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Letís slam the brakes on runaway MPG costs


Shocked by just how much of your hard-earned cash now flows straight into your carís fuel tank? Leyton Cooper, Group Buying Manager for ACF Car Finance, offers some calming suggestions for keeping more of your petrol money in your pocket.

Iíve always liked the one about the man who decided to try some of those fuel-saving additives which promise a whole range of extra miles-per-gallon figures. He emptied the lot into his car. ďWhat happened?Ē said his friend. ďI got two miles down the road and the tank overflowed!Ē he explained.

Yes, Iím afraid there are a few snake-oil products out there which probably owe more to wishful thinking than to actual science. But donít let that put you off your search for squeezing additional precious MPGs from your petrol or diesel car, and saving possibly hundreds of pounds each year.

It can be done if you follow a few tips which even the most experienced motorist might be unaware of. In fact, itís often people who have been driving the longest who have fallen into the worst driving habits as far as fuel economy is concerned.

Take, for example, that chap in the Rover pulling away painfully slowly from the traffic lights. He probably imagines that irritating everyone behind is a price well worth paying for all that petrol heíll be saving by keeping a light foot on the accelerator pedal. But heís wrong.

Going up normally through the gears is by far the most fuel-efficient way to drive. Why? Simply because you will reach your desired speed more quickly, and be in the highest and most economical gear sooner than a petrol-sapping crawl.

And talking of top gear, thereís another way that fifth - or, maybe, sixth - can help increase the interval between your visits to the pumps. Thatís by changing up the gearbox even earlier than many people do at present, and not waiting until the engineís revs are at their thirstiest.

Most cars will quite happily move into top gear at around 30mph, allowing you to start enjoying maximum fuel efficiency in the fastest possible time. And when you do get there, remember that keeping the engine speed to between 2,000rpm and 2,500rpm will give the best economy.


At ACF Car Finance, we know that customers these days are usually very well informed about the miles per gallon they can expect from different makes and models - and often base their buying decisions on the MPG figures they have read on car review websites.

But just one important tip here. If those figures are taken from the claims of the car manufacturer,
and not from actual test figures from users, then be a little cautious. Real-life driving is often more demanding than the official EU tests that makers use, and in most cases you can reduce their official combined figure by between 10 and 15 percent according to some motoring experts.

Having said that, you could come a lot closer to those estimates by adopting the driving techniques Iím suggesting in this article. Here, though, is another petrol-saving tip which is all about standing still, and could be especially relevant if you do much of your driving in urban areas.

Itís simply to turn off your engine while waiting for a line of vehicles to move, especially at traffic lights. Yes, starting the car again does cause a small surge of petrol into the injectors, but itís been estimated that this can easily be saved if the waiting time is likely to be more than a minute.

In other words, you will know from your regular journeys which lights are likely to delay you for more than about sixty seconds. So if they have just turned to red, switch off and re-start on amber.

Talking of those day-to-day trips you take, perhaps going into work, donít ignore the possibility that a slightly longer but less congested route could end up using less petrol. In Chester, for example, the most direct route through the city can take longer at peak traffic time than using the ring road... and I definitely know which is the most frustrating.

But more importantly, Iíve proved on my carís trip computer that the longer route is actually more fuel efficient. Try it for yourself, and you may be pleasantly surprised!

It wonít, of course, come as a surprise to most people to learn that an open window or sun-roof can create extra wind resistance leading to poorer fuel economy. Did you know, though, that under-inflated tyres can have exactly the same effect by creating additional drag? Letís face it: few of us check our tyre pressures as often as we should, but those extra PSI to bring them back to normal could see you quids-in at the petrol pump.

Changing time

Another regular bit of maintenance which many of us overlook is the oil change. Cars are designed to perform at their most efficient fuel economy levels when the engine oil is fresh, so donít be surprised if you notice a dramatic improvement in MPGs after the garage drains off all that tired old black stuff.

Engine oil level and condition is one of the 136 separate checks which ACF Car Finance makes on each of the used vehicles it supplies to private buyers. We also make sure that all those extras which cars now often boast - such as air conditioning and electrical seat adjusters - are in good working order before a vehicle is allowed on the forecourt.

Just because they do work, however, doesnít mean you should take every opportunity to use them. Heaters, rear screen demisters, and even the carís sound system each contribute to overall petrol consumption - so if this article is helping to turn you into a real fuel miser, why not go the extra mile and just check if everything switched on in your car is absolutely necessary.

That air-con, for example, can increase fuel consumption by up to an estimated 10 percent, so if itís just warm rather than hot outside, try using the cool setting on the fan and turn the AC off.

Another not-so-obvious drain on your petrol tank could be hiding in the boot. Have you checked to see if what youíre lugging around on a regular basis is a must-have for everyday journeys? Items such as such as a set of golf clubs might be far better stored at home, rather than in the car where every 50kg of extra weight, itís said, can increase petrol costs by around 2 percent.

Something else we donít generally think about is how much we are actually paying for fuel. Just comparing those prices displayed on the filling station forecourt could save five pence or more per litre, and possibly a whole tank-full over a year or so. Make a note on your next regular drive, or try to find up-to-date comparative prices in your home town.

Of course, the ultimate petrol-saving tip is to leave your car at home! That might seem daft until you consider the benefits of car-sharing which many companies and organisations now actively encourage. If thereís no such scheme operating at your place of work, why not have a word to see if arrangements could be made to match staff to journeys?

Better returns

We can be thankful that in recent years, car manufacturers have made tremendous strides in improving the fuel efficiency of their engines. A few decades ago, 30-40 miles per gallon might have been considered a reasonable return, but today we have every reason to expect figures up to fifty percent higher.

But for some people, moving up to a more modern and economical car is not always an option. These days, even a slightly blemished credit report - or the absence of a credit history - and stand in the way of obtaining finance, and might mean that someone has no choice but to battle on with an older gas-guzzler. And often, these are the people who can least afford the penalty of less efficient engines.

Thatís why ACF Car Finance came into being, and provides what many buyers find is a much more sympathetic approach to helping them move up to a better pre-used car.

For all drivers, though, I hope that the pointers in this article will help improve the economy of your motoring this year and into the future. We all know that thereís only one way petrol prices are likely to go in 2011... but what goes up at the pumps can also go down if you decide to put the brakes on your fuel consumption now.

ACF Car Finance Limited ( is Britainís leading supplier of high-quality used cars to people whose credit status might otherwise prevent them from obtaining vehicle finance. There is a huge choice of makes and models on display at the 7 ACF Car Finance showrooms in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and other major centres of population - and each car comes with the benefit of a full 136 point vehicle quality inspection and interior/exterior valet. ACF Car Finance has earned a strong reputation within the finance and motor industry for its standards of customer care, and the quality of the friendly, professional advice provided by members of its fully-trained team. 44.9% APR Typical.

ACF Car Finance gratefully acknowledges the help of information and figures published by What Car magazine ( and the Royal Automobile Club ( in the preparation of parts of this article.



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