixed costs, such as insurance, must be thought about as well. Although IPT (Insurance Premium Tax) has risen, some insurance providers appear to have hiked their prices considerably more than a few percent and so shopping around for quotations is likely to shave valuable pounds from that annual premium.