Fuel in New Zealand isn’t going to get any cheaper any time soon. It can hurt us in the pocket, every time you start your car the needle on that gauge is heading in one direction. But, just like at home you might turn off the lights in a room when you don’t need them to save electricity, there are ways of reducing the amount of fuel your car uses to get you where you’re going. And it’s better for the environment.

Don’t skip that service

Because a little car love can go a long way to reducing the burden on your bank balance. In fact, a well-maintained car can use up to 20 per cent less fuel than an inadequately maintained one. Washing your car regularly for example won’t just make it sparkle in the sun – it will also streamline your ride. Regular servicing, ensuring your car is fitted with the best tyres for your regular driving conditions (large off-road knobblies wouldn’t be efficient for a predominately highway driven vehicle), maintaining the recommended tyre pressures (under inflated tyres result in increased fuel consumption due to the rolling resistance) and correct wheel alignment all will also contribute to potential cost savings.

Smoothness is key

Your car will perform more economically if you travel at a more constant speed. Always drive within the speed limits and, if your car is fitted with cruise control, consider using it. Driving faster doesn't necessarily mean you'll get to your destination sooner, and there are obvious safety issues.

Try to drive more smoothly. Avoid accelerating hard from a stop, and instead let the car move off smoothly. Don't brake hard for corners and accelerate out. Slow down gently and negotiate and exit the corner on a light throttle. Your passengers will be grateful too. If you have to drive in peak traffic, open up more space between you and the car ahead, to avoid constant braking.

View the horizon

Monitoring the road ahead and maintaining a safe following distance will prepare you for sudden stops in traffic flow and prevent late braking. Ease off the pedal if the traffic lights are about to change, the speed limit is about to reduce, or you're approaching slow or stopped traffic.

If you drive an automatic, allow the transmission to change up early by accelerating under light throttle, if your car’s a manual, change gear early but don't labour the engine.

You could shave a little off your annual fuel bill just by changing your approach to navigating hills. Lift off the throttle as you get to the crest of a hill and use the car's momentum to get you over the top. Build up speed before an uphill stretch (mind the speed limit though)

Take a load off

The more work the engine has to do to keep a vehicle moving at speed, naturally the more fuel it will burn in return, the harder the alternator is working to keep the battery charged- the more load is applied to the engine. So if every cent of fuel saved matters, switch off or reduce the use of electrical load causing functions or devices when not required.

Don’t overdo the air con. While it’s more fuel efficient to have it on at 100km/h than it is to have the windows down creating drag, the air con can use around 10 per cent more fuel. You may need to find that balance of comfort and economy. Other features such as the rear window demist can also be an electrical drain, so make sure you switch them off when they've done their job (most do have timers these days though).

The heavier a vehicle is, the harder the engine has to work, so keep your load down by taking those golf clubs and sports gear out of the boot. Or remove the bike or roof racks to reduce drag (and wind noise) when you're not using them.

Embrace the technology

There’s a reason that a lot of new vehicles are equipped with Auto Stop/Start systems. When conditions permit, it can stop and start the car in the blink of an eye to conserve that extra little bit of fuel.

About a third of single car trips in NZ are said to be less than two kilometres in length and most vehicle users would drive an average of 30km a day. Because vehicles use up to 20 per cent more fuel when they're cold, cut down on unnecessary driving and not only will you reduce your fuel usage, but because cold engines run rich, you’ll be able to contribute to better air quality at the same time.

With competitive fuel discounting in some areas of the country, always take note of the price at the stations in your area. Some are cheaper than others. 

Here’s a fuel efficient driving tool from Gen Less where you can see how much you can save and where.

Make a change

Choosing a more fuel-efficient vehicle will help you save money and reduce your CO2 emissions. This may mean upgrading your existing vehicle for a more modern one, or changing into a hybrid, or even making that leap into an EV.

Previous post
Next post
Car colours - history, psychology and safety
Read more
Buying your first car: budgeting, borrowing and more
Read more