Saving Fuel vs Saving Time

Should you turn your vehicle off at the lights?

Picture this: You’re stopped at the traffic lights, there’s a car in front of you and the light goes green. You start to put your foot on the accelerator to take off, and you can hear the person in front of you starting their car…there is nothing more frustrating!

It’s an often debated theory that turning your car off at the lights will save you fuel, and more and more Australians seem to be taking part in the trend.

An article by Driver Knowledge Tests states that if we leave our car running for more than 10-15 seconds then it is worth turning the car off to save fuel.


Idling for an hour can use up to 400ml of fuel, so for an average driver who spends a minimum of two hours stuck in traffic going to and from work every day, this could save you up to 192 litres per year in precious petrol.

However the other side of this debate is whether turning your car off at the lights will take you longer to start your car, cause more risk of an accident and cost you more time than it’s worth.

The most common type of car crash on Australian roads is the nose-to-tail, which ultimately occurs when someone stops or starts abruptly in traffic jams and at traffic lights.

If you’ve made the choice to save fuel and turn off your engine, then you’ll need to be quick off the mark to start it again when the lights go green.

Approximately 10 seconds is spent turning your car off and on again. Throw this in with the cognitive thought process of doing so, along other increasing driver distractions, and these 10 seconds could be the difference between saving 800mls of fuel a day or a rather unpleasant argument with the person who just rammed into the back of you.

In the end it really comes down to personal choice. One solution would be to invest in a car with an automatic idle-stop feature, which is now installed in a wide range of new vehicles. The technology shuts off the vehicles engine automatically when the car comes to a stop and starts again when the brake is released.

What’s your opinion?