6 Ways to Save Money on Gas
Pay less at the pump with these simple strategies
Gas prices have dropped dramatically recently. Even so, every time you fill ‘er up you’ll likely feel a little nostalgic about the days when fuel was way cheaper and you could cover some real distance after a visit to the pump.
You can still increase your fuel efficiency, though — by as much as 20 percent or more, in fact. Here are six easy ways to save money on gas.
Get a (better) grip
The Department of Energy estimates 5 to 15 percent of the fuel burned by a moving car goes toward overcoming friction between tires and the road. Keeping tires properly inflated can boost mileage by 3 percent. That may not sound like much, but if you drive an average of 15,000 miles per year, it amounts to saving enough gas to travel an extra 450 miles for free.
You can find out how much to inflate the tires on your car by looking at the owner’s manual. The PSI (pounds per square inch) is also written on the jamb of the driver’s side door.
When it’s time for a new set of wheels, consider Low Rolling Resistance Tires. They’re designed to minimize friction. They also boost mileage by as much as 3 percent. These tires have gotten a bad reputation in the past for wearing out quickly and providing less traction than standard all-season tires. But recent improvements have led to better grip and improved durability. Low Rolling Resistance Tires are increasingly common on new car models.
Stay tuned (up)
Although car engines contain thousands of moving parts, the basic way they work is quite simple: Gas and air mix in and ignite in order to make the wheels turn. Sometimes the gradual wearing down of certain parts (such as spark plugs, plug wires and coil packs) can throw off the optimal ratio of gas and air. Your car will operate fine but will use more gas than necessary.
According to fueleconomy.gov, replacing worn parts can boost the average mileage of an out-of-tune car by as much as 4 percent. If your car has a faulty emissions part, such as an oxygen sensor, replacing it can improve mileage by as much as 40 percent.
Use the right motor oil
Despite strides made by automakers to improve engine performance, the California Consumer Energy Center estimates that 62.4 percent of the energy produced by fuel is wasted because of engine inefficiencies. These often develop because of friction created when moving parts rub together. Motor oil lubricates these parts; using the right motor oil for your vehicle can boost mileage by 1 to 2 percent.
Besides using the proper grade of oil for your car (as listed in your owner’s manual), you can save gas by using one labeled “energy conserving.” Such oils are approved by the American Petroleum Institute and contain additives that reduce friction and improve efficiency.
Consider your cargo
The massive muscle cars of the 1960s may be desirable to collectors, but there’s a reason they went out of style. Their giant, heavy frames had to fight to overcome weight and wind resistance. Modern cars typically have lighter, more aerodynamic designs. But even they can suffer when they’re overloaded or used to carry items on the roof. This creates drag that, according to fueleconomy.gov, can reduce mileage by 2 to 8 percent in city driving and as much as 25 percent on the Interstate.
Remove the roof rack if you don't need it. While you’re at it, remove unnecessary items from the trunk of your car: Every 100 pounds of extra weight will cut your mileage by about 1 percent.
Related: Road Trip Checklist for Your Car
Put the brakes on unsafe habits
Changing the way you drive can lead to big savings. The more careful you are on the road, the bigger the potential pay-off in terms of gas savings. Fueleconomy.gov estimates that accelerating slowly, braking as little as possible and not speeding can boost mileage by up to 5 percent around town and 33 percent on the highway. Traveling at slower speeds on the highway can boost mileage by 7 to 14 percent — and you’ll be safer to boot.
Related: What To Do If Your Brakes Fail
Shop smart next time you buy
This doesn’t mean you should switch all your cars to hybrids. In fact, in a study compiled for the New York Times by TrueCar.com (a website that helps buyers find the best price for the car they want), analysts estimated that gas would need to reach $8 per gallon before hybrid drivers would save money during the six-year period most people own their car.
When you’re ready for a new car, though, make it a goal to opt for the most efficient one that will still meet your family’s needs (which may in fact be a hybrid).