Keep your van going: how to take control of your van fuel costs

Van

21 August 2018

June 2018 saw UK petrol prices rise at their highest rate in 18 years. And while supermarket price wars have given motorists a brief break, the signs suggest that prices will continue heading northwards in the long term – especially if the government lifts the fuel duty freeze.

To prevent the petrol pumps from sucking your business dry, we look at a few of the best ways you can cut fuel costs to a minimum and eek out some extra miles to keep your van on the road for longer.

Driving tips

The way you drive affects the amount of fuel your van uses. By adapting your style in minor ways, you can cut your bills significantly. Our top tips* are:

  • Don’t rush – Your fuel efficiency gets worse the faster you go. So, although you’ll get to your destination quicker at 70mph, you’ll use 25% less fuel if you drive at 50mph.
  • Drive smoothly – Accelerating uses much more fuel than driving at a constant speed, so try to keep a gentle touch when putting your foot down. Slow early for traffic lights or when approaching queues and avoid stop-start driving wherever possible.
  • Be clever with air-con – Using air-con at low speeds increases fuel consumption but the effect is minimised at higher speeds. Open your windows to cool down when in town, saving the air-con for when you’re travelling at higher speeds.
  • Go easy on the electrics – Switch off your window heaters, demister fan and headlights when you don’t need them.
  • Low speed, high gear – Another means to achieve a high mile-per-gallon figure is driving at the lowest speed you can in the highest possible gear.
  • Keep your engine revs down – The higher the revs, the less fuel efficient the engine will be. Change gears early to avoid over-revving.
  • Avoid idling – If you think you’ll be standing for a minute or two, turn the engine off to conserve fuel.
  • Less is more – If you tend to do a lot of miles in urban zones, try to drive on half a tank of fuel – less weight will help fuel economy.
  • Don’t overload – Fuel consumption is directly related to the weight of your van so don’t keep unnecessary items in your boot or leave roof racks on your vehicle when they’re not needed. If you can unload non-essential items before you start a job, it’ll cost less to get there.

Maintenance matters

When it comes to fuel efficiency, you’re not the only one at fault. Sometimes mechanical issues have an impact on your fuel consumption. Regular maintenance and servicing can help improve the efficiency of your vehicle. A few ways you can help to reduce fuel costs include:

  • Checking your oil – Oil reduces friction in the engine, so it’s important you keep it topped up, and you use the right viscosity (found in the owners’ manual). Some oils also contain additives that reduce friction further.
  • Cleaning your filters – Most diesel filters should clean themselves if you occasionally drive at sustained speeds for at least 30 minutes. But if they do get clogged, they can reduce fuel efficiency by 10-15%.
  • Watching your wheels – Low tyre pressure and incorrect alignment affect efficiency by increasing friction on different areas of your tyres. So, checking your pressure and alignment can save on fuel as well as tyre replacement costs.
  • Service your vehicle – A full service isn’t just about safety – or keeping your van on the road for longer – it’s also about efficiency. Even a poorly firing spark plug will cost you fuel over time.

An extra helping hand

We get it, running a business takes up a huge amount of your time and it can be hard to shift gear from old driving habits. Why not try using some of these handy tools to help you pinch pennies at the pump in different ways?

  • Use sites like Petrol Prices and SimpleMotoring.co.uk to plan your refuelling stops ahead of time. Motorway services are reportedly overcharging motorists by around £2.50 per tank, so re-routing for cheaper alternatives will make you significant savings.
  • Use Google Maps to avoid stop-start traffic jams, or try business-focused solutions, like Badger Mapping or Route4Me, to plan routes with multiple stops more efficiently. Some satnavs are introducing ‘fuel efficient’ route-planning too, so keep your eyes peeled for developments.
  • Various apps can give you feedback on your driving and help you to change those gas guzzling habits. AXA Drivesafe or DriveOn, for example, can monitor your speed, how long you’re stationary for and even the health of your vehicle – helping you to keep a keener eye on fuel consumption.

As you can see, excessive fuel consumption isn’t just linked to speedy driving. By ditching old driving habits and keeping a keen eye on the health of your van with regular routine maintenance checks, you could claw back the pennies from the petrol pump and watch the pennies pile-up in your pocket.

*All of the advice provided is in line with the Department for Transport’s driving best practices.

Keep your van moving – no matter what

At AXA, we want to make sure protecting your van, and keeping your business moving, is as simple as possible. Take a look at our help and advice for van drivers, and once you have the information you need, get a business van insurance quote and save 10% when you book online.