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Fuel for thought

Bargain-hunting motorists who drive out of their way for cheap fuel to save just one pence per litre are wasting time and money according to a ‘Focus on Fuel’ report by MoneySuperMarket. The new report identifies the ‘tipping point’ at which driving extra miles for discounted fuel means you’re wasting money. It urges drivers to consider adopting the ‘2 for 1 rule’ with two being the maximum number of extra driving miles (round trip) to make it worthwhile to find a one pence per litre saving. The benefit of saving two pence per litre is cancelled out by driving more than four miles. On the flip side, driving just one mile to pay five pence per litre less on fuel will give motorists a saving of £2.29 per litre when filling a 50-litre tank.

Time to be defensive

The main purpose of defensive driving is to reduce the chance of collisions or incidents, despite the actions of other road users or driving conditions. One of the main aspects of defensive driving is looking out for hazards. Anything that requires you to alter your speed or change the position of your vehicle on the road is classed as a hazard.

To become a better defensive driver, apply the following rules:

Look 15 seconds ahead, not just at the vehicle in front of you. Aiming further down the road allows you to anticipate risks, make fewer and smaller steering corrections and better predict events to which you may need to react.

Scanning or keeping your eyes moving to combine what you see ahead and around you will help to identify hazards. Monitor and maintain the ‘safety space’ around you to give yourself time and options, and ensure other road users see you – giving early, clear and effective signals.

Defensive drivers are also likely to save money – driving smoothly and steadily using concentration, anticipation and observation is fuel efficient and gets you there just as quickly.

Is it worth paying for premium fuel?

When you pull up to the pumps you’re faced with a choice – standard fuel or a premium alternative. It’s easy to worry that you’re missing out by opting for the cheaper alternative, but does it really make much difference?

The first thing to remember is that premium fuel will not magically convert your vehicle into a supercar. Unless you’re lucky enough to drive a performance car, the vast majority of cars on the road will not perform any differently with a premium fuel as their engines are not built to deliver much more power and performance than you’re already getting.

However, many premium fuels, such as Shell V-Power and BP Ultimate, claim to have vital detergents that clean your engine as they go through, extending engine life and reducing problems. They also have special chemicals designed to lessen the friction in your engine, adding to its longevity.

While it’s true that this aspect of premium fuels will work for most cars, you don’t have to use it all the time to benefit. Filling up with premium fuel every fourth or fifth tank should be more than enough to clean your engine of carbon and other deposits and keep it running smoothly.

Pump up to cut down

Under-inflated tyres create more resistance when your car is moving, which means your engine has to work harder, so more fuel is used and more CO2 emissions are produced. Simply checking and adjusting your tyre pressures regularly, and before long journeys, can help reduce fuel consumption and increase the life of your tyres. Take note, for every five per cent a car’s tyres are under-inflated, fuel consumption increases by one per cent.

Reasons not to coast

Although coasting used to be a common practice to save fuel, rolling downhill or approaching a junction with the car out of gear is inadvisable because you don’t have full control. You lose the ability to suddenly accelerate out of tricky situations and you lose engine braking which risks brake fade on downhill stretches – overheated brakes require harder pedal pressure to stop the car. In today’s modern cars, electronic engine management means that when you take your foot off the accelerator the fuel supply to the injectors is cut anyway, so there’s nothing to be gained by coasting.

Eco speed

Eco-driving on longer journeys is all about speed. Driving at 60mph uses around six per cent more fuel that driving at 50mph, while driving at 70mph uses 15 per cent more. This form of eco-driving is important on motorways, as driving at 80mph uses up to 25 per cent more fuel than driving at 70mph. In any one hour driving at 80 rather than 70, you will have covered just 10 miles more.

Is it really worth 25 per cent more fuel to get there 10 minutes earlier?