With fuel prices having increased by an average of more than 10% in 2023, record increases in September and more hikes forecast for October, South Africans have to make every litre of liquid gold go as far as it possibly can.
“Some good news is that, through making some simple and practical changes to the way they drive and maintain their cars, motorists can boost the fuel efficiency of their vehicles by as much as 40% and save some serious cash,” says Tyrone Lowther, the head of Budget Insurance. “This means that, if you have a 60 litre tank, and fill up with petrol once a week at the current rate of R24.54 per litre, a 40% reduction in fuel consumption could save you about R30 000 a year – money you can use to pay off debt, start a savings fund, invest, pay for your kids’ education or put towards a family holiday.”
Budget Insurance offers the following advice on how you can do so:
- Service smart: A car can burn up to 30% more fuel if proper maintenance is not performed regularly. Things like worn spark plugs, worn rings, faulty injectors, sticky brakes, low coolant levels, dirty oil, and dirty filters all lead to inefficiency and higher fuel consumption.
- Wheel wise: Check your car’s wheel alignment. Bad wheel alignment causes more friction, which takes more power to overcome and results in higher fuel consumption.
- Pressure check: Check for underinflated tyres, as these, too, increase resistance.
- Air con costs a cool buck: Use the air conditioning only when necessary as it places additional load on the engine.
- Nice and slow: High speeds result in high fuel consumption. At 110km/h your car uses up to 25% more fuel than it would cruising at a more moderate 90km/h.
- Don’t stop-start: Maintain momentum by looking and planning ahead, flowing with traffic and timing your approaches to hills, traffic lights and crossings better.
- Carpool with friends or family and tick off several errands on one round trip, as opposed to many shorter ones.
- Tech savvy: Many vehicles have economy settings to optimise performance, throttle response, ride height etc. for maximum fuel efficiency. Use them to your advantage.
- Hike it up a gear – as a rule of thumb: The higher the gear, the lower the petrol consumption, so always drive in the highest gear possible, without straining the engine by letting the revs drop too low.
- Don’t be a drag – there are many things that cause or increase drag, including driving with the windows open and attaching carriers or bikes to the roof. To decrease drag, keep the windows closed, especially at high speeds, and attach additional weight to the rear of the car as far as possible, instead of the roof.
- Plan ahead: Use your GPS to check for traffic and avoid problem areas. This eliminates unnecessary mileage and saves time.
- Wait out the rush: Battling through traffic not only increases fuel consumption, but also causes wear and tear, especially on your vehicle’s transmission and brakes.
“If it’s within your reach, it could also be a smart move to sell that big or old gas guzzler and rather invest in a vehicle that runs on less expensive fuel, or is just more economical to drive,” Lowther concludes, “It needn’t cost and arm and a leg either. With a bit of smart bargain shopping you could save on repayments, maintenance costs, insurance and fuel.”