Driving home for Christmas? Save time and money with these tips

A total of 28 million Christmas journeys are expected on major roads this year — but the good news is that they are not expected to cause as much congestion as they have done in recent years.

M6 motorway at night

It’s all down to timing. With Christmas falling on a Sunday, travelling is expected to be split fairly evenly across three days, from the 23rd to the 25th itself.

An expensive way to travel

Sitting in jams is no fun, but it can prove costly in other ways. If traffic conditions force you to keep your engine running, then all that idling and crawling forwards will send your fuel consumption through the roof.

The RAC expects the afternoon and evening of Friday 23rd to be the most congested time on the roads, as Christmas getaway traffic combines with regular traffic to cause jams on major routes.

Save money & time

Leaving on Friday morning — if possible — could save you a lot of time and cut the fuel bill for your trip. If that’s not possible, an early getaway on Christmas Eve morning could make much more sense than battling through the traffic late on the 23rd.

However, even if you have a quick journey on empty roads, your Christmas getaway is likely to cost you more than the same trip would have done last year.

Fuel prices are up, so where’s cheapest?

According to the RAC, it currently costs an average of £63.44 to fill the tank of a Ford Focus or Vauxhall Astra, up over £6 on the 2015 cost. For drivers with diesel cars, the average cost of a tank has risen by £5.56 to £64.81 over the last year.

The main reason why petrol and diesel prices are rising is that the price of oil has rebounded. But there are other reasons, as I discussed in a recent post.

If you’re heading home or away for Christmas, it makes sense to find the cheapest fuel in your area. We can help with that. But just remember that it isn’t usually worth taking a detour to buy cheaper fuel, as any savings at the pump will be cancelled out by the extra fuel you use to get to the filling station.

For example, in a car doing 45mpg, a 5 mile detour to find cheaper fuel will use about half a litre of fuel. That’s around 58p at current prices. If you fill up with 40 litres of fuel, you’d need to save at least 1.5p per litre in order to breakeven after this detour.

The simple reality is that it’s easier to save money on fuel by driving in a more fuel-efficient way. A saving of 10% is relatively easy, and far larger savings are possible if you adopt more advanced eco-driving techiques.

Whatever you end up doing this Christmas, I wish you all a safe and happy festive season.

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