A recent survey conducted by the RAC has revealed “three in four motorists are travelling less far than a year ago to save money”. An alleged 12 per cent fall in fuel sales between 2008 and 2012 would certainly seem to support that finding. Of course, this situation is not unique to motoring. Times are hard and economies have to be made by most of us, in all areas of life.
In another survey, also carried out by the RAC, 53 per cent of people claimed that they could only transport their children to school by car, while 57 per cent stated that they could not do a weekly food shop and other essential activities without the use of their vehicle. I would probably question the absolute truth of those two particular survey results (over half of all school kids live too far away from their school and have to be taken by car? Really?), but if nothing else it serves to illustrate how we as a society have built our lives around the car. As a result it has shaped the way the towns and cities we live in have grown and developed. So it’s no wonder that some people would feel stranded without their car, in a world which (London aside) often assumes you are going to have one.
The car has, over the course of the last few decades, gone from a being luxury item, to an everyday item. As technology and manufacturing processes have improved, the necessity of the car owner to acquire a certain level of knowledge to facilitate the day to day maintenance of their car has declined massively. Which, as anyone who has spent many hours shivering outside under the bonnet of some recalcitrant old banger will tell you, is a really good thing. A good thing except for the fact that as cars have become more bulletproof over the pre 2008 economic golden days, so they had also perhaps become taken for granted.
Many families with two or three or more cars on their drive have had to downsize their fleet a little as their incomes have been squeezed. Also the resurgent popularity of cycling – Post Olympics – has encouraged some to revisit the pushbike as a viable commuting tool.
All this sounds quite bad. It’s all a bit doom and gloom. But, I would argue that is not the case. There is a huge positive for motoring at this moment in time. In appreciating our cars more, by being less blasé about the real benefits they bring too our lives, the perceived value given to owning a car has, if anything increased. Its profile has been raised, and in the long term that can only be a good thing.
If you want to make your money go as far as possible, here are some tips that will help you to get the most from each litre of fuel:
• Tyres: check your tyre pressures regularly. Under inflated tyres use more fuel.
• Servicing: If you make sure you engine is serviced regularly it will maintain its efficiency.
• Drag: If you don’t need the roof rack, or the England flag from the world cup two years ago, take it off. Also your car was designed in a Wind-Tunnel with the windows shut, that’s when the aerodynamics work best. So keep them closed whenever you can. Particularly at speed.
• Empty the Boot: The heavier your car is the more fuel it will use, so try to only carry around what you actually need, in the boot.
• Drive Smoothly: Accelerate gently. Change up to the next gear a little earlier. Read the road ahead, it might allow you to just back off the accelerator to avoid having to brake and then accelerate again.
• Don’t get Lost: Sounds obvious, but a little extra planning might save a lot of extra driving.
• Switch it off: All electrical loads increase fuel consumption, so if you don’t need it on, switch it off. Cut down on the air-con (although it should be run regularly to maintain the system). Finally, if you’re stuck in a queue and you’re likely to be there for more than three minutes, turn the engine off.
• Combine your trips: by combining errands you may save a bit of mileage and you will avoid unnecessary cold starts, which require more fuel.
• Stick to the Limit: It’s obvious really, the faster you go the more fuel you use.
• Don’t be Lazy: If it’s a really short journey, do you need to take the car? Perhaps you could walk or cycle if you’ve got the time.
This is a guest post for the TW White site courtesy of Alan Hibbert of http://alan-hibbert.blogspot.co.uk/
Alan is a keen photographer, motorcyclist, motor racing enthusiast and all round engine-head!