Gas prices are on the rise again, and for busy, budget conscious families driving between work, day care, school, stores and a multitude of activities, this means something’s gotta give. For those of us who can’t conceivably bike everywhere or buy a brand new electric car anytime soon, here are a few tips to save a little, or a lot, on gas.
Keep up with scheduled maintenance
It’s not likely that changing your oil or replacing your air filter will save you any noticeable amount of gas money, but performing regularly scheduled maintenance will increase the longevity of your engine save fuel economy in the long run. According to EPA tests, vehicles that are 10 or even 15 years old will experience little decrease in fuel economy if properly maintained.
Inflate and align tires
You should never overinflate your tires, as this reduces your grip on the road and could cause an accident. But keeping them properly inflated vs. letting them get too low, as well as keeping them properly aligned, can actually save you a small amount of fuel efficiency.
Anything that decreases the aerodynamics of your vehicle will decrease fuel efficiency. Remove luggage racks and ski racks when not in use. Keep the windows rolled up as well. You may be better off turning on the AC —auto testing at Consumer Reports shows that the affect AC has on gas mileage in the average car is minimal.
Reduce excess weight
Don’t carry around excess cargo in the trunk. More weight equals more fuel needed to haul it.
Idling can cost you up to half a gallon of gas an hour, so turn off the engine if you’re not going anywhere, and kick the habit of warming up the interior of your car before you are ready to leave. Any time you can foresee that you will not be moving for more than 30 seconds to 1 minute, you should turn off the engine.
This is a no brainer, and of course easier said than done. But tough times call for creative thinking! Consider alternative modes of transportation for short trips. Try to set up a carpool to work or school, even if only a couple days a week. Consolidate trips to the store with other errands, and plan your route according to the shortest driving distance.
Change the way you drive
Slow down! Every time you hit the accelerator you are using more gas, so aim to keep your speed steady and avoid excess braking and accelerating. This means no revving your engine to get up to speed quicker, no tailgating, and calmer driving on the highway —according to fueleconomy.gov, each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas. Their tests indicate that 50-60 mph is the best range for maximizing fuel efficiency. (I know, I can’t drive that slow either, but it’s good to know!)
Look for deals
Websites like gasbuddy.com or their companion phone apps (m.gasbuddy.com) can tell you the best gas prices near you at any given moment. (Just keep in mind, driving all over town for the best deal can defeat the purpose!) Another option is to sign up for Meijer text alerts. Meijer will send you a text message in the morning before they raise the prices at their stations in the afternoon.
Following these tips will hopefully not only save you a little money at the pump, but note also that driving a little calmer, a little smarter and a little less is a good thing for the safety of your family and for the environment!