Thursday, 1 March 2012

Driving down the cost of motoring

Are you a pussy cat when you get behind the wheel of a car, or do you turn into a hissing spitting tiger, lashing out verbally at anyone who might get your back up? Did you know that your driving technique will determine how much you are paying for your fuel. We all know that the pump price keeps on going up and up, but how can you get the most miles for your money? The answer is simple, by driving like a pussy cat, planning your journey, and concentrating 100% on what you are doing. By reading the road ahead and making conscious decisions about the speed you are travelling, when you should accelerate and when you need to brake, you will be more relaxed and will get maximum miles from your fuel. You need to drive like a pussycat, purring as you go.

I have always enjoyed driving, and I get a buzz when I do it well. After I passed my car test I took extra lessons to bring my driving up to a good standard to be able to take the Institute of Advanced Motorists test. When I passed it I was offered a job as a driving instructor, by the owner of the driving school I learnt to drive with. I took him up on it and went through the training to gain the qualification needed.

About a year or so after that I decided to move up a peg or two and go for the HGV (trucks) licence, which I passed at the first attempt. Most people do not take extra tests once they have got the licence they want, but I went on to do more training and take the test for a PSV (buses) licence,  the motorcycle test, and six advanced driving tests in cars and lorries, with the IAM and RoSPA. I gained a Class 1 Advanced Certificate with RoSPA.

All this training is now paying off for me in my quest to get the most for my money, and I'll tell you how. Fuel consumption can vary widely according to how you drive. From the moment I step into my car I am aware of the fact that every time I put my foot on the accelerator it's costing me money. Every time I move off I apply a gentle pressure on the gas pedal, and steadily build up speed. I don't rev the balls off it, and I don't try and go from nought to sixty in 2.5 seconds. I don't need to race away at traffic lights to beat the guy next to me, because if I do I will watch the petrol gauge go down. This is why it is important to plan your journey, leave plenty of time to get there so you dont need to rush. I don't rush anywhere now.

If you absolutely hate driving you will abuse your car, you don't want to be there you just want to get to your destination. If that's the case it will cost you more, so be prepared to pay for it. A bad temper behind the wheel and other motorists will wind you up, you wont be concentrating because you have other things on your mind. You will be accelerating and braking when you don't need to be, so if you want to burn your money go ahead and do that.

Which bit of the road are you looking at when you are driving? When I am behind the wheel I look just beyond the bonnet, then my eyes scan the road ahead so my brain can take note of anything which might make the need for adjustments to speed and direction. Approaching a roundabout up ahead I take my foot off the gas pedal quite a distance away from it, I let the car slow down naturally, and when I reach the give way, I brake gently if I need to. If there is no traffic I don't brake at all as I have already slowed down and selected a lower gear to be able to continue. The same technique can be applied on the approach to traffic lights. Watch the sequence of the light changes before you get there, work out how long it will be untill your side will be green depending on how many changes there are and how many roads meet at that point.

I concentrate on my driving so I can plan a course of action, that way I can make informed decisions on when I need to gain speed or slow down. By looking as far in the distance as I can see I am never taken by surprise because I know what's coming. The advanced driving rule is that you should always be in the right position on the road, and going at the correct speed for the conditions.

The speed limit on a motorway and a dual carriageway is 70 mph, I very rarely reach that speed. I travel between 55 and 60mph, that way I get the best fuel consumption I can. I will happily sit behind a lorry for ages in the first lane at 56mph, lorries are limited to that. I am aware that if I put my foot down and go faster it is costing more money. It's surprising how many people do the same, I am often in a convoy with two or three others, all doing the same steady speed.

Something else I do is remove everything out of the car when I return home. I don't carry clutter around with me because that adds weight to the car, which will increase fuel consumption.

So, when you are about to make a journey clear the junk out of your car, and clear the junk out of your head. Put all other thoughts in a closed box in the corner of your brain, and concentrate fully on the job in hand, your driving. Tell other people in the car not to talk to you because that will interupt your train of thought. Distractions can literally be a killer. After many years of sitting high up in a lorry I have seen what devastation can be caused through lack of concentration.

If you feel your driving skills are not up to scratch, you could invest in a few extra lessons. You can get free training from RoSPA
or the Institute of Advanced Motorists

Worth it if it's going to save you money, and it might even save your life.


  1. Absolutely first class information Ilona. I sit there at traffic lights and watch people right on my bumper and I just think they must have much more money than me to waste fuel like that. I keep my speed the same as you. When I was working in Preston I was doing 75 miles a day and did a little test. First fill up 70 mph, second fill up 60 mph, third fill up 50 mph. It was amazing the difference in consumption between 70 and 50. However, it was a little slow on the motorway at peak time so I compromised between 50 and 60 and as I was on a fuel allowance, I made money out of it. HA HA.

    Truck drivers always generate better fuel economy, K is brilliant at that, he gets the best fuel economy in anything he drives, an ex truck owner/driver. He instilled this in me never to thrash an engine, but at least NEVER to rev it when cold! None of this foot down, rrrr, rrrr, like you see on people showing how their engine sounds.

    I found the Advanced Driving very useful in seeing ahead and anticipating but it didn't seem to make for much cheaper insurance as I've got better deals other than their recommended insurers.

  2. If you knew how little it takes to obtain a driving license where I currently live in America, you would be horrified...Having been smashed up and injured by an inexperienced teen and a careless adult driver on separate occasions, I wish their were driving teachers like you here. I am a new reader of your blog and enjoy it very much.

  3. Wow, they invited you to join their school?! You must be a fab driver!

    Thanks for reminding me to take it easy on the motorway. I will probably be making a trip up to Nottingham next week (Uni interview! :D :D), and the train is even more expensive than driving it! If I take it easy, maybe I'll save myself a few more pounds!

  4. I concider myself a pussycat behind the steering weel. Sadly though, I do have a backseat driver who will frequently shout abuse if someone cuts me up or behaves in an untoward manner on the road. I try to ignore Rick`s outbursts, and I do tell him often to shut up. I`m much more focussed and concentrated when he is not in the car. He also frequently tries to tell me how to drive, evenso he doesn`t know how to himself. A very silly trate he has inherited from his own father. And no telling him how dangerous this could make it for me to drive savely will ever change this silly habit of his. I had to threaten him once to make him walk 2 miles back to our home if he wasn`t going to keep his cool whilst I was driving.

  5. I'm a calm driver, that's when I'm not using my bus pass these days ! I often get other drivers 'tailgating' me trying to push me faster but I never do, and then they drop back and give up !

  6. Thanks Ilona for those tips. Will definitely think pussy cat from now on. Whenever I accelerate I just see pound signs coming from the exhaust. I try and take it easy. I have also taken to walking a lot more - I'm sure you'll approve. Don't do short journeys in the car anymore and try and have a couple of days a week where the car stays on the drive. Buses by us are very expensive and even taking into account running cost of a car I am convinced its cheaper to run a reliable one than use public transport which is a shame (£4.40 for a return 3 mile trip to town!) Debs x

  7. I agree Debs, even when taking into account the cost of the car, and to put it on the road, it has to be worth it for the comfort and convenience. Bus fares are spiralling upwards all the time, mainly due to the cost of diesel. My friend has just got her first bus pass and is over the moon, our bus fares are similar to yours.

    I think a combination of car, bus, pedal power and leg power is a good idea. I save up my car miles for longer trips, using the other three transport modes when I can. I have just heard that petrol is hitting the £1.50 a litre mark, my days of popping to the shops in the car are getting less and less. Thank goodness summer is coming when I can get out on my bike.

  8. I am a pussycat most of the time. However what is it with old male drivers wearing hats??? They pull out from side roads in front of you at the speed of light then proceed at 25 mph in a 60 mph zone. I've been cut up at roundabouts mostly by them too. They drive me MAD, Grrrr, and the hat is usually a trilby!

    Linda xx

  9. What a lot of tests you took! I just did the two, Motorcycle and Car, they were enough!

  10. Hiya have you noticed a change after starting on smoothies ? ....... we spend in £15 a week for everything, washing/heating/cooking 2 adults three kids.......we eat alot off slow cooker food and pudding out the fridge......frozen fruit/veg work out alot cheaper....last longer

  11. Great advice as always. And another tip, make sure your tyre pressure is correct. Like the others, public transport here is too expensive - to the point it's cheaper to drive. To get to work (about 8-9km one way) would set me back £4-5. Petrol here is just about to hit the £1 mark, so it's a bit cheaper.


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