How To Save on Gasoline

by Dr. Charlotte Gorman

As gasoline prices continue to escalate, many people are looking for ways to reduce the burden of higher prices while still doing the driving necessary to their work and other activities. Below are some suggestions which will save you a considerable amount of money on gasoline. The suggestions are excerpts from my book The Frugal Mind: 1,483 Money Saving Tips for Surviving the New Millennium.

Ways to Save

1. Ask yourself every time you plan to use your car, truck, SUV, or van, "Is this trip really necessary?" Every mile you drive your vehicle will cost you at least an average of 36 cents. If the trip is not necessary, think twice before using your vehicle.

2. Drive at a conservative speed on the highway. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, most automobiles get about 20 percent more miles per gallon on the highway at 55 miles per hour than they do at 70 miles per hour.

3. Consider purchasing an automobile which gets the best gas mileage. For example, generally, the following get better gas mileage: lighter weight vehicles, vehicles with smaller engines, vehicles with manual transmissions, those with four cylinders, and those with fewer accessories. Check the "fuel economy" labels attached to the windows of new automobiles to find the average estimated miles per gallon for given makes and models.

4. Decrease the number of short trips you make. Short trips drastically reduce gas mileage. If an automobile gets 20 miles per gallon in general, it may get only 4 miles per gallon on a short trip of 5 miles or less. The U. S. Department of Energy says that trips of 5 miles or less make up 15 percent of all miles driven each year, but these trips burn 30 percent of the gasoline.

5. Cut down on the number of shopping trips. Try to plan your shopping so that you can run all of your errands in fewer trips. Combine trips. Driving to run errands many times a week can become very expensive. 6. Run necessary errands on your way to and from work. You can also run errands during your lunch break by walking to nearby stores, the library, and other places.

7. Make a list of all errands in order of their location before you leave home. Move from one to the other without backtracking. Backtracking requires additional gasoline.

8. Run errands when the traffic is least congested. You will minimize stopping-and-going and, thus, save on gasoline.

9. Don’t drive all the way across town to save five cents on an item. As pointed out above, " it costs an average of at least 36 cents a mile to own and operate an automobile." If you drive 10 miles, it will cost you $3.60 or more.

10. When shopping several grocery stores, consider how far they are from each other and whether you could still save money over the cost of automobile ownership and operation if you drove to all of them to purchase, for example, advertised specials.

11. Minimize stopping-and-starting. It wastes gasoline.

12. Try to drive at a steady pace. Try to avoid unnecessary and repetitious speeding up and slowing down. Jerky driving uses more gasoline.

13. Try to avoid, as much as possible, stop-and-go traffic. It increases fuel consumption.

14. Accelerate smoothly and moderately. Accelerating very rapidly uses more gasoline. Jumpy starts and fast getaways can burn over 50 percent more gasoline than normal acceleration. Once you have reached your desired speed, keep a steady pressure on the accelerator, just enough to maintain the speed.

15. Warm-ups should not exceed one minute. The gasoline consumed in long warm-ups is not offset by any great improvement in engine performance.

16. Turn off your engine if you stop for more than one minute. (This does not apply if you are in traffic.) Restarting the automobile will use less gasoline than idling for more than one minute. Don’t wait until you unbuckle your seat belt, turn off the lights, turn off the air-conditioner, gather items from the seat to take with you, etc. before you turn off the engine. When you turn off the ignition, your gasoline costs stop.

17. Run your automobile air-conditioner only when really necessary. Alternatively, use the economy vent. Running the air-conditioner results in more fuel consumption and fewer miles per gallon of gasoline.

18. If your automobile is equipped with a cruise control, use it when possible. It helps you get better gas mileage. Most automobile manufacturers recommend, however, that the cruise control not be used in heavy traffic or on wet roads for safety reasons.

19. Change the air filter when needed. A clogged filter wastes gasoline.

20. Change the fuel filter at regular intervals. A dirty filter reduces fuel economy.

21. Have your automobile tuned-up as recommended in your owner’s manual or as needed. A poorly tuned engine could consume three to nine percent more gasoline than a well-tuned one. The tune-up will pay for itself in gasoline savings and performance. 22. Check your tire pressure regularly. Keep your tires inflated at the recommended pressure. Tire pressure that is too low will increase rolling resistance and reduce gas mileage. You can lose about two percent in fuel economy for every pound of air pressure under the recommended pounds per square inch.

23. Consider radial tires. The use of radial tires can mean from three to five percent improvement in gas mileage in the city, seven percent on the highway, and 10 percent at 55 miles per hour after the tires have warmed up for 20 minutes. Radials also last longer. (Remember: Never mix radials with conventional tires on the same axle.)

24. Keep the front wheels of your vehicle in proper alignment. If the wheels are out of alignment, the vehicle will use more fuel.

25. Remove unnecessary weight from your automobile. Generally, the lighter the vehicle, the less gasoline it will use. An extra 100 pounds decreases fuel economy about 1 percent for the average car, and 1.25 percent for a small car.

26. Vacation near home this year. Most of us fail to see and enjoy the attractions in our own city or state. Instead, we tend to drive long distances for a vacation. People hundreds or thousands of miles away from us drive to see our attractions, and we drive to see their attractions even though we haven’t seen our own nor have they seen their own. Discover some exciting things close to home this year and save hundreds of dollars in transportation costs, including gasoline.

27. Shopping by mail or on the internet can save gasoline. However, make sure you aren’t spending more on the items you order than you would pay for them in a local store plus the cost of operating your car at 36 cents or more per mile.

28. Instead of driving around, telephone around or use the internet to compare prices, to find out about the availability of an item, or to get other particular information. Telephoning or using the internet will save on your gasoline costs (and help reduce impulse buying).

29. Order needed items over the telephone or internet and have the items delivered to you if the overall delivered cost of the items is less than the price of the items on the shelf in the store plus the cost of driving your automobile to the store and back. Some drug stores, small neighborhood grocery stores, cleaners, department stores, and other types of stores and businesses provide "free" delivery service.

30. Shop around for the best price on gasoline. There could be as much as 20 cents or more per gallon difference in price at different places that sell gasoline.

31. Some service stations advertise "Save 4 cents per gallon when you pay cash." For example, by paying cash rather than using your credit card, you could save 60 cents on a 15-gallon purchase. Such savings could accumulate to a relatively large amount over time. If a service station does not advertise savings for paying cash, you may wish to ask the manager or owner if he or she would be willing to offer such a saving to you if you pay cash rather than use your credit card.

32. Consider purchasing a shopping card offered by such places as Wal Mart which gives you a three cents-per-gallon discount at their pump if you use the shopping card when paying for the gasoline.

33. Pump your own gasoline. Save as much as 10 cents to 20 cents per gallon.

34. Don’t overfill your gas tank. The gasoline draining down the side of your automobile is lost and may also damage the finish on your car.

35. Figure your gas mileage each time you purchase gasoline. If the miles per gallon begin to drop, you can check for possible causes and make the necessary adjustments or repairs.

About the Author
Dr. Charlotte Gorman is an Extension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences, Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A & M University System. She is the author of The Frugal Mind, The Little Book of Living Frugal, and Speak for Yourself.

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