Save Up When You Fill Up

Gas Saving Tips

GasSavingsSummer is here, and with it comes summer travel season. For many that means loading up the car and heading out, whether a day trip to local sites or a full-on road trip across the country. It also often means higher gas prices, particularly around holiday weekends.

Thankfully, there are ways to save on gas no matter what you drive (including entering to win a $500 gas card). And while none of them might be a game changer all by itself, adding all of them up can make a big difference.

Keep an eye on inflation

Keeping your tires properly inflated can improve your fuel economy by three percent. Certainly not by a lot, but by enough to make it worthwhile. Some people even suggest over-inflating your tires to reduce drag, but keep in mind that doing so can make it harder to stop and turn, and can make the tire more prone to a blowout. For the correct pressure, check the inside of the driver’s doorjamb.

Sweat it out

For years experts claimed that running the air conditioner sapped power, but didn’t affect fuel mileage. Recent tests—including one done by the popular show MythBusters—have shown otherwise. In fact, running the AC can affect your mileage as much as 25 percent! The key, however, is to keep the AC off while around town, but go ahead and turn it on while on the highway. The reason is that, at higher speeds, the drag caused by open windows will impact your mileage more than the AC will.

It’s about timing

Whenever possible, try to gas up as early in the day as possible during a weekday. This is because most gas stations change their prices around 10 a.m. each day, and they also tend to raise them on the weekends (including Friday). There’s also the fact that cold gasoline (like that pumped in the mornings) is denser than warmer gasoline, meaning that you’ll actually get more gas for your money by filling up when it’s cooler outside due to the way most gas pumps measure flow.

Slow it down

Mashing the accelerator from stoplight to stoplight, or even just steadily accelerating despite the fact you’ll have to stop soon anyway, is one of the biggest wastes of gas when driving around town. If you know the light ahead of you is red, take your foot off the accelerator sooner and let the car coast instead. And when the light turns green, let it coast forward a second or two before applying the accelerator. 

When on the highway, keep in mind that most cars hit their maximum efficiency at around 55 miles per hour. Even driving just 65 can reduce your efficiency by as much as 15 percent. So if you’re dedicated to saving on gas, set the cruise (and make sure to stay in the right lane, too!).

Master maintenance

Making sure the oil is changed (and is the correct type of oil for the engine), getting tune ups when needed, and ensuring your vehicle is in tip-top shape can make a huge difference. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that something as simple as a faulty oxygen sensor can affect your mileage by as much as 40 percent!

Find deals and discounts

Some grocery stores have their own affiliated gas stations, or have partnered with one, to offer discounts related to how much you spend on groceries. And the savings can be quite substantial—so much so that, if you have a long commute, it might be worth it to switch stores. (True story: I once got premium gas for my car at 10 cents per gallon thanks to one of the programs.) You can also utilize smartphone apps such as GasBuddy or AAA’s Triptik to find the lowest local prices.

Lighten up

Every bit of extra weight you have in your car reduces your mileage. While you’ll certainly want to keep the spare tire and jack in there, make sure you’re not hauling around a bunch of items you don’t really need. This is especially true of pickup trucks—if you’re not using the tools or that big toolbox sitting your truck bed, take them out until you do need them.

This isn’t an all inclusive list by any means (e.g., you pickup truck drivers can go ahead and leave the tailgate closed) and you could certainly save more on gas by getting a hybrid or plug-in electric vehicle. But following these tips is almost guaranteed to save you money down the road.

Mark Dye

About the author: Mark Dye

Mark Dye has been writing articles, recording podcasts, and putting together books on personal finance for nearly a decade. His work has been recognized by the American Bankers Association and the Institute for Financial Literacy, and received an 2011 APEX Grand Award for Writing. Follow Mark on Google+.

Contact: Mark Dye


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