So summer has arrived at last and, if you’re planning long holiday trips in Britain and Europe, fuel economy can be a significant aspect of your holiday economics.
It’s not for us to dictate what sort of roads you travel on, and at what cruising speed, but it seems that much of the joy and adventure of foreign lands, like France, Spain and Italy can be missed if you simply jump on a motorway and speed on to your destination as fast as you can. The same applies if you’re touring and simply rush from one overnight spot to another without seeing any real countryside in between.
Outside the traditional European holiday weeks, which you’re best identifying and avoiding, you’ll find that most European roads are relatively quiet and hassle free and, if you do a bit of route planning, you’ll find that you can get from A to B on the French N roads and minor roads in little longer than it takes on the motorways.
You’ll probably even save a bit of fuel by cruising at lower speeds and also have the opportunity to fill your tank at supermarkets and filling stations, where fuel prices are much lower than on the motorway halts.
Here’s a word of caution; at the time of writing, UK diesel costs the equivalent of around €1.65 a litre, while French prices at around €1.23 a litre apparently represent a significant saving. But if you buy your fuel on a French autoroute, it will cost as much as €1.50 a litre, and with currency exchange costs, this is very little cheaper than back here.
Toll charges can have a big effect on holiday motoring costs in France though. A typical trip from Calais to Dijon using almost entirely autoroute is around 350 miles, and for two extremes of 30mpg and 50mpg, you’ll use 30 to 45 litres of fuel, costing £35 to £55 at French supermarket prices. On top of this, the privilege of using the undeniably excellent autoroutes will cost you another £40.
In reality, a fairly new car costs you between 40p and 80p a mile to run, taking everything into account, which means somewhere between £140 and £300 for the Calais to Dijon motorway journey, and arguably fuel costs play a relatively minor part.
But with an economical car, and particularly an older one with relatively low annual depreciation, autoroute toll charges represent a distinctly uncomfortable part of motoring costs in France, if you choose to use them!
Let’s return to the alternatives; for Calais to Dijon, we’re looking at probably taking an extra two or three hours for a 350 mile journey on alternative roads, thereby avoiding the toll charges.
That’s just an extra hour and a half of more interesting driving each day, if you split the journey into two days, with an overnight stop somewhere nice. Reims, for example, is a great city that might otherwise be missed on this trip.
An overnight stop gives you time enough there, or in nearby Épernay, to take a trip around the wonderful champagne cellars, like Mercier or Bollinger, and maybe even slip a few bottles, bought at a keen price, into the car for some future celebration!
We’re comparing the two extremes here though, and a mix of autoroutes and other roads can be a more practical alternative. Get a few motorway miles under your belt first thing to cover unexpected delays or distractions that you may encounter on minor roads, or hit the autoroutes if you’re running a bit behind schedule later on in the day.
There are boring bits of France that are best avoided, and a Michelin map with its ‘green’ roads is a good investment that will steer you to interesting countryside and help you select cross-country routes that avoid going through bigger towns.
In this case, we’re suggesting that choosing to go ‘The Extra Mile’ may well make your holiday more memorable, but also save you money in your overall holiday motoring costs, too.