Cheap petrol & diesel
Cut your fuel costs by up to 30%
While fuel prices are down on last year's record highs, petrol still costs on average 30p a litre more than in 2020, and diesel 27p more, with supermarkets in particular accused of not passing on savings to drivers. Yet you can save on fuel by filling up in the right place and, with our efficiency tips, you can cut costs further. Follow our five-step guide...
Step 1: Make your car more fuel-efficient
Some simple checks and adjustments to your vehicle can help reduce fuel consumption (thanks to the RAC for its input in compiling this list). Combined with the tips below on driving more efficiently, these could help save up to 30% on fuel costs – and of course, they're a quick and painless way to benefit the environment too.
Keep your tyres inflated
Lower tyre pressures increase drag on a car, meaning you need more fuel. Regularly check the pressures are correct (overinflating will also use more fuel) and your car will need less oomph to keep it moving.
Declutter your car
The lighter your car is, the less effort it needs to accelerate. By clearing out junk from the boot and not carrying any unnecessary weight, you can save a little more money. Any extra weight you ride around with ups your fuel consumption – while lightening the load won't make the biggest difference, every little helps towards keeping it down.
Take your roof rack off
A roof rack, even unused, adds wind resistance to a car, increasing drag and making the engine work harder. If you don't need it, take it off, along with anything else inefficient. Even closing the windows and removing any flags will make the car run slightly more efficiently.
Turn off air-conditioning at lower speeds
Air-conditioning uses engine power and therefore fuel – so make sure it's turned off unless you really need it. The general consensus is it's more efficient to drive with the windows down and the air-con off at lower speeds, but at higher speeds it's better to use the air-con and keep windows up due to the extra drag caused by having windows down.
If you're not using your air-con, it's worth turning it on once in a while as not using it can mean it stops working.
Think about whether you need a full tank of fuel
Fuel is heavy, so by filling the car up you're adding quite a weight. So the less fuel your car has in it, the more efficiently it drives. If you fill up slightly more often and put less in (to half or three-quarters full), it'll make the car run more efficiently.
BUT you need to balance this with current fuel prices – if they're rising quickly, as they did in 2022, you'll likely save more by finding a cheap forecourt and filling up than you would by putting less in to keep weight down and then having to buy more expensive fuel elsewhere later on.
Step 2: Eight tips to drive more efficiently
You can drive the same distance, in the same car, without slowing down, but using less fuel – better for your wallet, better for the environment. The key is to drive smoothly. Here are the eight tips you need to know.
Accelerators are money pumps – accelerate gradually
Speed up smoothly. The harder you press on the accelerator, the more fuel will flow – but you can reach the same speed using much less power. As a rough rule, stay under 3,000 revs. Plus, if you accelerate too quickly, chances are you'll then have to brake hard, which isn't exactly efficient.
Change up a gear sooner
Always drive in the highest gear possible without labouring the engine. So change up much earlier than feels natural – it'll take some pace out of your acceleration, but as that's our first tip it isn't a bad thing. If you have a fuel efficiency display, you'll be surprised how immediate an impact this has.
Think about road position
All the other tips require you to be alert and aware of your road position. This helps you plan ahead and move gradually. It also means that more efficient driving is also safer driving.
The brake is a money burner
Where safe, allow yourself to slow naturally rather than hitting the brakes. When you press the brake you are essentially converting the energy you've paid to put into the car into heat. Instead, where you can, make the most of the car's momentum – good road positioning is crucial for this. Over the course of a journey if you brake frequently, you'll end up having to accelerate more too, which ultimately means using more fuel.
Listen to the noise of your engine
If you hear sharp acceleration and screeching brakes you know you're doing it wrong. Imagine driving from traffic light to traffic light doing that. The person behind who accelerates and decelerates more slowly will still be behind you at the next light – they'll just have spent far less getting there.
Keep moving if you can
The most expensive metre you drive is always the first one. It takes huge energy to get a car going. So if you can safely roll gradually up to a traffic light as it changes from red to green, without stopping, it is more efficient than stopping and restarting.
Save cruise control for motorways
On long, flat roads, cruise control helps you save on fuel by maintaining a constant speed, thus removing unnecessary acceleration. But used regularly on roads that aren't flat, it will increase how much fuel you use because it's slower to react to changes in gradient, meaning it will accelerate for longer than a driver would when going up a hill. Motorways are usually flat, so reserve it for when you can cruise along.
Coasting in neutral can be cheaper – but it's dangerous
While putting the car into neutral and coasting may feel like you're using less fuel, it's dangerous – don't do it. You always need access to the accelerator to avoid unexpected hazards. Plus cars can handle far worse on sharp corners when in neutral.
In many ways, this all comes down to one little rule of thumb...
When you put your foot on the accelerator, the harder you press, the more fuel you use.
Just being conscious of this, and your road position, should massively increase how far you can drive on a tank of petrol or diesel.
While it's tricky to accurately gauge exactly how much you could save on fuel by making your car more fuel-efficient and driving more efficiently, the AA says when 50 of its staff undertook an eco-driving trial they saved an average of 10% in a week – the biggest saving was a whopping 33%.
On an overseas holiday I got to test this, thanks to a sexy little digital display in my hire car which gave me a km/litre readout. For every trip, I drove normally on the way there and used the 'think when pressing the pedal' method above on the way back.
If you're thinking 'Did he really bother while on holiday?' – yes I did, and I loved it. Luckily my girlfriend (now my wife) is very understanding!
The improvement was enormous. Overall, I drove about 500 miles, and the different 'efficiency' averages per litre of petrol were incredible: for normal driving, it was 11.2 km per litre, but for efficiency-conscious driving, a remarkable 13.4 km per litre.
Most intriguingly, the efficient driving didn't cost me any time at all, and on motorways my top speed didn't change. Others drove harder, only to brake harder at the next traffic light...
- Martin Lewis, MSE founder & chair
Step 3: Find the cheapest petrol or diesel prices in your area
The easiest way to find the cheapest forecourt in your area for petrol or diesel, whether standard or premium, is by comparing prices using a nifty free tool.
See the cheapest filling stations in your area by registering, entering a postcode, town or city, and how far you're willing to travel (up to 20 miles).
It covers about 8,500 forecourts across the UK. There's also a mobile app to make it easier to use on your phone. Results tend to be between one and four days old so there may not be an exact match when you drive up, though it should be close.
Using it can save as much as £11-£12 on filling up a typical family car. For example, within five miles of Hungerford, Berkshire the price of unleaded on Tuesday 25 July ranged from 147.9p to 169.9p per litre. While the difference per litre may be pennies, in percentage terms you could pay almost 15% more by going to the 'wrong' forecourt.
Also, keep an eye out for short-lived fuel discount promos that pop up from time to time. There aren't currently any on that we know of, but we'll publish details here when there are.
Buying petrol or diesel is a regular outlay, and you spend more on it in a year than you think – £30 a week is over £1,500 a year. As many fuel stations (including the supermarket ones) run some form of loyalty scheme, it's worth signing up to schemes for the forecourts you'll use most regularly, to get a little extra back.
However, never choose a filling station just for its loyalty scheme, as the difference is small compared with how fuel prices can vary from forecourt to forecourt (also see our guides on Boosting Nectar points and Reclaiming and boosting Tesco vouchers).
There are several other ways to cut the cost of petrol and diesel:
Then there's no panic and you've enough time to get to a cheaper filling station. Leave it longer and you'll fill up at the next one you see, so you won't be focused on price.
This is slightly offset by the fact that a lighter car uses less fuel. But with 50 miles of fuel left, the difference is tiny.
Many petrol stations sell 'high performance' fuels, yet there's little or no performance difference for most non-performance cars. So only fill up with the super-fuels if you've a sports car or you've been specifically advised that your car will actually use the petrol correctly.
The AA tells us that for most other cars, high performance fuels are too pricey for regular use. But if you're keen, it suggests using a high performance fuel every third or fourth tank full to keep the engine clean and efficient, then revert to normal fuel.
Talk of filling up at night getting you more is a slight urban myth, as the difference is minuscule – pennies at best. Fuel pumps are calibrated by volume, so fill up at night when it's colder and you get a tiny, tiny bit extra.
Filling your tank to the top isn't great, as it adds weight to the car (see how to make your car more fuel-efficient). But if you must, don't keep going after the petrol nozzle 'clunks'. If you do, you're overfilling.
You may have seen stories earlier this month about a Government fuel price monitor, which will force retailers to report their prices, allowing drivers to compare them in real time, increasing competition.
While the proposals are welcome, they could take some time to see the light of day. Until then, tools like the one below remain the easiest way to cut costs. For more on the proposed scheme, see the Gov.uk website.
Step 4: Pay using a cashback card
Cashback cards pay you back each time you spend on them. They are a great way to shave the cost of your fuel, but if you get a cashback credit card ALWAYS abide by the golden rule...
Set up a direct debit to repay the card in full each month, so you never pay interest, which would outstrip any gain.
The reason credit card companies offer cashback or reward schemes is simple. They want to encourage you to spend on the card and pay them interest. The interest cost of all cashback cards dwarfs the cashback you'll earn. For full details on what to consider before applying, see Credit card rewards.
Each time you apply for one of these cards, you'll be credit-checked by the lenders. Multiple applications in a short period can affect your future ability to get credit. Read full details in our Credit scores guide.
The easy way to pay off in full
It's easy to do this via direct debit, which allows the credit card company to take a variable monthly amount that corresponds with what you owe. Unfortunately, some firms deliberately omit 'repay in full' as an option when you set up a direct debit, as it makes them less money. If that's the case, contact them and ask them to make sure your direct debit is set up to pay off what you owe in full.
You can get 5% bonus cashback on everything you buy, up to a maximum £100, with our top-pick American Express reward card, the Platinum Cashback Everyday. After the introductory bonus, cashback is then tiered up to 1%, though you need to spend £3,000+ a year to get any cashback.
Full details and more options in Top-paying rewards credit cards.
You can get 1% cashback, up to a max of £15 a month, for at least a year on most spending with Chase's app-only current account. You don't need to switch from your current bank to open it, there's no hard credit-check when you apply and there's no minimum pay-in required in the first year. Plus it's a top pick for overseas spending.
Full info and how to apply in Best reward debit cards.
How much can you save using the five-step cheap petrol system?
'Do it – you'll be surprised'
Thanks to driving tips from @MoneySavingExp, I have saved myself £20 in fuel in 1 month, driving more carefully. Do it – you'll be surprised.
- MoneySaver @mathewhasker on Twitter
'I doubled my fuel economy!'
Over the last 2 years I have almost doubled my fuel economy, without changing vehicles.
1. I drive much more smoothly and don't overtake other car users just to get one or two places further along in a big queue.
2. I leave for work a little later and return home a little later – as a result I no longer spend 30 mins plus on a 4-mile crawl through stop/start traffic on a 26-mile (each way) commute into and out of Aberdeen.
My blood pressure is also lower.
- MoneySaver Caleypine
'75+ extra miles per tank!'
Results I've got from trying to drive more fuel-efficiently. Most of this has been city driving:
Previously, 33 to 35 litres gave me around 215 miles.
Driving more carefully increased this to around 235 miles.
Turning engine off at lights increased this to 293 miles ... Lots of lights in London.
- MoneySaver Krishna
Once you've read the steps above, why not try the petrol/diesel diet? No, we don't advocate swigging the stuff – it's a challenge on the MSE Forum, where MoneySavers share tips to help cut their annual fuel spend, track savings and inspire others.
The forum's proved hugely powerful in the past, seeing people work together to get debt-free, pay off mortgages and more. It's free to join, and open to all – see the Petrol/diesel diet challenge discussion.
The savings from following our system can be huge. For someone driving 15,000 miles a year, averaging 35 miles per gallon (12.4 km per litre), just buying petrol at the average UK price would cost £2,796 annually as of July 2023. Cutting this by 25% could save £699 a year.
To work out your initial approximate running costs, Gov.uk has a fuel consumption search tool that will help you work out roughly how much it'll cost you to run your car (it's best for new vehicles). Motoring website Honest John also has a handy 'real miles-per-gallon' section where drivers report the miles per gallon they actually get from their cars.
How does the cost of fuel break down?
Tax makes up a hefty portion of the cost of a litre of fuel. The current fuel-duty rate for petrol and diesel is set at 52.95p per litre following the freeze announced in March's Budget. Plus you pay 23.94p per litre VAT on petrol and 24.12p per litre on diesel.
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