Does driving well save you money?

With petrol prices increasing, not to mention the price of maintenance and insurance premiums, owning a car has become very expensive.  Some say you can save money by ‘driving well’. Ashleigh Brown finds out whether this works in practice.


You’re always over the speed limit or slamming on brakes. How you drive is not your fault though as there are a lot of ‘*sses’ on the road – right? But experts say that by following the rules of the road and slowing down you are saving money, because you are reducing the amount of petrol you consume. Here I explain how driving well works and provide you with extra tips that will help you afford your car:

Safe travelling distance                    

Maintaining a safe travelling distance is not only good for accident prevention purposes, but also helps you to save fuel. If you break less and don’t need to accelerate again, you use less petrol.

Also, keeping a constant speed means your engine is not over working.

Riding the clutch

When driving down hill, a lot of people push in the clutch, thinking that they are freewheeling and thus using less petrol. But it is wrong.

According to Renier van Schalkwyk, marketing manager at Drive South Africa, by doing that, you are only pushing more petrol into the engine, whereas if you just left the car in gear, it wouldn’t use any more petrol at all.

“[People] think they are using less petrol if the engine is not engaged. If you are freewheeling downhill, just keep it in gear, because if the engine is in motion and you are not giving any petrol, it will not use any petrol. But if you have the clutched pressed down, then your engine has to use petrol to keep it going,” he explains.

Apps for driving

If you think you are a great driver you can put this to the test. There are different driving apps which will tell you how fast you are going, what the speed limit is, and how to avoid traffic jams.

One of the major problems traffic jams create is that they force you to use more petrol. Riding in first gear, accelerating and then decelerating, wastes petrol.

If you can find another way to get to your destination, where you can drive at an (almost) constant speed, your petrol tank, and wallet will thank you.

Community app Waze  gives you traffic updates, allows you to check petrol prices and also has speed trap updates.

According to the Waze website, it helps people, “avoid the frustration of sitting in traffic, clueing them in to a police trap or shaving five minutes off of their regular commute by showing them new routes they never even knew about.”

The Google Maps app does not include petrol prices, traffic jam info, and police traps but it does offer information about alternative methods of transport. For example, it can show you train or bus times, or walking and cycling distance and times. It also offers different routes and how long each will take.

If you want to check petrol prices and have updates as to when petrol prices will be increasing, then SA Fuel is the app for you. It sends notifications to petrol increases (or decreases), and also has petrol trends, and the change in price over the year.

Keep tyres inflated

Having low tyre pressure is not only dangerous, but it can also cause you to use more petrol. Your tyres recommended pressure can be found either in the user manual, or on the display on the inside of the driver’s door.

The air-conditioning

According to van Schalkwyk, it all depends on what speed you are driving, whether you should have the windows down or the aircon on.

If you are driving under 80km per hour, then having your windows down is more fuel efficient that having the aircon on. However, if you are driving faster than 80km per hour, then it is better to wind those windows up and put the aircon on.

Car maintenance

Van Schalkwyk urges drivers to get their cars checked regularly, as old oil, and clogged up cars can be inefficient.   

“Every 15000km, generally, you should at least get your oil filter checked in order for your engine to work at its optimum,” says van Schalkwyk.

Cruise control

If your car has cruise control, then use it. This will not only keep you at the correct speed (because we all know how tempting it is to test out or cars on the open road), but it will also keep your engine from over working, and going past its optimal speed – which uses more petrol.

Advanced driving course

Taking an advanced driving course can help you better your driving skills, and it is also fun. But be advised, it is normally a full day course, and does cost a pretty penny. Booking through an adventure bureau can cost anywhere between R1000 – R2000 for the day.

According to the Audi website: “Advanced driving courses offer the chance for regular motorists to get the best possible use out of their vehicles by providing an advanced driving experience that transforms one from a regular road user into a certified driving professional.

“Drivers can experience enlightening lecture sessions on the theory of vehicle dynamics while perfecting the art of driving by practising high speed driving techniques in the safety of a racing circuit environment.”

Insurance company rewards

Not many insurers offer you rewards if you drive well but some are building this into their insurance model. Sign up to Discovery’s Vitalitydrive and you will earn points for driving well. The Essential plan will set you back R40 a month while the Classic or Executive plan you pay an extra R55 a month. You also have to have your car insured through Discovery if you want to sign up to the programme. Vitalitydrive installs a DQ tracker in your car, which monitors your overall driving record and is also a tracker for if your car gets stolen. These points can be used to get up to 50% fuel back when buying at BP petrol stations.

OUTsurance does not have any reward schemes when it comes to driving. However, their OUTbonus offering gives you 10% back on your premiums if you do not claim for three years.

Public transport

“If you really want to save money on driving, don’t drive at all,” says Van Schalkwyk. If you can take public transport, try to use it. It will mean you are not paying for petrol, or sitting in traffic jams.

However, we aren’t all able to use public transport, so trying out some of these tricks can help you save some of your money while driving.