Gas prices are creeping up in my area. When we left on our trip to Northern California at the beginning of the month, the price of gas near us was right around $2.75. Now, it’s looking like it might hit $3.00 soon. Here I break down the best ways to save on gas. If you scroll to the end, I’ll give you some deep dive ways to cut down on your consumption.
7. Lighten Your Load
The heavier your car is, the harder it has to work, and the more gas it will consume. Lighten your load by not carrying extraneous things in your car. Gas is heavy, too, so don’t fill your tank all the way. I usually only give it about 3/4 of a tank unless I’m redeeming fuel rewards.
6. Use GasBuddy
This app (or website) aggregates all of the stations in your area and publishes the prices. You can find out if stations are cheaper near your work, on the way, or closer to home.
5. Combine Trips
If you commute, this is super easy—just stop on your way to or from work. If not, then combine your errands so you’re not going hither and thither, this way and that. Try to avoid backtracking and rush hour. The basic premise: reduce how often you use your car.
4. Fuel Rewards Programs
Join the rewards program at your local grocery store. We have Safeway (Von’s) and Fry’s (Kroger) in our area. Every time we put our number in at the register, we earn rewards to use at the pump. I wait until we have a dollar off per gallon and an empty gas tank before using the rewards. That way, we save at least $17 each time since our largest tank holds 17 gallons. The rewards usually expire the next month, so we have to be sure we use them before we lose them!
Shell also has a rewards program. You can save at least 5¢ per gallon at the pump, more if you participate in the program by linking credit cards and earning rewards at Shell’s partners. Look for other reward programs in your area.
3. Avoid Idling
Whether you’re in the drive thru lane or in a traffic jam, the efficiency of restarting your car increases at only 10 seconds of idling. If you can, turn off the engine while you wait. If not, at least turn off the a/c and open the windows. Better yet, avoid idling by parking your car instead of using the drive thru, and use Google maps to navigate around a traffic jam.
2. Maintain Your Car
Make sure you keep up with your vehicle’s recommended maintenance schedule so that your car remains in tip top efficiency shape. This includes regular oil and filter changes, fluid checks, and engine tune-ups. Your tires play an important part, too, so make sure they are filled to the manufacturer’s specifications, which should be printed on your door jam. Have the tired rotated on a regular basis as well.
1. Analyze Your Driving Habits
The brake pedal is your enemy unless you need to come to a complete stop or it’s an emergency. Consider this the next time you’re behind the wheel. If you’re stepping on the brake frequently while you’re driving, you’re wasting gas because all of the momentum you’ve built up is gone as soon as you brake. See if you can drive by manipulating the accelerator alone. You’ll be amazed at how efficient your car becomes just by taking your foot off the accelerator and allowing your car to coast to a stop as much as you can. This requires that you slow down, keep a good distance in front of you, and practice defensive driving.
Is that light going to turn red before I get there? Is that car going to pull out in front of me? How soon should I change lanes considering the traffic and my next turn?
Try to drive in the middle or left lane to avoid having to brake for right turners on surface streets and merging cars on the freeway. Look ahead to anticipate what is going to happen next. Always be aware of the cars around you.
Think of it this way: every time you push on the pedal, that is gas out of your tank and money out of your pocket. That might help you avoid that jackrabbit take-off when the light turns green or slamming on the brakes when you end up too close to change lanes before the car in front of you turns right.
How Do You Stack Up?
So how many of these seven things do you do to save on gas? If it’s only a few, pick out a couple more to try this week and see if your gas consumption goes down. Add to the list, and you could be like the woman in the commercial who forgets how to put gas in her car. When you’re ready, keep reading for three more things that will really kick your fuel efficiency into high gear!
Bonus: Reduce Your Commute
If you commute to and from work, this is probably where most of your gas money is going. Consider carpooling, taking public transportation, and/or telecommuting. Sometimes employers even have incentive programs for using alternatives to commuting. Ask if you can work from home a couple of days each week or on whatever schedule works for you and your employer. Kick it up a notch and live where you work or work where you live. I know this is not always possible for everyone, but consider your commute before you take a new job or buy a new house.
Bonus: Buy a More Efficient Car
Next time you shop for a car, give efficiency a higher priority. This will save you in the long run. I bought my Prius in 2001, and not only is it still running, it’s still getting great gas mileage. It would be fun to calculate my fuel savings over its lifetime of almost 250,000 miles!
Bonus: Use a Bike or Walk To Get Around
This one is so obvious, but many people do not even consider it. Our family is guilty of this, too. The grocery store is literally a couple of blocks away, and we almost always take our car instead of walking or biking. Reconsider using your car if you can bike or walk there. Not only will you save money on gas, you’ll be healthier as well!