Motorists could be burning up to £6 billion of fuel unnecessary each year says Halfords

Motorists could be burning up to £6 billion of fuel unnecessary each year says Halfords

07 December 2022

  • Poorly maintained engines, underinflated tyres and using the wrong motor oil could cost motorists an average of almost £200 a year in excess fuel costs
  • Some drivers of light commercial vehicles could be burning up to £1,000 worth of fuel unnecessarily 
  • Excess carbon emissions from poorly maintained petrol and diesel vehicles could be as high as 8.7 million tonnes a year

Motorists could be wasting almost £200 a year on fuel due to poorly maintained vehicles. An analysis from the motoring services specialist Halfords shows that hard pressed motorists could collectively be shelling out up to £6 billion a year for fuel that they don’t need to put in their tanks.  Motorists with very high mileage, such as drivers of light commercial vehicles, could be burning up to £1000 worth of fuel unnecessarily.

“The government is very focused on encouraging people to switch to electric vehicles,” said Andy Turbefield, Halfords Head of Quality. “We support that, but we’re in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis and there needs to be a much greater emphasis on helping people with the everyday costs of motoring, for the good of people’s pockets, the economy, and the environment.

“The 5p a litre fuel duty cut is worth £70 to motorists on average, but it is due to come to an end in March,” said Andy Turbefield. “It could be replaced by an information campaign on fuel efficiency and that could save motorists hundreds of pounds each, similar to the Government’s new campaign to help households cut their energy bills.”

According to Halfords – which launches its own Every Mile Matters campaign today - driving with under-inflated tyres, using the wrong motor oil and failing to keep vehicles maintained can collectively increase the amount of fuel needed by up to 9 per cent. Halfords data shows that most vehicles coming into its garages for an MOT or service have issues that would cause the vehicle to burn more fuel than necessary. 

Poor maintenance can affect charging costs for drivers of electric vehicles (EVs) too. The extra drag caused by underinflated tyres increases rolling resistance, leading to more frequent and costly charging. What’s more, tyres on EVs wear faster than on other vehicles due to the weight of the battery and the high torque characteristics of the motor1

“At a time when every penny matters, our message to motorists is that every mile matters too,” Mr Turbefield added.

Halfords, which earlier this year acquired the National Tyres chain, has introduced a range of price cuts and pledges to help people motor for less and the company under Every Mile Matters, including £10 off a ‘Fuel Efficiency Pack’, (£40 when bought separately) when booking a full service, major service or interim service, oil and filter change, or an MOT with service. This service cleans away carbon deposits in your engine and fuel system, improving fuel efficiency. Exhaust emissions are also reduced, along with improving engine performance. A free tyre pressure check and inflation can be booked at any one of Halfords’ 600 garages, including National Tyres.


Halfords’ analysis shows that excess carbon emissions from poorly maintained petrol and diesel vehicles could be as high as 8.7 million tonnes a year. “The transition to electric vehicles will take at least a decade, and probably a lot longer,” said Andy Turbefield. “In the meantime, there is a huge environmental dividend to be had from ensuring petrol and diesel is not being burned unnecessarily.”

UK emissions from petrol were 133 million tonnes in 2021, about a third of UK total.


In September Halfords revealed that the average age of a vehicle on UK roads is now 8.7 years, which is more than a year older than it was a decade ago. With an ageing car fleet, it’s more important than ever that people keep their cars properly maintained and serviced. Older cars are more likely to develop faults, representing a risk to road safety.


1It’s important to have the correct tyre pressures and wheel alignment is vital to get the best range from your EV. While braking components can last longer on EVs due to the regenerative effects of the electric motor, lack of use can lead to corrosion which in turn could cause the brakes to drag. This drag will lead to a reduction in range and increased charging costs.

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Seven things that motorists can do to improve fuel efficiency

  1. Watch your speed and avoid sudden acceleration or braking

    Driving at high speeds empties the fuel tank in no time. If you regularly drive over 65mph, you’ll be burning excess fuel as your car works harder to fight drag. Driving at lower speeds is a simple way you can help to save fuel.

    Braking or accelerating sharply is another way to burn through fuel quickly. The harder you press the pedals, the more fuel you use, so aim for smooth braking and accelerating to get the best miles per gallon.

  2. Check your tyre pressure

    Having underinflated tyres is not only unsafe but could also be costing you a small fortune in fuel. This is because the lower your tyre pressure, the more fuel your car will need to use to push them around. Keeping them inflated to the recommended level will not only benefit you in terms of safety and fuel consumption, but it’ll also help to maximise their lifespan.

    If you’d like a helping hand with the task, then our 10 Point Car Health Check is a great place to start. The check covers a lot of the areas that’ll help to improve fuel economy and emissions performance, such as tyre pressure, oil levels and AdBlue levels (for diesel cars).

  3. Clear your boot and roof

    Your boot and roof make excellent additional storage spaces, and we’re a big fan of adding a roof box or bike rack to really make the most of your car’s carrying capacity. Having said that, it can be a good idea to remove them when they’re not in use as the excess weight and greater wind drag can make your car less fuel efficient.

  4. Regulate your air con use

    Air conditioning can be a blessing in hot weather, but it also puts an additional strain on your engine. So, if you’re stuck in traffic or travelling at slow speeds, then we’d recommend flicking that air con button off and opening the window to keep the car cool instead. Another option is to make use of the air recirculation button, as this recirculates the already cooled air in the car and saves the air con from having to bring in new hot air and cooling it.

    Conversely, if you’re travelling at high speeds then it’s better to have the window closed and the air con on as this will reduce drag and improve the overall aerodynamics of your car.

  5. Use a fuel cleaner

    A fuel cleaner will help your car to run more efficiently by removing carbon deposits from the engine and fuel system. This improves engine performance and fuel efficiency, while reducing harmful exhaust emissions.

    You can either pick up a DIY fuel system cleaner or take advantage of our fuel efficiency pack. Here we use a special, non-invasive procedure to clean and remove contaminants from your engine and fuel system, leaving you with a cleaner, greener and more fuel-efficient car.

  6. Plan your route ahead of the journey

    If you’ve got a long drive ahead, have a look online to see which route is the most fuel-efficient (it might not be the one you expect). Also think about the time of day you travel to avoid traffic or rush hour periods like the school run or peak commuting times.

  7. Make the best use of your car’s dedicated features

    Some cars come with features that are designed to help you maximise your fuel economy. ECO driving modes and start/stop functionality are just a couple of these, so try to make sure you’ve got them activated.


About Halfords

Halfords is the UK's leading provider of motoring and cycling services and products serving 24 million customers each year. Customers shop at more than 400 Halfords stores, 3 Performance Cycling stores (trading as Tredz and Giant), over 600 garages (trading as Halfords Autocentres, McConechy’s, Universal and National Tyres) and have access to 230 mobile service vans (trading as Halfords Mobile Expert, Tyres on the Drive and National) and 192 Commercial vans. Customers can also shop at and for pick up at their local store or direct home delivery, as well as booking garage services online at  

Data sources

The data points referred to are drawn from the following sources and analysis

  • According to the US Department of Energy, proper tyre inflation, using the correct motor oil and regular engine tune ups can collectively reduce fuel burn by between 6% and 9%
  • The average motorist does 6533 miles per year
  • The average number of miles on a full tank is 200 – 400 (we have taken 300 as a rough average)
  • The average capacity of typical petrol car tank is 60 litres
  • The average cost of filing a petrol vehicle is £98.40, based on £1.64 per litre for petrol x 60 litres. Therefore, the average motorist uses 21.7 full tanks of a petrol a year. At £1.64 per litre that equates to £2,142.82 a year
  • A 9 per cent saving equates to £193 per year saving and an annual reduction of 117 litres of fuel. (21.7 tank fills x 60 litres = 1302 litres. 9% of 1302 = 117 litres)
  • 1 litre of fuel = 2.4kg of CO2; therefore 117 litres = 280kg (or 0.28 Mt per year)
  • If every one of the UK’s 31 million petrol and diesel cars was NOT properly maintained (underinflated tyres, incorrect motor oil, engines not tuned up) then the cost to motorists in excess fuel could be as high as £5.983 billion
  • And the additional emissions could be as high as 8.68 million Mt, which is over 2 per cent of the UK total GHG emissions in 2021 were 424.5 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e).