It’s no secret that the price of gas is continually rising. According to data from the Energy Information Administration, the national average for a gallon of regular gas in mid-January 2009 was $1.83. Three weeks later, the price was $3.44, and in 2012, the average price exceeds $4.00 in some areas.
With no estimated date in sight as to when prices will come down, consumers need to be smart about how to save on fuel costs before they reach the pump. Fortunately, there are many ways to save significantly – without requiring a great deal of effort on your part.
1. Drive Less
Between the rising cost of gas and the slumping economy, there are a number of reasons why people are driving less today. It’s not so hard to do either. Combine your errands into one trip to avoid repeat drives into town. Consider walking instead of driving for nearby pick-ups, or drag out that bicycle that’s gathering dust in the garage or shed.
2. Warm Up Your Car for Shorter Lengths of Time
If you wake up to a cold morning, don’t warm up the car for longer than 30 seconds (up to one minute if you must). If you idle the engine for more than a minute, you waste fuel and pump nasty greenhouse gas emissions into the air. Engines of modern cars do not require the extensive length of time that older models needed to warm up.
3. Buy Gas Early or Late in the Day
Purchase gas early or late in the day, especially during warm months. Gas is cooler earlier in the day, and more dense. As temperatures rise, gas density falls and you get less of it when you pump.
Also, buy gas early in the week. Prices typically rise between Wednesday and Saturday, but stay lower during the early days of the week.
4. Slow Down and Drive Steady
Driving fast may be fun, but it also increases drag, which increases fuel consumption. Driving just below the speed limit and driving smoothly (not accelerating quickly) uses gas more efficiently, so you may have to fill up a lot less often.
5. Monitor When and How You Brake
Braking excessively wastes gas and causes your brake pads to wear out quickly. Maintain a safe distance between yourself and the car in front of you when you’re in heavy traffic – that way, you won’t need to brake as often as if you were tailgating.
Also, by keeping a bit more distance between you and the car ahead, you can begin braking earlier, especially when approaching a traffic light. By not having to slam on the brakes at the last minute, you’ll improve the efficiency of your car and save gas.
6. Turn Off the Engine
If you’re waiting outside for your spouse to finish getting ready for your night out, or you’re waiting at a railroad crossing for the train to cross, turn off the engine. Idling is a major waste of gasoline, and contributes massive amounts of pollutants to the atmosphere.
7. Eliminate Wind Resistance
An open window increases drag and costs you fuel in the long run – so keep your windows closed whenever possible. Also, remember to remove unneeded car racks and carriers. If you normally drive around with a ski rack, bicycle rack, or luggage rack on your roof, take it off when it’s not in use to make your vehicle more aerodynamic.
8. Avoid Gas Stations Near the Highway
The first gas station that you encounter after a long stretch of highway will usually be pricey. If possible, plan ahead or drive a little farther toward the nearest town to find a cheaper station.
9. Don’t Wait Until Your Tank Is Almost Empty to Fill Up
If you wait until your tank is almost empty, you may be stuck paying for whatever gas you find conveniently nearby, as you won’t be able to search for the best deal.
10. Monitor Your Tires
Under-inflation causes tires to wear out faster and wastes gas. Properly inflated tires reduce friction and offer better gas mileage.
However, temperature changes can cause tire pressure to fluctuate by as much as two to three pounds per square inch (psi), so be sure to check the psi regularly – especially during seasons when the weather shifts drastically. You may also want to contact your car dealer to see if they offer free tire pressure check-ups.
Also, if you utilize snow tires during the winter months, be sure to replace them in the spring. Snow tires cause excess friction on dry surfaces, wasting gas.
11. Tune the Engine
Car engines need to be regularly tuned. A properly tuned engine uses less gas, so if you can’t remember when you last had a tune-up, it may be time to schedule one.
12. Change Filters
Check your filters regularly – especially if you live in a dusty area. Clean filters help to keep cars running more fuel efficiently.
13. Use the Correct Motor Oil
Be sure to use the proper motor oil. If you’re not sure which type your car requires, check the owner’s manual or do a search online. Using the wrong motor oil can cause the engine to work harder and waste gas.
14. Turn Off the A/C
As much as you may love air conditioning, it turns your car into a gas guzzler. Keep it turned off as much as possible. To keep your car cooler, park in the shade and roll the windows down a crack to circulate air.
Transmissions & Fuel Efficiency
15. Drive Manual
Manual transmission cars are more fuel-efficient than automatic transmission. If you drive one, shift up early and shift down late to save on fuel. Also, shift into neutral when the car is standing still to reduce the strain on your transmission.
16. Manage Your Speed
If you drive a car with automatic transmission, use cruise control to manage your speed and conserve fuel.
17. Choose the Best Route
Whenever possible, take the route with the fewest stop signs and traffic lights. The shortest route isn’t always the most fuel-efficient way to go.
18. Fill Your Gas Tank Near State Lines
When traveling, fill up near state lines if possible. Due to different tax rates, you may save a bundle just by crossing into another state. If you’re planning a road trip, do research ahead of time to see which states offer the best prices.
19. Consider Buying a Fuel-Efficient Car
Consider getting a more fuel-efficient car. Even several models of affordable non-hybrids can get 40 miles per gallon.
20. Download a Gas App
Using smartphone apps can really help you save at the gas pump – sometimes more than $0.20 per gallon. Several apps are not only available for the iPhone, but also for the Android, Blackberry, Windows phone, and others as well.
Apps Available for Multiple Smartphones:
- Where.com helps connect consumers with their favorite local retailers, including gas stations. It is free to download for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Palm, and Windows phones.
- GasBuddy helps you locate the least expensive gas, as well as the closest gas stations in your proximity. The community of users network together to provide the latest gas price updates. It is free for Android, iPhone, and Blackberry.
- Fuel Finder has been voted the best gas price app on the iPhone and iPod. This premium app automatically refreshes price data every five minutes, and is available via the Apple App Store for $2.99.
- AroundMe, an all-purpose app that does more than just find the cheapest gas, helps you locate hotels, movie theaters, pharmacies, and more. It was rated as the best iPhone app of 2011 by TIME, and is free to download. The ad-free version costs $2.99.
- Gas Cubby is an iPhone app that helps track gas prices, car mileage, and maintenance requirements. The basic version is free, or you can purchase the ad-free version for $2.99.
- SmartFuel is different from GasBuddy and other gas price-finding apps in that it relies on gas price databases, rather than reports from users. It costs $2.99 after a month of free service.
The average cost of gasoline per gallon has fluctuated wildly over the last decade, but chances are that we won’t be seeing $2.50 gas again for a long while. But instead of simply waiting for gas prices to plummet, focus on finding clever, simple ways to save money. Invest in an economical vehicle with a high MPG when you make your next purchase, continue to take care of your current vehicle with DIY car maintenance tips, and carpool to work. You may even want to invest in a gas credit card. And if possible, walk or ride a bike whenever the opportunity presents itself, rather than driving. It’s good for the environment, and great for your health.
What other tips can you suggest to save money on gas?
(photo credit: Bigstock)