Tips to help you cope as petrol prices soar

Experts say driving a little farther to buy petrol could save you hundreds of pounds a year
Experts say driving a little farther to buy petrol could save you hundreds of pounds a year
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Petrol prices are a constant source of stress for consumers.

Much like gas and electricity bills, these days the cost of filling up your car seems to rise endlessly with little chance of coming back down.

Fuel prices have leapt 49 per cent in just two years, from an average of 90.6p in 2009 to 134.8p, and experts predict another 10p increase next year.

But despite the expense, many of us would argue that a car is simply not something we can do without, either because of work, family or social commitments.

As the nights close in and winter begins to bite, standing in the cold waiting for a bus is looking less and less attractive as an alternative.

But there is no need to meekly accept the skyrocketing prices at your local pump.

A new online petrol price dashboard has been launched to help customers track down the cheapest prices in their area, and it has revealed something striking.

Across Portsmouth some nearby petrol stations have differences in price of up to 9p a litre – or around £162 a year out of an annual fuel bill.

Ashley Peters, director of Staveley Head, the petrol price lobby group behind the website, said: ‘We’re experiencing some really tough price hikes at the moment across the board.

‘The price of petrol in particular has soared over recent years, which can be a real concern for individuals and families facing financial difficulties.

‘In so many cases, travelling a few yards more down the road for petrol will save hundreds of pounds per year.

‘And it’s not just about individual savings, it’s about showing these petrol companies that we won’t accept their ludicrous prices.

‘The message is simple; either lower your prices, or we’ll go elsewhere.’

Along with shopping around, Streetwise has also taken a look at other tips experts suggest could help bring those bills down.

· Slow down

Manufacturers have long claimed that driving more slowly, between 50mph and 60mph, is most efficient – 55mph is the industry-wide test speed for best fuel economy on a car.

However, expert Peter de Nayer challenged that assumption in a study for What Car magazine that suggested driving at 40mph might be most efficient.

· Pump up your tyres

It can really pay to keep your tyres pumped up to save on fuel – the wrong tyre pressure creates rolling resistance, meaning that your car burns more fuel when you’re driving.

If you get it right and keep your tyre pressure consistent, it’s estimated that you could improve fuel efficiency by as much as 10 per cent.

· Climate control

Some experts believe turning off your air conditioning – which uses up fuel – and opening your windows can improve fuel efficiency by a further eight per cent.

And if you can bear to keep those windows closed as well then it will create less drag and save you even more.

· Take it easy

Avoiding sharp acceleration or braking means your engine is under less strain and will burn less fuel.

By anticipating the flow of traffic or using a cruise control setting on longer journeys, you can keep your speed more constant and change it more gradually.

And if you’re likely to be at a standstill for more than three minutes, then switching your engine off is always a good idea.

· Before you drive

Removing excess clutter from your car and taking off roof racks if they are not in use will also reduce the weight of your car and help you to use less fuel.

· Other ways to save

Loyalty schemes can help you push down the cost of driving.

Tesco offers customers 5p off per litre of fuel every time they spend £50 in store, while the Shell Drivers’ Club Card will give you points per litre of petrol you buy.

Also, using a credit card that offers cashback can help – MBNA has recently launched an American Express card that offers 1.5 per cent cashback at most petrol stations, and a new Visa card that offers 1.25 per cent. Go online to find out more.

· Take drastic action

Getting rid of your car and joining a car club could save you hundreds of pounds. Recent research by Which? magazine shows that you could save £800 a year by joining a car club like Zipcar, Streetcar or City Car Club.

And finally converting your car so that it runs on Liquified Petroleum Gas, or LPG, can save you money in the long term.

The average cost per litre of LPG is 77p – 57 per cent lower than the current unleaded price. The conversion itself costs around £800 to £1,000.

· To see where your cheapest local petrol can be found, visit the UK Petrol Prices Dashboard website.