How to beat high fuel prices and still enjoy your holiday drive

Motorists are likely to feel the sting of recent fuel price rises during the holiday driving season, but we can beat the price hikes by driving more efficiently, says AA PetrolWatch spokesperson Mark Stockdale.

19 December 2010

How to beat high fuel prices and still enjoy your holiday drive

“The price of 91 octane petrol has gone up 11 cents per litre since November to $1.96, and with premium grades now over $2 motorists will be noticing the high cost of fuel whenever they fill up.

“The price rise couldn’t really come at a worse time as Kiwis head off on summer holidays, and some people will be worried whether they can afford to go away to visit family and friends or take the kids on trips.”

However, Mr Stockdale says most people can save on their fuel bill - potentially up to 40% - with some simple vehicle checks and changes to the way they drive.

1. Love your car - regular servicing, the right tyres, topping up your tyre pressure every few weeks and correct wheel alignment can save 10-20% fuel compared with a poorly maintained vehicle.

2. Don't speed - travel at no more than the 100km/h speed limit because travelling at 110km/h can cost you up to 13% more fuel.

3. Drive smoothly - accelerate smoothly and change gear early without labouring the engine. In automatics, allow the transmission to change up early by accelerating on a light throttle.

4. Look ahead – rather than braking late, ease off the pedal ahead of changing traffic lights and when entering lower speed zones. Keeping a safe following distance will also help you maintain a more constant speed.

5. Corner smoothly - don't brake hard for corners and then accelerate out. Slow gently, negotiate and exit the corner on a light throttle.

6. Make hills work for you - lift off the throttle as you crest the hill and use the car's momentum to get you over the top. Build up speed before an uphill stretch.

7. Watch your air con - use your air-conditioning instead of having your windows down which creates drag. Air conditioning also reduces fatigue, but it can use up to 10% more fuel, so put it on the economy setting when you don’t need it. Likewise switch off rear window demist and other similar features when their job is done.

8. Keep your load down - a heavier vehicle makes the engine work harder, so remove those golf clubs, bike rack or roof rack when you're not using them.

9. Reduce idling time - if you’re stationary for more than 30 seconds turn your engine off, and avoid peak hour traffic whenever possible.

10. Avoid short trips - about a third of car trips are less than 2km, so combine tasks into one trip or walk.

AA tests earlier this year revealed the following fuel saving results from these actions:


  • Air-conditioning off - saved 8.68%*
  • Using fuel-efficient tyres - saved 4.71%
  • Incorrect tyre pressures - used 7.76% more
  • Added weight and drag - used 11.11% more
  • Poor driving style - used almost 20% more

The AA advises drivers to use air conditioning judiciously - if it's getting too warm, keep it on to help you stay alert.

The AA wishes everyone a happy and safe holiday drive.

For more information contact

Mark Stockdale
AA PetrolWatch Spokesperson
New Zealand Automobile Association
M. +64 21 0220 4700


The New Zealand Automobile Association is an incorporated society with over one million members. It represents the interests of road users who collectively pay over $2 billion in taxes each year through fuels excise, road user charges and GST.

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