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How to Save Money on Gas

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As most people are well aware, the price of gas is skyrocketing in the US and Canada. As you can see from this chart, the price of gas in the US has roughly doubled in the last 18 months.

Even though it looks like high gas prices are here to stay for awhile, there are many things we can all do to save money on gasoline expenses. The best part is, not only will they save you money on fuel expenses, most of them are good habits that will improve your vehicle’s performance and longevity. Reducing fuel consumption is also great for the earth.

Improve Your Car to Increase Fuel Mileage

There are a lot of little things you can do to your car that will help improve gas mileage. The best part is, most of them are part of routine maintenance and should be done anyway.

Properly inflate your tires. This is a biggie. The firmer your tires, the more easily they roll across the pavement. Inflate them to the manufacturer’s specifications which are located on the inside of the driver side door. Be sure to check your air pressure at least 1-2 times per month, or more if the weather changes temperature often.

Remove excess weight. No, I’m not talking about your mother-in-law! Get rid of things you don’t need to haul around. An additional 100 pounds of weight uses up to an additional 2-4% more gas. Extra weight equals extra fuel!

Get a tune up. Your spark plugs and distributor cap are responsible for sending the “fire” to your engine. When they get old, they perform less efficiently which causes reduced fuel efficiency as well.

Change filters. Your air filter and fuel filter affect your gas mileage. A dirty air filter has less of an effect on newer cars because their computers can generally make adjustments on the go. But it is true of older cars. In general, dirty filters equals lower mileage.

Keep your tires aligned. Tires that are out of alignment can cause damage to your tires, suspension, alignment system, and decrease fuel efficiency.

Save Money By Driving with Fuel Efficiency in Mind

Accelerate smoothly. Hard starts and stops use a lot more fuel than gradually accelerating. It’s also easier on your passengers. ;)

Coast to a stop. Coasting uses less gas and another added benefit is extended brake life.

Drive the speed limit (or close). The national speed limit was limited to 55 during oil crisis in the 70′s. This was done to limit the amount of fuel vehicles consumed. The limits have gone back up, but the principle remains the same. Driving slower generally improves gas mileage.

Drive at a steady speed or use cruise control. Quickly speeding up and slowing down uses more gas than driving at a steady speed. Utilize cruise control if your car has it. Otherwise, monitor your speed. Be sure to turn off your cruise control when going up large hills!

Combine trips. Most cars are more efficient when their engines are warm. Combining trips will also reduce the amount of back and forth driving, reducing your total mileage.

Park facing out. Backing in and out of a parking spot uses more gas than driving straight through a spot. I prefer to park so my car faces out in a parking lot. When I am ready to leave, I just get in my car and pull out. I usually have to park a little further from the entrance to find a spot where I can pull through, but I don’t mind. It’s usually quicker anyway because I don’t have to drive to the front of the store looking for “the best” spot, or sit in my car while the engine idles while waiting for someone to pull out of a “better” spot.

Avoid idling. An idling engine wastes gasoline. Turn your car off if you are going to be stopped more than 30 seconds (this is actually a law in many European locations). Unless you have an old carbureted engine, you won’t use more gas restarting your engine than you would have by idling.

Save Money At the Pump

Buy the right gas. Most modern cars don’t require premium gas unless they are sports cars, and buying the premium, high-octane gas won’t do anything extra for your gas mileage. heck your owner’s manual for the recommended gas and buy only that.

Join your gas station’s reward’s program. Some gas stations have nice loyalty programs. Last year Speedway had a program where customers saved $.05 per gallon with a Speedy Rewards card. Not a bad deal, especially when you use a cash back credit card in addition! ;)

Use a gas rewards credit card. My wife and I each use cash back credit cards and gas rewards credit card to save money on gas purchases. It is easy to find a credit card that will give you 5% cash back on gas purchases, and at $3 per gallon, that equals a $.15 savings per gallon. Not bad!

Pay with cash. Some gas stations give fairly decent discounts if you pay with cash instead of a debit or credit card. I first saw this in CA – the difference was $.10 per gallon.

Check local gas prices. There are several websites that track national gas prices. Some of these include GasBuddy.com, Motor Trend.com, FuelMeUp.com, GasNearU.com, GasPriceWatch.com, and MSN Autos. For alternative fuels try AltFuelPrices.com.

Other ideas

Consider installing a mile per gallon meter. Mile per gallon meters won’t save you money by themselves, but they let you monitor your driving habits and calculate fuel economy so you can see how well you are doing on your mission to improve gas mileage.

Drive less. Combine trips, carpool, walk, ride a bike, jog, or take the subway if available.

Hypermiling. Consider hypermiling to save money on gas. Just be sure to do it safely!

Reducing fuel consumption is not difficult

All it takes is a little planning and some maintenance that needs doing anyway, and a few small changes to your habits. It won’t take long before you notice a significant savings which is good for your pocketbook and the environment. :)


Published or updated March 20, 2014.
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