Is there no end in sight? It’s getting increasingly hard to remember when gas was affordable. So if you’re not yet ready to break out a bicycle, here are a few easy cost-cutting strategies to maximize your gas dollars this summer.
Maintain your car. Basic car care goes a long way toward stretching your gas tank. Scheduling time for maintenance can improve gas mileage by an average of 4% according to FuelEconomy.gov, a site maintained jointly by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. So, remember to: get your engine tuned; keep tires properly inflated; use the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil; and check your air filter and replace it about every 15,000 miles. Refer to your owner’s manual for more suggestions specific to your vehicle.
Plan ahead. One combined trip instead of three little ones saves time and money. If you’re planning a longer road trip, check out AAA Fuel Cost Calculator (www.fuelcostcalculator.com) to see how much a trip will hurt your pockets. You can also shop around for the best prices in your area on sites such as GasBuddy.com (www.gasbuddy.com). Website co-founder Jason Toews says recently the site’s been getting 4 million to 5 million hits daily, which is up from an average of 1 million to 2 million earlier this year. “We attribute this to volatile gas prices,” says Toews, “because when prices are stable we don’t get as many new people on the site.”
Don’t idle. Idling gets 0 miles per gallon, so turn off your engine if you are going to be sitting a minute or longer. Also, avoid long waits in fast-food drive-thrus and just go inside.
Downsize. To seriously cut gas expenses, consider switching from a truck or SUV to a smaller, more fuel-efficient car. Hybrid cars, run by gas and battery power, are also a good option. FuelEconomy.gov estimates the difference between a car that gets 20 mpg and one that gets 30 mpg amounts to $1,020 annually (based on 15,000 miles of driving and a fuel cost of $4.08 per gallon).
Lose Weight. Empty your trunk, not your pockets. A heavy car requires more gas to accelerate and brake so clean out your trunk and eliminate extras such as spoilers and subwoofers, and big tires on the exterior of your vehicle.
Calm Down. No one likes an aggressive driver, especially not your gas tank. Habits such as driving at speeds above 55 mph, constantly accelerating, changing lanes too often, and braking sharply all use up more gas. ConsumerReports.org found that driving at 55mph rather than 75mph, improved fuel efficiency by as much as 10 miles per gallon. Finally, to maintain safe speeds, try setting the car on cruise control which, in most situations, also saves gas.
Change your driving habits. Consider carpooling, public transportation, and telecommuting to cut costs and