Fuel Consumption

Potential Saving: $800 Annually - Just by Driving Differently

Cutting your car's fuel consumption costs nothing. Cutting fuel consumption could save you – effectively – about 30 cents per litre on petrol, at the time of writing. If you reduce your fuel consumption to a reasonable extent, you could save up to $800 annually. All you need to do to reduce fuel consumption is modify your driving behaviour.

Here's the detail on cutting your fuel bill by changing how you drive:

Need to Know:

  1. The accelerator on you car is – essentially – connected to a tap that empties the petrol tank (and then your wallet). How hard, and how long, you open the tap determines your fuel consumption, and how quickly the tank gets emptied.
  2. For any particular car, driving style is the single most significant factor affecting fuel consumption.
  3. It’s easy for an average driver to cut their fuel consumption by 20 per cent – just by driving differently. For an average Australian family with two average cars, driving a total of about 30,000km annually the saving from cutting fuel consumption just by driving differently could be as much as $800.
  4. The number-one fuel consumption cutting strategy is to drive with the ‘tap’ open as little as possible – without going to absurd lengths.

Here are the four key tips for reducing fuel consumption.

FUEL CONSUMPTION TIP #1: Taking off gently

When the light goes green and the traffic ahead moves off, reduce your car's fuel consumption by pressing the accelerator pedal more gently. Aggressive acceleration wastes fuel copiously. It's the easiest way to drive your fuel consumption through the roof. Take off at a more moderate pace to reduce your fuel consumption, and pretend there’s a raw egg between your foot and the pedal. Try not to break the egg.

FUEL CONSUMPTION TIP #2: Slowing down early

Cutting fuel consumption here is a simple matter of looking further ahead than most people, to anticipate when you might need to stop. When you see the traffic ahead slowing down (perhaps the traffic lights have changed, or a queue is forming for some other reason) cut your fuel consumption by lifting your foot off the accelerator as early as possible. Doing this effectively closes the tap, reduces fuel consumption and prevents wasted fuel. It’s amazing how many people power up all the way to red lights with the tap open, burning fuel needlessly and driving their fuel consumption through the roof.

Cut fuel consumption by coasting to a stop instead using the kinetic energy and momentum you’ve already acquired. You’ll be saving money and cutting fuel consumption all the way.

It's not just fuel consumption that will drop if you do this. A side benefit of driving like this is that brake wear is greatly minimized as well – so you’ll save even more on servicing costs.

FUEL CONSUMPTION TIP #3: Steady pace cruising

This fuel consumption tip will save you heaps on the highway. Many people drive erratically on the highway. They speed up; they slow down. Repeat. This is a very inefficient way to drive. It increases your fuel consumption. Pick a constant speed and stick to it on the open road if you want to drop your fuel consumption (subject to traffic and speed limit changes). If you have difficulty maintaining a constant speed, use the cruise control to help cut your fuel consumption. Just remember, cruise control has difficulty coping in hilly terrain - and using it in this situation might not appreciably cut your fuel consumption. The best place to get fuel efficiency from cruise control is on the flat (or relatively flat).

FUEL CONSUMPTION TIP #4: Park your aggression

Jockeying for position in traffic, and most other aggressive or assertive driving behaviour increases fuel consumption, just to appease your ego. It drives your fuel consumption up, and burns a hole in your wallet. And it does not get you from A to B one minute quicker (because traffic lights are the great leveler of A-to-B driving). If you are a Type A driving personality (or a Type A-with-rabies) take a chill pill, concentrate on the 'tap' you can open with right-foot pressure, and buy yourself (or someone else) something nice with that extra $800 in your bank account at the end of the year. Every drop in fuel consumption is money saved in your bank account. Your blood pressure might even drop down a couple of notches, in line with your fuel consumption.


Put these fuel consumption tips to the test over two consecutive fill-ups.

Here’s how:

Fill your tank to the second click on the nozzle. Zero the trip meter. (Or note the odometer reading.) Drive normally, and go about your usual driving in the usual way, until the tank is about one-quarter full. Note the trip meter reading when you fill up again (use the second click again), as well as the litres taken to fill the tank. Then zero the trip meter and incorporate these tips faithfully into your normal driving routine. Wait until the tank drops to about a quarter full again, note the kilometers on this second fill and the litres required to fill the tank again.

Compare the two like this: Divide the first set of kilometers by the first set of litres: you’ll get the number of kilometers you’ve driven per litre on average for your normal driving style.

Then divide the second set of kilometers by the second set of litres to see how much of a difference the new driving style made.

If you want the percentage difference, divide the second average fuel figure by the first one. You’ll get a number like 1.184 (or something). Subtract the 1. (You get 0.184 in this example.) Then multiply by 100. (Answer: 18.4 per cent here.)


With petrol hovering in the $1.50 per litre ballpark, saving 20 per cent by reducing your fuel consumption is like being able to buy petrol at $1.20 per litre instead of $1.50. Being able to achieve this low fuel consumption is entirely up to you. It's certainly within the grasp of every driver.

About the author: John Cadogan is one of Australia’s leading motoring journalists. He’s a degree-qualified mechanical engineer and a long-term fuel economy advocate. In 2007 and 2009 he drove to class victory in the Global Green Challenge, a 3500km fuel economy contest stretching from Darwin to Adelaide, across the Australian continent.