Only a few months ago I paid $1.87 a gallon for gas in Thornton, Colo. That’s nearly a dollar cheaper than I paid this past week at the same location—$2.85 per gallon! What’s going on?
According to Forbes, the price for a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude oil tested the $70 level last week, before closing at $69.62. That may be great news for oil producers around the U.S., but it’s bad for America’s families getting ready to hit the road for summer vacations.
And sadly, I have even worse news for travelers. Given industry predictions and what’s coming out of Wash. D.C. these days, the price at the pump won’t be going anywhere but up in the foreseeable future.
While there’s precious little any one of us can do about the national economy, we can do something about our personal economies.
To save a gallon of gas, you need to cut about 22 miles of driving. Here are 17 easy ways to do that:
1. Hop on the bus, Gus
Even if you assume it’s not an option for you, consider public transportation. You may be surprised by all the options that you have never considered. Or carpool. Leaving the car at home and sharing your commute occasionally can help you reach your gallon goal quickly. Sharing the ride—and expense—with another person regularly can cut your gas costs in half. Check out your carpooling opportunities at the eRide Share app, eRideShare.com.
2. Take it easy
The faster you drive, the more gas you use. If your average commute includes 20 miles of highway time and you drive it at 60 mph instead of 70 mph, it will take you only three minutes longer to get there, and you’ll save approximately 1.3 gallons of gas in a five-day workweek.
Need to pick up a prescription, mail a package, and go to the bank? Instead of spreading these tasks out over a few trips, chain them together by doing all of them at one time. Park in a central spot and walk from place to place.
4. Shop online
Save the trips to the store, and consider other online services to minimize errands such as banking, buying stamps, and paying bills. Just make sure that any delivery fees are not wiping out the potential savings in gasoline.
5. Drive a sipper, not a guzzler
If you own vehicles of differing sizes, take the smaller, more fuel-efficient one on any long trips that you can. Check with GasBuddy.com for the lowest price in your area.
6. Take a hike (or ride a bike)
Instead of driving everywhere, lace up your sneakers and get some exercise while you save gas. A bicycle can help you rack up car-free miles even faster.
7. Work in your sweats
If you have a job for which working from home might be possible, ask the boss if you and your coworkers can telecommute one day a week to save gas. If you are the boss, consider making it a company-wide initiative.
8. Fill up on Monday
Or Tuesday. GasBuddy, a site that tracks gas prices like none other, says that Monday and Tuesday are historically the cheapest days of the week to fill up your tank. And for sure, never on the weekends! And if you’re filling up with unleaded plus or premium-grade gasoline while the owner manual does not specifically require that for your vehicle? Stop doing that! Downgrade to the cheaper unleaded or regular option.
9. Stop idling
According to Linda Gaines, Argonne transportation systems analyst:
“You should shut off your engine. Unless you drive a vintage, carburetor-equipped vehicle, you’ll save fuel and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by turning it off. Some drivers think that idling uses less fuel than restarting, but our research has found that drivers save fuel and reduce emissions by shutting down for stops as brief as 10 seconds. That being said, we don’t recommend turning your car on and off in stop-and-go traffic; driving safely means being able to respond quickly to traffic conditions.”
10. Drive as if gas is being rationed
The time may come that you will be allowed only a set number of gallons per week no matter the cost, no matter your needs (remember the 70s? Anyone?). Start driving now as if you are on a 10-gallons-per-week limit. The practice will do you good.
11. Take up hypermiling
Hypermiling uses extreme techniques to turn ordinary cars into highly efficient vehicles. While some hypermiling techniques are just downright dangerous, others are safe and practicable by everyday people. Here are a few techniques that can increase the gas mileage in your car to otherwise unthinkable levels, such as avoiding overuse of the brakes , reducing your drag, accelerating slowly, and so forth.
12. Get cool with school
As you look forward to getting back to school in the fall, instead of driving your kids to and from school every day, team up with friends and neighbors with kids in the same school to help. You can each take turns picking up the tykes. Ditto for church and sports activities.
13. Lighten up
The heavier the load your car has to carry, the harder its engine has to work to keep the wheels moving, which means the more gas it guzzles. Don’t use your trunk for long-term storage. You could be hauling around the weight equivalent of another person without even realizing it. Do this: Remove everything from the cargo space or trunk. While it’s empty cleaning it out. Return only the items required for safety. Everything else? Find a better storage spot in the garage or house.
14. Check those tires
Most drivers are baffled when it comes to tire pressure. For the everyday driver, refilling the tires usually only happens when they “look low” or a tire pressure light comes on inside the dash. It’s true the tire pressure can affect gas mileage.
For optimal life expectancy of tires and the best gas mileage, check the pressure every time you fill-up with gas. Keep your tires inflated at the PSI (pounds per square inch) recommended in the manual or on that sticker on the edge of the door on the driver side of the door—NOT the PSI you see printed on the tire wall.
The PSI value listed on the tire wall is the maximum pressure at which the tire will be able to safely support its maximum load rating before bursting! This pressure should be considered the tire’s maximum inflation limit.
The PSI value listed on the vehicle’s sticker inside the door jamb or manual is the PSI the manufacturer recommends in order to achieve the best fuel mileage and tire wear for that specific vehicle. Usually, this recommended PSI is lower than the maximum PSI shown on the tire wall.
15. Cruise control is your friend
When you are not in stop-and-go traffic but rather out on the open road, put your vehicle into cruise control. That is a relaxed and joyful way to roll. Your gas mileage agrees as this eliminates fluctuations in speed, which wreak havoc on your miles per gallon.
16. Join the club
Most grocery stores now have clubs. If yours does, join it. Chances are good that the supermarket also has a gas station where you earn points or rewards based on your grocery purchases, or offers these rewards at a station nearby. You’ll actually get discounts on your gas purchases based on your reward points. Club memberships are free and totally worth the effort.
17. Pay with cash
Many gasoline stations give a discount for cash payment. It’s their way of avoiding credit and debit card processing fees, also known as merchant fees. It will be a bit less convenient for you to pay the cashier instead of feeding plastic into the pump, but the savings will be so worth it. Plus you’ll add more steps to reach your daily goal.