There are many tips and strategies to help you spend less on gasoline. All of them require a little bit of planning and awareness, but with some minor effort, you could be shaving hundreds of dollars off your yearly fuel costs.
Don’t Drive with an Ego
Most people consider driving to be a fun activity. A moving vehicle provides plenty of sensory feedback on our bodies and brains as we twist through turns. The power of an automobile engine may even stroke our egos more than a tad, making us feel powerful as we peel out from a stop or speed through a curve. People who get angry in traffic can notice this effect from the sense of power they get by driving aggressively around cars who offend them.
Unfortunately, people letting their ego dictate driving behavior can hit them right in the wallet. Habits like speeding, rapidly accelerating or quickly braking are not only harsher on a car, but they also reduce gas mileage by 5 percent in the city and a whopping 33 percent while on the highway.
The best course of action for conserving fuel is to take it easy on your car. Obey the speed limits and accelerate reasonably. You only reduce your time by a few seconds at the most by slamming the accelerator, usually to end up at the same red light as the people left in your dust.
While on the highway, cruise control can be your best friend for preventing speeding. Set your vehicle at 60 or below and watch for dangers ahead. Anticipating slowdowns and stops can help too, since you can let off the gas to slow down instead of slamming on brakes at the last minute.
Keep Your Vehicle Ship-Shape
Regular tune-ups can help your car run more smoothly and efficiently. Less engine and exhaust system troubles means better gas mileage and reduced emissions.
Remember to use the correct grade of oil for your vehicle and the current weather. Your engine should stay well lubricated to prevent weather or wear-related problems.
Keeping tire pressure and oil reserves at appropriate levels are also extremely important for keeping gas consumption low. Low tire pressure can reduce your gas mileage by 3 percent or more. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has compiled statistics showing that under-inflated tires increase the likelihood of overheating, poor handling and crashes by a factor of three. Keep your tires inflated, balanced, and properly aligned to save money, save fuel, and ease your mind.
One of the biggest impacts on fuel economy are short trips. Shorter trips don’t allow engines to warm up to efficient levels.
Reduce the number of short trips you take with your car every day by planning ahead for errand runs. You can include a trip to the cheapest gas station in town during one of these trips. Some grocery stores or retailers offer gas discounts for customer purchases in the form of “Fuel Points” or something similar.
Carpooling and car sharing in general can help reduce gas use. Rather than having a family taking separate car trips throughout the day, try and coordinate errand runs or trips to do the least amount of driving possible per car. Some families may be surprised to realize how often they can let one car sit unused for most of the week. Prior planning can do wonders for your efforts when it comes to saving gas!
Weathering Extreme Climates
Living in climates where the summers are sweltering or the winters are frigid can take a toll on your gas tank.
Cold air is particularly harmful to gas mileage and vehicles in general. Lower temperatures increase friction between moving parts, and they also create more drag from the denser air. The US Department of Energy estimates that fuel economy is reduced by 12 percent at temperatures of 20 degrees Fahrenheit compared to 77 degrees Fahrenheit. For trips shorter than five miles, fuel economy dips by as much as 22 percent.
Hybrid cars have it even worse. The electrical mechanisms that reduce gas usage are harder to operate during cold weather, dropping MPG by 31-34 percent.
Here are some tips for conserving fuel when it’s cool:
- Park your car in a covered or enclosed area such as a garage to keep the interior and engine from getting too cold
- There is no need to idle your car to warm it up. Modern engines warm up better at low speeds and with gentle driving for the first few miles
- Turn off seat warmers and defrosters when they aren’t absolutely necessary
- Change oil to a cold weather formula for months when the temperatures regularly dip below freezing
- For electric or hybrid cars, run the heat while the vehicle is charging to use electricity and not gas
Hot weather actually helps most engines stay lubricated. Hot air also has less drag than air with lower temperatures. Because most people run air conditioning or roll down their windows to beat the heat, fuel consumption during the summer usually goes up.
Here are some tips to lessen the impact of the heat on your fuel tank:
- Park in the shade and use window visors to block out sunlight from overheating your interior
- Roll down your windows when you start driving before you turn on your AC. Pulling the hot air out of the car corrects the temperature faster and means your AC doesn’t have to work as hard
- Keep your windows down at speeds lower than 45. Higher speeds create more drag, so switch to AC on the highway and roll your windows back up
- Be reasonable with the air conditioning. Blasting the AC and then cutting it off uses more energy than a more moderate temperature setting
- Read your vehicle’s manual to find out the optimal way to run your AC efficiently and stay comfortable while saving gas
- Similar to winter, electric or hybrid cars can run the AC while the vehicle is charging to use electricity and not gas
Beware of Quick Fixes
Many unscrupulous business owners will try to sell you products that claim they will increase your gas mileage. The EPA has tested nearly all of these products for effectiveness and has yet to find one that can back up its claims with actual results.
These devices include “fuel mixture enhancers” and magnets that sit along your fuel line to supposedly decrease deposits and create more purified gas. The vast majority of the devices they tested had absolutely no effect on fuel consumption.
Those that did have an effect were so small that they were barely noticeable. Even still, they did not work nearly as effectively as they claimed, and often cost far more than the potential savings over time.
Some products were actually found to be harmful to the vehicles they tested them on. Instead of improving fuel economy, they actually made it worse! Most concerning of all, these types of products also caused signs of engine damage and increased emissions.
Put simply, always be skeptical of “miracle fixes” that tout extraordinary benefits for your gas mileage. If they worked, the auto industry would already include them in vehicles or the oil industry would market the additives more heavily. Instead, they are sold on TV infomercials and in displays right next to cash registers that are designed to capitalize on impulse buys.
- Never idle your engine for more than a few minutes. Idling literally gets you zero MPG. Shutting your car off can save you money while sparing the environment from unnecessary emissions
- Don’t drive around with roof racks or other accessories when you don’t need them. They increase drag and make your MPG plunge
- Rear-mounted luggage carriers are better for fuel economy than roof-mounted devices
- Save money on gas by spending less money — use the minimum fuel grade recommended by your owner’s manual
- Carry around as little weight in your vehicle as possible
- Find a light, efficient car for commuting or errand trips. Save heavier vehicles for only when you absolutely need them
Using these tips can save you a bundle on your gas costs throughout the year and help your efforts when it comes to conserving fuel.