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More and more fuel-efficient cars are emerging on the market, which is terrific news for new car buyers. But for many Australians without state-of-the-art models, it feels like the amount we spend on fuel is at the mercy of petrol prices.

Luckily, you have more control over your fuel expenses than you might think. You can amp up your car’s fuel economy with these 8 simple ways to improve your fuel efficiency.

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1. Reduce your car’s weight

Clutter can be a curse to your car’s consumption. The more weight you lug around, the more petrol it uses. Infrequently used items in your boot or backseat could be adding unnecessary weight, increasing your fuel spend.

Declutter your car and think about items you don’t need for every single trip, such as prams, kids’ scooters and beach gear. Even roof racks can be removed when they’re not needed.

2. Chill with the A/C

Each car will vary from make to model. But the general rule is that if you’re travelling at slow speeds, rolling the windows down is more efficient means of cooling than having the air conditioner on. However, if you’re on the open road or the highway, rolling up the windows and using the A/C is probably smartest.

When the weather cools down a bit, you can avoid the chill by planning ahead, and keeping some gloves in the glovebox. That is, after all, the original reason why gloveboxes were installed.

Also, if you’re parking for a while in warm conditions, you can save fuel by switching off the engine, and seeking comfort outside the vehicle.

3. Half fill your tank

Tim Trudgian, research fellow in mathematics at Australian National University, recently looked at the issue of whether half filling your petrol tank saves money. He concluded that it really depends on what you drive. Some cars will benefit you if you never fill beyond half a tank, some cars sting you filling up twice as much.

If you drive a sedan or hatch, chances are, you’re better off just filling up the entire tank. The amount of time you would spend filling twice as often will more than outweigh the minor fuel savings. But for any vehicles that can house over 80-90L of fuel, keeping your tank under half full might be the smarter way to go.

4. Shop around for cheap petrol

There are many free apps and websites designed to help you get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to sourcing petrol.

PetrolSpy is available on both iPhone and Android, and it scours the country’s petrol stations to find you the best deals. Of course, you’ll have to factor in whether it makes sense to drive to fill up on a cheaper fuel.

You can also aim to stay with a single provider and collect their loyalty benefits on offer. However, don’t let loyalty points distract you from high prices – often the perceived “benefits” can mask slightly higher rates for fuel. Just make sure not to check these apps while you’re driving.

Related article: Using a mobile phone while driving: Australian survey 2020

Otherwise, there are plenty of non-app ways to ensure you’re paying as little as possible. You can keep an eye on your regular service station and wait for what looks like a lower price than normal. You can also hold onto your shopping receipts and check them for fuel discounts.

5. Consider other modes of transport

Becoming less reliant on your car isn’t just a great way to save on fuel. It can be liberating and do wonders for your health. You also stand to save on a variety of other expenses, such as parking.

If you’re looking to spend less time in the car, it’s worth considering:

  • Walking to and from the supermarket, if you only need a few things
  • Take advantage of the office showers and lockers, and ride your bike to work
  • Take turns driving with local co-workers or friends and carpool your main daily trips.

6. Focus on your driving style

The force you apply to your pedal increases the amount of fuel you use, which means your driving technique is directly related to your fuel efficiency.

Fuel economy expert, Helen Taylor, suggests drivers focus on how smoothly they drive to reduce fuel use.

“Driving smoothly is very important. Avoid over-acceleration and over-braking as you want to waste as little energy as possible.” she says.

Gradual acceleration and early braking (where possible) are both tactics that can help you to save petrol. If you’re driving a manual car, ensure you’re always in the right gear, and avoid holding onto high revs for continuous periods.

7. Check out the Green Vehicle Guide

The government’s Green Vehicle Guide encourages you to make a smarter choice based on a vehicle’s combined greenhouse rating and air pollution rating. You can quickly enter the makes and models of various cars, and compare how much CO2 they emit, and how much they would cost in fuel each year.

Particularly if you’re looking to make your next car as cheap to run as possible, the Green Vehicle Guide is a very handy resource.

8. Perform regular maintenance

Taking care of your vehicle is a simple way to improve fuel economy. Make the effort to have your car serviced by a qualified mechanic as often as the vehicle manufacturer recommends. Also, if you notice any issues or concerns make sure you speak to a mechanic as soon as possible.

In between services, you can check the oil levels yourself, and ensure your tyres are well inflated. Flat tyres can significantly increase your drag on the road, adding to the fuel you burn.

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