The other day I filled up the Subaru and it only cost me $22, whereas just a few months ago it was costing me over $50 a tank. Gas prices have certainly come down (don’t they always around an election?) lately, and we are now paying $1.77 a gallon – a far cry from the $4.99 I was paying in Los Angeles back in June. And while paying for gas has gotten easier on the wallet, I don’t expect it to last forever and I am sure that prices will head back up in 2009. As a result of this thinking, we still try to drive economically and conserve gas as much as possible – it’s like training for a future event you know you will have to participate in someday. If you think you need to drive economically and are looking for new ways to save money on gas, some of these tips might help you out.
photo credit: KB35
Don’t idle after starting up the car. Even in cold weather, newer cars do not need to sit and warm up for long periods of time. Doing so not only wastes gas but can also damage your catalytic converter.
Stuck in traffic? Shut the car off. If you think you are going to be sitting for more than 30 seconds, turning off the car saves gas and reduces wear on the engine, brakes, and transmission. This is one I used to do all the time in Los Angeles, but we don’t have traffic where I live now.
Go easy on the gas pedal. I know it seems obvious, but so many people stomp on the gas when leaving a light, pulling out of a driveway, switching lanes, etc. Unless you have some souped-up sports car, being a little lighter on the pedal will not slow you down any and will save gas.
Empty your trunk of non-essentials. Don’t carry around the weight of stuff you don’t need! Other than emergency supplies, you don’t really need a permanent stash of anything in your trunk.
Drive a manual? Choose your top gear. Make sure you are in the highest gear for the road you are on. Nothing like driving along at freeway speeds in 4th gear (when you have 5) with your RPM’s up around 6,000 (they should be around 3,000 or so). Talk about wear and tear on a car!
Drive an automatic? Make sure you use overdrive if you have it. On the freeway, be sure the button labeled overdrive is on so that the car is in the highest gear while going 65.
Try carpooling. Know a coworker that lives nearby or another child in the neighborhood that gets driven to school? Look into sharing the expense of getting to work or school a few days a week. It not only reduces your gas costs, but it also reduces the wear on your car.
Think about sticking to the speed limit. I know it’s difficult – I have a hard time of it myself. But they say that sticking to the speed limit really saves on gas (the limit was lowered to 55 during the last gas crisis in the 70’s in order to conserve), so give it a shot.
Know your octane rating. Most cars, believe it or not, run perfectly fine on regular grade unleaded. Check your owners manual or the fuel door to see what the manufacturer recommends. I have always used regular unleaded in all my cars.
Plan your route for the day. Stopping at multiple places? Consider driving to the furthest one first and then working your way back to your house. Combine errands. Don’t run out for one little thing if it can wait until the next time you head out.
Get a tune up. Have the car maintained regularly, including those all-important oil changes. Many recent studies (and some manufacturers themselves) have now said that we don’t need to change our oil every 3,000 miles, but that we can last until at least 5,000 instead. So check with your owners manual and/or dealership on that. Change your air filter often as well, as your car burns fuel more efficiently with the right mixture of air coming in. But most importantly, have the car checked out every now and then to make sure it is in top operating condition, which can save gas.
Keep your tires inflated to the correct PSI. Really, nothing is as much as a drag as under-inflated tires. It causes you to waste gas AND go through your tires faster, both of which costs you money.
If something doesn’t feel right, have it checked out. You drive your car every day – you should be able to tell if something just isn’t right with it. It could be wobbly tires, a strange smell coming from the engine compartments, steering that doesn’t aim straight – you know your car better than anyone. So take notice of what it is doing so that you can get it fixed if there is a problem. A car that is not running correctly is a car that is costing you more money than it should to run. Stay on top of it.
So, what are you doing to conserve gas and save money? Some people are reverting back to their old driving habits now that gas prices are down, some people are sticking to their conservative ways, and some are even going back to buying gas guzzlers. Gasoline is only going to get more and more expensive, and there will always be dips in price. But don’t fall for it – we need to learn to conserve gasoline now so when it is prohibitively expensive we already are in the habit of being aware of how we drive!