15 great ways to help you drive more efficiently

We’ve partnered with Vitality Car Insurance to help us all become better drivers. This is your guide to efficient driving...

We’ve partnered with Vitality Car Insurance to help us all become better drivers. This is your guide to efficient driving

Many of us like to think we’re good drivers. However, statistics show that many road users aren’t driving as efficiently or economically as they could. A study by Michelin claims that UK motorists waste roughly £246 million on fuel every year down to underinflated tyres alone![1] 

But, efficient driving isn’t just about saving money – a few simple changes to our habits behind the wheel can have a hugely positive impact on the environment and our local communities too.

Thinking differently about how we drive is one of the many reasons why What Car? has joined forces with car insurance partner Vitality. Taking lessons learned from health insurance, Vitality is offering a new kind of car insurance that actually rewards good driving via the Vitality Good Driving sensor – smart tech that recognises and rates your driving. 

As a result, the Vitality Good Driving sensor is helping us all rethink how we use our cars – in this case, helping us drive more efficiently to reduce our impact on the environment and save money.

You can earn daily Vitality points for driving well or not driving at all and – depending on how well you drive – Vitality will offset up to 100% of your daily carbon emissions. Accumulate enough points and you’ll be eligible for great weekly rewards, such as a handcrafted drink from Caffe Nero, a No Increase Guarantee on renewal, and a reduction in your excess by up to £250 in the event of a claim.

So, with some expert advice from the What Car? team (and a few of our friends) here are all the ways you can drive more efficiently.

Learn more at vitality.co.uk/car-insurance

We’ve partnered with Vitality Car Insurance to help us all become better drivers. This is your guide to efficient driving

Pass the pressure test

Driving a vehicle with tyres under inflated by 8psi can increase fuel consumption by up to 4% and reduce tyre life by 6000 miles.[2] “By making sure your tyres are at the correct pressure, you’ll significantly improve your fuel efficiency by decreasing your rolling resistance – and it’s safer too,” says motorsport presenter Neil Cole. “The correct pressures will always be on a little plate inside of the driver’s door, so make sure you check them before a big trip.”

Plan your route

When planning a long trip, leave more time so you can anticipate jams, or take a slightly slower and more relaxed and enjoyable route. “Most cars – especially electric cars – tend to be most efficient at speeds of around 55-65mph,” says What Car? Editorial Director Jim Holder. “So, if you’re not in a rush, take the scenic route, rather than the motorway, to save fuel and energy. You’ll arrive calmer, while also enjoying the road and seeing more of the world around you on your journey.”

Care for your engine

Proper and regular engine maintenance is crucial to overall efficiency. Using oil that’s incorrect for your engine can result in poor performance and higher fuel consumption, so make sure you’re running the right grade. Change your air filters, too, so your engine can breathe happy.

We’ve partnered with Vitality Car Insurance to help us all become better drivers. This is your guide to efficient driving

Cut weight

The fuel consumption of a mid-size car increases by about 1% for every 25 kilograms of weight it carries – so if you don’t need it, leave it behind![2]

Combine your trips

Warm engines run more efficiently than cold ones. So, if you’re planning on running several errands in a day, try to combine your journeys to save fuel, rather than starting from cold each time. 

Look further ahead to anticipate traffic

A study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory revealed that aggressive driving – sudden braking and harsh acceleration – can reduce fuel efficiency by between 10 and 40 percent in stop-and-go traffic, and between 15 to 30 percent at motorway speeds.[3] “By looking further ahead, it helps you anticipate hazards and the actions of other motorists,” says performance driver Nathan Wright. “This means you’re less likely to need to brake suddenly, or accelerate quickly, therefore improving your overall driving efficiency. It’ll help you stay safe, too.”

We’ve partnered with Vitality Car Insurance to help us all become better drivers. This is your guide to efficient driving

Don’t be a drag. Close your windows

“In hot weather, leaving your windows open causes drag – increasing your fuel costs or reducing electric range,” says What Car? Editorial Director Jim Holder. “Air-conditioning is much more efficient at cooling you down.” It’s also worth removing empty roof and bicycle racks, as an empty rack can increase drag by up to 16% at around 70mph.[4]

Keep your distance

“Always keep a healthy distance from the car in front,” says Autocar Executive Editor Rachel Burgess. “It’s safer and, with more time to react, you’ll have fewer instances of harsh braking which will also help you drive more efficiently.”

Use your speed limiter or cruise control 

Cruise control can help increase your fuel efficiency by between seven and 14% thanks to its ability to maintain a continuous speed.[5] “If your car has a speed limiter or cruise control, use it,” says What Car? Video Reviews Editor Doug Revolta. “It also takes the stress out of constantly checking to ensure you’re keeping to the right speed, helping you focus more on potential hazards.”

We’ve partnered with Vitality Car Insurance to help us all become better drivers. This is your guide to efficient driving

Take it steady. Avoid the ‘fast lane’ mentality

On a free-flowing motorway, it’s easy to get into the mindset of middle-lane or outside-lane driving to avoid slow inside-lane traffic. But, it’s easy for your speed to drift up, which not only could put you above the speed limit, but also is less fuel or energy-efficient. In fact, research shows that a petrol car will increase its fuel consumption by 12.8% when travelling at 75mph compared to 60mph, while a diesel’s consumption can rocket by 17.7%.[6]

Don’t be idle in heavy traffic

According to a study by the DHEC, an average idling engine can use nearly two litres of fuel per hour.[7] “Many modern cars have stop-start, but if you’re stuck in a jam in an older car, it’s still worth turning your engine off when not moving for several minutes,” says What Car? Video Reviews Editor Doug Revolta. “It saves fuel and cuts emissions.”

Warm yourself faster with heated seats 

“In cold weather, heated seats warm you much faster than the air-conditioning, as they’re in direct contact with you,” says What Car? Editorial Director Jim Holder. “That helps you save fuel, or increases your electric range.”

Dial up regenerative braking (on the right roads)

Many electric cars let you adjust the regenerative braking force, recapturing energy for the battery while providing a braking effect when you lift off the throttle. This one pedal driving is much more energy efficient than hopping from throttle to brakes. When driving at a steady speed, say on a motorway, it’s best to turn regenerative braking off. But, on an A-road, regenerative braking is a great way to regenerate energy and extend your range, without hopping on and off the throttle. So, dial it up...

Change up earlier

Many modern automatic cars are designed with fuel efficiency in mind, meaning the gearbox will change up early and keep your revs low. But, in manual cars, it’s down to the driver. Try changing up at around 2000rpm in diesels, and 2500rpm in petrols, to improve overall efficiency.

Take pride in your driving

Research suggests that drivers who regularly check their average fuel consumption displays can improve their fuel efficiency by as much as 15% – simply because they’re more aware of how much fuel they’re using.[2]

[1] https://pressat.co.uk/releases/under-pressure-uk-motorists-put-lives-at-risk-and-waste-246-million-on-fuel-4cde89d9cce067bee63b765bd612e2e1/



[4] https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/how-to/fuel-saving-tips/