The summer driving season is just around the corner. Road trips, day trips to the beach or lake, visits to Grandma’s house. When the doors close on another school year, we Americans hit the road.
If you watch the news for about 2.5 seconds, you will hear a multitude of reasons as to why gas prices are going up and summer is historically the season in which they rise the most.
The good news is, you don’t have to take this beating lying down. You can stand up and fight, rage against the machine and take matters into your own hands (as much as possible anyway).
Other personal finance bloggers may tell you to ditch your evil, money-sucking car altogether. Don’t have viable public transportation or live too far to bike to work? Simply move, of course.
Don’t get me wrong, if you are in a position to 86 your car, you should strongly consider doing so since that decision could likely save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year when you factor in car payments, insurance, fuel and maintenance/repairs.
However, I realize not everyone can get by without a car (or wants to, for that matter), or even two cars if you are a family with kids and/or two working adults. I understand this because this is the situation I am currently in.
I would love to walk or ride my bike to work everyday, but I ain’t gonna. It’s 32 miles . . . uphill, both ways . . . in the snow.
So, if you’re a poor sap like me who relies on a car to transport your butt to and from work each day, or you’re just a sucker for cars, read on for some practical tips to reduce your spending on gas this summer.
1. Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Just like with our finances, slow and steady is the path to success (for most of us, anyway). Increasing your highway cruising speed from 55 miles per hour (mph) to 75 mph can raise fuel consumption as much as 20%. In a typical family sedan, every 10 miles per hour you drive over 60 mph is the equivalent of the price of gasoline going up by about 54 cents per gallon. That figure is even higher for less fuel-efficient vehicles.
2. Junk in the Trunk
While having junk in your trunk can make for a good rap song, having junk in your car’s trunk can negatively impact your mpg. For every 100 lbs. carried in your vehicle, you lose 1-2% in fuel efficiency. Time to take a lesson from the minimalists and clean out your car.
3. Inflate your Savings
Keeping your tires inflated to the proper tire pressure can improve your gas mileage by up to 3%. Even more important, driving on properly-inflated tires can keep you and your family out of harm’s way. Under-inflated tires are a leading cause of tire failure, which can ultimately lead to a blowout. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, almost 1/3 of passenger cars, light trucks and SUVs are being driven with at least one under-inflated tire. Take a few minutes before hitting the road to assess your tire pressure and inflate accordingly.
4. Lube it Up
Not only does keeping your car in good running order prolong the life of the vehicle (thus saving you money on car payments), it can also help you save money at the pump. Keeping your air filter clean can increase your fuel efficiency by 10%, keeping your tires properly aligned can increase fuel efficiency by 10% and keeping your engine properly tuned can increase fuel efficiency by 4%.
According to fueleconomy.gov, fixing a car that is noticeably out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4%, though results vary based on the kind of repair. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40%.
5. Consolidate Trips
Time to put on your planning hat. Instead of running out for each little thing or task that pops into your mind, try to plan out your vehicle usage, consolidating and combining trips, when possible. Your fuel economy is worse when your engine is cold than when it is warmed up. As a result, several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer, multipurpose trip covering the same distance.
6. Park It, Park It Good
Even if you are not one of the lucky ones who can navigate through life without a car, you may still be able to bike it or hike it occasionally. Anytime you are able to leave the car parked and take alternative transportation, you not only do your wallet a favor, but likely your waistline as well.
7. Sweat it Out
This may very well be the least popular of the list, but it has a place here nonetheless. You may not need to get all hot and bothered completely, but reducing and minimizing the usage of your air conditioner can significantly decrease your fuel consumption. Running your car’s air conditioner is the main contributor to reduced fuel economy in hot weather. Under very hot conditions, AC use can reduce a conventional vehicle’s fuel economy by more than 25%, particularly on short trips. Pass on the AC and roll the windows down instead? It depends. At slower speeds, driving with the windows down as opposed to running the AC can save on gas, but at higher speeds, running the AC, albeit mindfully, is the way to go. Fueleconomy.gov offers some tips to reduce fuel consumption particularly during hot weather.
- Roll the windows down at lower speeds; use the AC at highway speeds.
- Don’t use the AC more than needed or set the temperature lower than needed.
- Park in the shade or use a sunshade so the cabin doesn’t get as hot.
- Drive with the windows open for a short time before using the AC. Letting hot air out of the cabin first will put less demand on the AC and help your vehicle cool faster.
- Don’t idle with the AC running before driving. Turn the AC on after you begin to drive or after airing out the cabin briefly. Most AC systems will cool the vehicle faster while driving.
8. Consistency is Key
Jackrabbit starts and abrupt braking can hamper your fuel economy pretty significantly. Rapid acceleration and braking can decrease fuel economy by 33%. When you start moving from a stopped position at a stop sign or traffic light, do so in a smooth, gradual fashion as opposed to putting the pedal to the metal, as they say. The same goes for braking. Come to a stop as gradually as possible as opposed to slamming on the brakes just in time to stop an inch and a half behind the car in front of you. Not only will you save on gas, but your passengers will thank you.
There you go, 8 practical tips to help you get the most bang out of your gasoline buck this summer. Safe travels!