Oily Rag: Sharp ways to save at the pump

By Frank, Muriel Newman


Petrol prices at the pump are at record highs so the oily rag team has been delving into its archives to find the best motoring tips. The culprit behind the price rises is said to be overseas fuel prices, but we know that about half of what you pay at the pump is tax - and that is more likely to go up than down in the future.

The first tip is to compare prices as you drive around. Gull is generally the cheapest, but that's not always the case. In Rotorua, Gull and Caltex have been slugging it out, and motorists were reported as paying up to 20c a litre less than elsewhere in the country. If consumers are more responsive to price and less to convenience, then petrol stations will respond and prices will fall.

The next best way to save money is to drive economically. - keep a light foot on the accelerator and don't stress the engine with erratic pedal pumping. Be nice to your car and it will consume less fuel and go further on a tank.

By driving economically, you should be able to reduce your fuel costs by between 5 and 10 per cent, which effectively saves between 10 and 20c a litre. Economical drivers are also safer drivers so everyone benefits. It is estimated that safer drivers have 25-50 per cent fewer accidents.

Many supermarkets offer petrol discount vouchers. They are great savings, and a way for less price-motivated petrol buyers to bag a bargain.

Here are some favourite tips that are worth repeating:

A well-maintained engine can improve fuel economy by up to 4 per cent.

According to Beaurepairs, tyres that are 10 per cent under the vehicle manufacturer's recommended pressure cost about 2.5 per cent in extra fuel consumption. So a tyre that is under-inflated by one pound per square inch will cost 3 per cent in fuel efficiency. The recommended tyre pressure is printed on the side of the tyre.

Slowing down from 110km to 100km will result in a 15 per cent fuel saving, and from 110km to 90km will save about 20 per cent . A 20 per cent reduction in fuel cost is a massive 44c a litre.

Bike or walk instead of taking the car. About half of all journeys are less than 3km. Biking is four times faster than walking, and takes about the same time as a bus trip. Buying and maintaining a bike costs about 1 per cent of the cost of buying and maintaining a car.

Lighten the load, and take the golf clubs out of the boot. It is reported that every 45kg of weight loss reduces fuel consumption by 2 per cent or 4c a litre. Remove the roof racks to reduce drag. It could save up to 5 per cent of your fuel cost (or 11c a litre).

Trade down to a smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicle. According to www.sustainability.govt.nz, "generally, larger engines use more fuel than smaller engines, but within each engine size there is a wide range of fuel-consumption rates. For example, the most efficient 3 litre engine uses fuel more economically than the least efficient 1.6 litre engine."

Turn off the air conditioner. It needs power, which comes from the engine and uses about 10 per cent more fuel when operating (22c a litre).

Get your vehicle regularly serviced. A poorly maintained vehicle will consume 4 per cent more fuel (9c a litre).

Frank and Muriel Newman are the authors of Living Off the Smell of an Oily Rag in NZ. Readers can submit their oily rag tips at www.oilyrag.co.nz

- Hamilton News

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