One of the biggest expenses we face these days is filling the gas tanks on our precious automobiles. Eventually, most of us may move to electric vehicles at some point once things like range, cost and the availability of charging stations allows them to become more practical for the average person, but until then, most of us are stuck giving a considerable percentage of our income to the big bad oil companies.
Over the past month or so, gas prices where I live have spiked at least $.50/gallon (I haven’t kept real good track but it did jump another 7 cents this morning alone) so I thought now would be the perfect time to share some tips on how you can save fuel and money! These tips should help at least take some of the sting out of the rising gas prices.
Here are 10 tips on how you can stop wasting gas and throwing money at oil companies.
- Watch your speed!
High speeds are one of the quickest ways to use a lot of gas. Once you go above 55 or 60 mph (I’ve heard both cited), for every 5 mph faster you drive, you lose around 10% of your fuel efficiency because of the increased wind resistance. I’m not saying you should impede traffic and drive 60 mph on a 75 mph interstate but I wouldn’t recommend doing more than the speed limit. If you are worried about getting somewhere on time, just make sure to leave a little early and you will save yourself money on gas and speeding tickets.
- Don’t idle if you don’t have to
Idling is one of the quickest ways to kill your fuel efficiency. If you know you are going to be sitting still for a considerable amount of time like when you are waiting in the drive thru at the bank or fast food joint, turn your engine off. You can save up to 19% on your fuel efficiency by turning your engine off when you know you wont be moving for at least a minute (my rule of thumb is 20 seconds). Your A/C or heater will likely stop working when you turn the engine off but you can always roll down your windows or put a jacket on for a little bit.
- Drive smoothly
This is probably the biggest way you can save on fuel and one of the things I probably struggle with the most. If you floor it every time the light turns green (what I do on occasion) or slam on the breaks every time it turns red (I rarely do this), it can hurt your fuel efficiency by as much as 30%. Smooth, gradual starts and stops will save you big bucks and in most cases you still still get where you are going just as quick as you would have otherwise. I will admit that flooring it on green is a lot of fun but it is an expensive habit.
- Know when to cruise.
Cruising and knowing when to cruise can net you a 10% savings on fuel. Using cruise control on the highway is a good way to keep yourself from accidentally accelerating and using that extra bit of gas that you don’t need to use. However, while this is good advice for flat highways, when you are driving in an area with a lot of hills or mountains, forget the cruise control and focus on accelerating uphill smoothly and letting off of the gas and coasting down the other side. Coasting is a great way to save on fuel so do it whenever possible!
- Use higher gears
Cars are typically more fuel efficient in higher gears so once you get to the speed you need to go, pick the gear that runs at the lowest RPM and you will be saving yet more money!
- Streamline your car
Anything extra on the outside of your car is going to kill your aerodynamics and in turn, your fuel efficiency. So, unless you are in the process of transporting that bike, luggage or canoe on top of or on the back of your vehicle, leave them at home until you are ready to use them. And take off your luggage and ski racks too because that will also make a difference.
Why should multiple people going to the same place at the same time driver different cars, each using a bunch of gas if its not necessary? Whenever possible, try to carpool with co-workers and friends to work, dinner or even random errands. If you get them to pitch in on gas, your running around will be cheaper for all of you and while the extra weight in your car will make it less fuel efficient, running one car instead of 4 is still cheaper overall and running one car instead of four will be much better on the environment.
- Lighten your load
You should always try to drive your vehicle with as little stuff in it as possible. Generally speaking, for every extra 100 pounds of junk in your car, it will reduce your gas mileage by 2%. Not only is having an uncluttered car more fuel efficient, it is also a lot more presentable and less to stress out about when you have to give somebody else a ride. So don’t be like me and carry around various game consoles, telescopes, tons of clothes and other things in your car unless you have a pressing need for it.
- Keep your windows closed and A/C off
Similar to the streamlining point, keeping your windows closed will make your car more aerodynamic and thus more fuel efficient. Opening the windows creates enough drag on your car that it can hurt your fuel efficiency by as much as 10% so if the temperature in your car is comfortable with it closed, keep them closed! This effect isn’t really noticeable until you hit around 45 mph so if you are just driving around town, you should be ok to roll your windows down and let everybody around you know just how good your taste in music is. Also, if you don’t need to be running your A/C or heater, leave it off! I’m sure it varies from vehicle to vehicle but Consumer Reports found that running the air conditioner in a Honda Accord going 65 mph killed the gas mileage by 3 mpg which is quite a drop!
- Keep your tires inflated
Finally, keep your tires inflated to their recommended air pressure. When you are driving in the snow, it is a good idea to let a little (not a lot) bit of air pressure out of your tires because it will make them grip better so you are less likely to slide. However, when the road conditions are good, that extra contact with the road will only make you use up more gas so make sure to keep your tires properly inflated and you could see a 3% or more increase in your gas mileage.
Do you have any tips for how people can save even more on fuel? Share them in the comments below! Also, make sure to sign up for our newsletter on the right too so you don’t miss tips like these in the future!