You want to save money and make environmentally sound choices about your gas consumption. This article will show you how to save gas and still get the most out of your vehicle.
Saving gas doesn’t have to mean cutting down on how much you drive, getting a new vehicle, carpooling or making any inconvenient changes to your lifestyle. There are a lot of simple, easy habits you can get into that help you save gas all the time, no matter how much you drive.
Easy Gas Saving Tips
- Drive moderately instead of aggressively. If you accelerate gradually instead of quickly, and slow down ahead of time instead of zooming up and then slamming on the breaks, you can save over 30% on gas costs. (More on this below.)
- Focus on “coasting”. In this context, coasting means not having your foot on either pedal. You don’t always need to be either accelerating or braking. You can often let up on the gas to slow down or let up on the brake to start moving. This is especially helpful in start-stop congested traffic.
- Keep your tires filled to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure.Many gas stations have free air pumps you can use anytime you want, and many tire chains will inflate your tires for you. Check the inside of the passenger door or drivers’ manual to get the ideal pressure for your tires. Ideally, you should do this one day when you’ve just started driving, and the car and tires are still “cold” – that’s how you’ll get the most accurate level of pressure.
- Drive in economy mode. If your car offers driving modes, “Economy” will give you the best fuel efficiency your car is capable of whether you’re driving to work or taking a road trip on the highway.
- Driving at reasonable speeds really does save gas. The US Department of Energy says most cars lose fuel efficiency at speeds above 50mph and “You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas.”
- Consolidate errands. With a little planning, you can map out your errands in such a way that you drive more or less in a circle instead of crisscrossing all over town.
- Avoid idling. Anytime it makes sense, turn the car’s engine off or down to accessories. This means when you’re sitting in parking lots waiting on a passenger, or sitting in a line that’s not moving at a drive through, or even during serious gridlock. If you need the heat or air conditioning, you can turn it to accessories. That saves less than turning the car off, but it still saves some.
- Use your car’s AC instead of rolling windows down. A few decades ago, the AC used lots of extra gas compared to having windows down. But modern cars are engineered to be aerodynamic and fuel efficient. Opening the windows can wreck the aerodynamics, and turning off the AC doesn’t save enough fuel to offset it. In some cars, turning off the AC actually causes them to burn more fuel. So use your climate control instead of driving with open windows or sunroofs.
- Cruise control is your friend. In tests, cruise control really does make a difference, so use it whenever you have the chance. Check your owner’s manual to see the minimum speed you can set it on. It’s lower than it used to be, so you can sometimes even use it in town.
- Fill up your car when it’s cool. Gasoline is denser in the morning or evening than it is in the hottest part of the day. You’ll get more for your money by fueling up at those times.
- Get regular oil changes. It’s true you don’t need an oil change every 3000 miles or 3 months anymore, because newer oils have gotten better about not degrading and creating sludge. But every oil degrades sooner or later, and sludge compromises your gas mileage and can cause other problems. It’s hard to say when’s the right time to get your car’s oil changed because different driving situations and different car models vary, and people who want to sell you oil always insist it needs frequent changing. Do some research and check some online forums. Generally, figures like every like 5,000 miles or 6 months get tossed around frequently.
- Get your air filter changed. Tell your mechanic to change the air filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, or once a year if you drive less than that in a year. It really makes a difference in how much gas your car will burn.
- Take routes that avoid idling. If a short route involves lots of stops at lights, and a longer route doesn’t, the longer route may actually give you better gas mileage and get you there just as quickly.
- Park in the shade. Gas actually can evaporate from your tank when it’s exposed to sunlight.
- Avoid unnecessary weight. The more your car weighs, the more gas it will use. Don’t store stuff in your car unless you regularly use it there.
- Synthetic oils supposedly save you gas mileage compared to petroleum. Moreover, they last longer than petroleum. Contrary to what you may have heard, they are not better for the environment – except in that you can change them less often, which means less crap getting disposed of.
More on Driving Moderately
If you learned to drive aggressively, you may not know what people mean when they talk about driving moderately. So let’s break it down.
Aggressive drivers tend to be constantly either pressing the accelerator or the brakes. They keep the accelerator pressed down at least somewhat until it’s time to stop, and then they switch to the breaks, which they lean on until it’s time to go again.
Think of it this way: when you accelerate, you’re using gas, right? But whenever you brake, you’re canceling the use of that gas – wasting it. The less braking you do, the better gas mileage you’ll have. So the more time you spend with neither pedal depressed, the more gas you’ll save.
- As soon as you see a stop ahead, let off on the gas pedal. If you’re on level ground, you’ll be surprised how much you slow down by simply not accelerating. You may even find the light turns green or the traffic clog clears before you reach it, so that you never have to use the brake.
- When you accelerate, do it minimally. Try pressing just a little on the pedal. You won’t be taking off from lights like a speed racer, but you’ll be surprised how small an acceleration it takes to get you into the flow of traffic. And smaller accelerations save gas compared to larger ones.
- Avoid full stops when you can. By following these rules, you’ll find yourself not coming to a full stop as often. For example, when you see a red light ahead you’ll let off the acceleration and slow down to 15 miles, but then the light will turn green while you’re still moving, and you’ll end up never having to stop. Why does this save gas? Because taking off from a full stop takes more fuel than accelerating from even 5 mph.
- While you’re moving, combine both of the above: accelerate minimally, coasting as much as you can. Our tendency is usually to accelerate enough to get to a safe distance behind the guy ahead, and stay there by keeping the accelerator down and braking when that person brakes. Instead, accelerate gently to get into position: you’ll find it takes much less gas to get there than you think (and no, you won’t look like Grandma Slowpoke – you’re doing exactly what you normally do, except with less gas). And when the guy in front of you brakes, you let up on the accelerator before you hit the brakes. Sometimes coasting alone is enough, and you can drive for quite a distance behind someone who’s breaking every 30 seconds without ever using your own brakes.