How to save money when driving

Fuel efficient driving tips for saving money

How to save money when driving

The Money Mage household is a single vehicle, single driver house. Money Mage #1 could walk to work, but the other Money Mage can’t. One would think that Money Mage #2 would learn to drive, but life isn’t so simple. It’s a story for another time.

Vehicles are expensive. Fuel-guzzling, wealth-killing machines. Pollute-wagons.

Pollute-wagons are a necessity sometimes. Especially if you live somewhere you can’t bike. If you have to have one, at least keep costs of ownership down.

The biggest cost of ownership aside from the vehicle itself is fuel.

Vehicles are Costly

Vehicles are costly beasts. PCP or leasing a vehicle is the second biggest monthly outgoing for most households. Buying a new car is one of the biggest financial mistakes you can make

Add in fuel, insurance, road tax, maintenance and MOTs. The costs of running a vehicle can be thousands per year.

The Money Mage Pollute Wagon
The Money Mage Pollute Wagon

It’s £2K/year out of our wealth every year to truck about in the pollute-wagon. Being frugal Money Mages, we don’t run around in an Audi, BMW, or PCP Mercedes E-class. It’s a second hand, within warranty, outright owned Kia Rio.

It’s a dirty-diesel. But it’s pretty cost effective to run. Over a grand a year. Pollute-wagons are also depreciating assets.

Type Cost per Year
Fuel £680
Insurance £220
MOT £89
Maintenance £200/year
Road Tax £0 (exempt for now)
Total £1189

Getting on £100/month out of net pay to run.

Including depreciation, it’s worse

Date Value
Feb 2017 £11,000
Jan 2019 £9,500

Depreciation is at least another £750/year, It’s looking like £1,939 per year to run the pollute-wagon.

I pity the fruggles spending hundreds per month on PCP deals. You’d be doubling this loss of wealth. Why PCP is a complete disaster is another story.

The ideal situation would be to be rid of it. Not practical given other constraints, so it has to stay. However, the pollute-wagon shouldn’t cost more than it needs to. Without fuel-efficient driving, we’d be looking an extra £300/year.

Prepare First

Money Mages know saving money when driving starts before you’ve turned the engine on.

Alternate Transport

Before you get in the pollute-wagon, can you get to where you are going some other way?

The cheapest way is walking. If you can walk to where you are going, why not walk? It’s free and the healthy option. If you run and there are showers at the destination, run.

The second is riding, do you have a bike? Can you get there on a bike? Bikes are much cheaper and much healthier.

Both of these options do as much for your state of mind & well-being as for your wallet.

The third is public transport. Is there a bus or train which can get you there? The answer is sometimes yes. It’s the less polluting option. Sometimes it isn’t the cheaper option. Check the cost of public transport first.

The fourth is whether someone else you know going in the same direction at the same time. Do you have a colleague who commutes part or most of the same way? Can you ride-share?

Before you use the pollute-wagon, see if there ways to not use it.


So you’ve had to use the pollute-wagon. Fine, we all do.

If you are like Money Mage, you need to lose weight and save money. Not from the belly, but your vehicle too.

Remove excess weight.

F = ma. Or in other words, the heavier you are, the more force you need to move.

Get rid of every last bit of weight you don’t need from your vehicle. Is your fruggle boot full of stuff you don’t need? Like your home?

Throw. It. Out.

Go further. Do you have a spare tyre? Can you get away with a recovery call out, or a tin of tyre repair goup for the daily commute rather than a full spare? Use the spare for out-of-the-way trips only.

Air resistance

The faster you go, the more air molecules you push against. Be a child again and put your fingers out the window and feel them get pushed back.

Most vehicles are designed to be aerodynamic to reduce drag. Yet fruggles run around with roof-racks, open windows or reindeer antlers attached.

Reduce drag. Get any gumpf off the exterior of your vehicle you don’t need, especially roof-racks if you are not using them.

Opening windows at speed is another no-no. Keep them closed. You’re hurting your drag coefficient and reducing fuel economy.

Tyre Pressure

Tyre pressure decreases over time. When was the last time you checked?

I often only check when the vehicle warns of low pressure, which is too late. Top up your tyres.

There is a myth doing the rounds - over-inflating tyres help fuel efficiency. Harder tyres have less surface area contact with the road, so less surface area contact with the road. In practice, evidence shows little difference between hard tyres and recommended level tyres. Inflate your tyres to the recommended level and don’t worry.


De-ice with spray and a scraper rather than running the engine. You’re burning fuel to sit still. And wrecking your battery at the same time.

Wrap up, get some gloves on, and spray away.


Don’t use the air con unless you need to. Wisdom is windows open at lower speeds, windows closed and air con on at higher speeds.

Fuel Efficient Driving Tips

Traffic Jams. Hagley Road, Halesowen
Traffic Jams. Hagley Road, Halesowen

There is only so much do before you get in the vehicle. One of the biggest impacts on fuel efficiency is how you drive. Do you need to speed? Are you pelting around like a lunatic? Do you race right up to a junction then slam your brakes on to stop at the last minute?

Electronic Control Units in modern vehicles help with fuel economy. Much more than they used to. F = ma, if you want to go faster, you need more force. If you want to go quicker, you need more force. Force comes from more fuel.

Changing your driving habits not only helps your fuel efficiency.

Money Mage suffers from fruggle-pity on the roads too. Frustration at slow, silly drivers. It does nothing for your state of mind or well-being.

Taking it steadier, easier, and not rushing around is good for your state of mind as well as the cash in your wallet.

Reduce Speed

Recall air resistance? The faster you go, the harder your vehicle has to work to counter the forces of drag.

Try and experiment with reducing your motorway and A-road speed from 70 to 60. track your mpg, does it make a difference in your vehicle? It does in Money Mages.


Money Mage lives in Scotland, so there are hills.

It costs more energy to get up a hill than it does to get down a hill. When you’re up a hill, you don’t need to use the accelerator to go down a hill. There are often places where you can take your foot off the gas, and let the vehicle do its thing.

It’s safer to leave the vehicle in gear than it is neutral, in case you need to do react. But coasting along when you can reduce fuel consumption. Especially in low-speed areas.

Pedal to the Metal

F = ma. The faster you go, the more fuel you burn. Are you a pedal to the metal kind of fruggle?

Don’t be. Drive at a steady pace. I find the worst case for this is pulling onto a major road or motorway. Getting up to speed with the traffic you’re going to merge into.

Accelerating away from traffic lights don’t need to be a drag race.

The harder you press the accelerator the more fuel you are burning. Go easy.

Don’t Stop-Start

Electric vehicles reclaim power with regenerative braking. Pollute-wagons lose energy when slowing and stopping. Once you’ve stopped, you’ve lost all the energy you built up getting going in the first place.

Once you’ve stopped, you’ve got to start again.

Instead, try not to stop - slow down earlier at lights and junctions. Don’t race up to them and slam on the brakes. By the time you get to the lights, you might find the lights have changed or the vehicle ahead has pulled away.

Think Ahead

Predict the road ahead and the movements, this is good driving anyway. What is going to happen next? Are the lights going to change? Is someone going to pull in front of you? Is there a speed limit change coming up? Do you need to change lane? When is best? Is there a 58mph lorry ahead that’s going to mean you need to overtake slow traffic?

Thinking ahead will enable you to drive fuel efficiently without annoying other drivers.

Best Miles Per Gallon

Take the Money Mage mpg test. Calculate your mpg without changing your driving. Then change your driving habits and calculate your mpg again. Is there a difference? Money Mage has done this and has improved mpg by 15% from around 41mpg to 47.5mpg. On a good tank, it’s closer to 50mpg. A 15-20% saving on fuel.

If you have an inbuilt mpg calculator, remember to reset your mpg counter each time you fuel up.

If you don’t have an mpg counter, you need some simple maths. You will have a ‘trip counter’ - how many miles you travelled. When you fuel up, reset this counter to 0 and keep a note of how many litres you fuelled up. Multiply your litres by 0.22 to convert to imperial gallons, then divide through by.

Here is Money Mages’ last fuel up, lasting 3 weeks:

What is your mpg?

Do you drive like a pedal to the metal fruggle or take it steady?

Make A Change

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Sources and Attribution

  • Kia Dash (c) Money Mage, All Rights Reserved
  • Hagley Road (c) ell brown, CC-BY