Posted by: Paul | April 24, 2010


A somewhat dull but important subject today. At least, it’s something I’ve found myself thinking about an awful lot since leaving gainful employment.

I’m not going to use this to go into a rant about the scandalous price of petrol, except to say that the artificially inflated price by a 54% tax rate and speculation on the oil market before it even gets to the wholesalers, let alone the pumps, has made it increasingly difficult over the past year (and even further back) for those who have no choice but to keep cars. Indeed, reports are that the average family now pays out more than £600 per year more than just 12 months ago due to price increases.

What happened to the fuel blockades? I thought we were supposed to be rioting in the streets when it went above 80p per litre?

Anyway, whatever your side of the debate, one thing is clear – the only way for petrol prices is up, and in order to bring the cost down you have to look at yourself and your usage of your vehicle(s). Martin Lewis from Money Saving Expert posted a useful article on the subject which can help you save money beyond finding the cheapest petrol station, by doing simple things like keeping your tyres maintained, jettisoning excess weight from your car, and driving in a more controlled manner (god knows a lot of people need to take that advice).

But what about if you’re already doing all those things? Well in that case, there are only really two more things you can do. Cut down on the number of journeys you make, and look at more fuel-efficient vehicles.

I drive an awful lot more now I’m at home than I did when I was commuting, out of necessity. Public transport is almost non-existent in our area. The train is horrendously expensive – much more so than driving – and doesn’t get you door to door so you incur further cost. I guess you could say I’ve simply shifted the cost from a £4000 train ticket to £120 per month in petrol (minimum), so I’m already spending less and travelling with more freedom. But as I’m not currently bringing much in and doing almost all the driving I thought I would look for ways to bring the cost down.

I figured out the cost per mile of my car the other day. I drive a 1999 2-litre Ford Focus, which costs £60 to fill, and I get 400 miles on average out of a tank, making the cost per mile 15p. That brings popping to the supermarket into focus – it’s 6 miles away, and so that 12-mile round trip adds £1.80 a week to our shopping bill. That’s if I only need to go to the supermarket once!

So as my trip computer tells me I average 36 miles per gallon, I want to get that figure into the mid fifties. If I can increase the figure to 54 mpg, an increase of 50%, this would bring the bill from an average of say £1500 including going on holiday, down to £750. This means that if I bought a second hand Prius for £8000 (having traded in my Focus for £2000), it would take 11 years before the savings kicked in.

Does that seem worth it to you?


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