Owning a car in Singapore is expensive enough without paying for petrol.
And yet, it’s been estimated that Singaporeans pay as much as $2,600 a year for petrol, even for mid-grade petrol.
Given that international oil prices are now at a high (at the time we’re writing this in 2018), it’s likely that figure is about to go up even higher.
Here are some easy ways you can cut down on it:
Lower the weight of your car by emptying out the boot, or removing un-needed accessories / body kits
A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shows that the lighter your vehicle, the less fuel you’ll consume. As a rough estimate, every 45 kilograms you remove from your car will reduce your fuel consumption by two per cent per mile (1.6 kilometres).
This means you can reduce petrol costs by decluttering: take heavy things out of the trunk when you’re not using them, and minimise the use of accessories like bike racks. Also avoid body kits, or similar modifications, that add weight to your car.
And of course, buying a smaller and lighter car means spending less on fuel (older car models tend to be heavier).
Avoid “jack-rabbiting” on the roads
Jack-rabbiting is when you repeatedly accelerate and sharply slow down, to jump ahead of cars on the road (this often leads to sharp braking as well, when you overtake and end up facing a red light or a slower car).
Every time you brake, energy is converted to heat and wasted. And when you need to accelerate again, you burn more petrol getting your car to move. Cruising gently is more energy efficient, as your car has momentum behind it, and energy is only lost to wind resistance.
Simply put, drive as smoothly as possible and avoid repeatedly overtaking to get ahead. Not only is it safer, you’ll burn less petrol and minimise wear on your engine and brakes.
Keep it between 50 to 90 km/h
Fuel efficiency is highest at between 50 km/h and 90 km/h. The average car burns between 15 to 20 per cent more fuel, when travelling above 90 km/h. At speeds below 50 km/h, fuel consumption can rise by around 10 to 15 per cent.
So don’t speed, but don’t road hog either.
Maintain your tyres, and think twice about racing tyres
Always keep your tyres inflated. When your tyre pressure is low, your car will ride lower to the ground; this increases drag (the force keeping it “glued” to the road), which means more petrol is burned to keep it moving. Driving with low tyre pressure increases fuel consumption by around two to three per cent per kilometre travelled.
Also, you may want to reconsider racing tyres that are designed to provide more grip. This does make it easier to turn sharp corners at speed, but (1) increased grip means increased fuel consumption, and (2) you probably shouldn’t be driving like that anyway!
Use a credit card that’s specifically meant for petrol
Don’t just use any old credit card when buying petrol. Use a card specifically optimised for it, so you can stack your savings with any rewards or discounts.
For example, the Standard Chartered Unlimited Cashback card gives you a 21 per cent discount at Caltex stations, while the POSB Everyday Card gives you 20 per cent off at SPC.
Compare Petrol Credit Cards
This can stack with other benefits like cashback, air miles, or reward points, so you really make the most from your petrol expenses.
Not going to Johor? Then keep it at ¾ tank or even ½ tank.
One little trick, provided you’re not going across the causeway or are a full-time Grab driver, is to keep your car at ¾ tank or ½ tank whenever you fill up.
First, this helps your cash flow as you don’t buy more petrol than you need every month. Second, less petrol in the tank means your tank weighs less (see point 1), so your fuel consumption is reduced.
In places where petrol stations are few and far between, this could be hazardous as you don’t want to run out in the middle of nowhere. But in tiny Singapore, where you can find a petrol station almost anywhere, it’s not too inconvenient to practice.
Avoid running the air-conditioner when driving at speeds below 60 km/h
Your air-conditioner does consume fuel, because it runs on energy supplied by the car’s alternator. This is energy from the engine, which is powered by the petrol in your tank.
SAE International’s studies conclude that running the air-con can lower your fuel efficiency by as much as 10 per cent. But of course, we know that in Singapore you need the air-con to stop your car from becoming an oven.
So if you want to maximise fuel efficiency, try driving with the windows down instead, when travelling at 60 km/h or below. When travelling faster however, wind up the window and use the air-con; because at higher speeds, the open windows produce so much drag that your car burns more petrol to move.
Turn off the engine instead of leaving it to idle
An idling engine still burns petrol. If you need to leave the car for a period of time – be it to buy your 4D tickets or run upstairs to get the phone you let behind – turn it off instead.
In the past, this was considered a bad thing as turning your engine on and off could wear it our faster; but cars today are much more resilient. Also, Singapore has no winter climate, so you don’t really need to leave the engine idling to keep it warmed up.
Don’t skip your regular maintenance
Cars are surprisingly complex, given that they’re basically a box with four wheels. Even small factors, like clogged air filters, can end up resulting in higher fuel consumption.
In fact, if you notice fuel consumption being unusually high, it’s often a sign that something is wrong with the engine, tyres, or brakes. These issues tend to go together, so quickly send your car for a check-up when it happens.
Always follow the regular maintenance schedule – the better maintained your car, the less petrol you’ll need to keep it going.