While fuel prices may be dropping at a faster rate than the stock market, drivers are still spending huge portions of their budgets on filling the tank.
On average, the price of gas has dropped about 50 cents per gallon since the beginning of summer, but that is no reason to “drop the hammer.” With a bit of forethought and common sense, drivers can see their fuel bills fall immediately. Making some of these habits commonplace will help you keep fuel costs at bay once again when prices inevitably soar.
Obviously, the first remedy for a fuel hog would be to replace your vehicle with one that is more fuel efficient, meaning one featuring a smaller engine or alternative-fuel powertrain such as a hybrid, turbodiesel, or partial/total electric vehicle. Even a newer version of the same vehicle or powertrain may increase fuel economy by a few points as engineers are continuously improving engine performance and aerodynamics model year over model year.
There is a lifestyle in the automotive world known as "hypermiling," to eke out as many miles per gallon as possible. Some methods include coasting downhill, using dashboard monitors to track exact fuel usage at various speeds, and more extreme techniques such over-inflating tires and stripping a vehicle of unnecessary (and sometimes necessary) components and parts to reduce weight in order to pinch pennies at the pump.
Some of the things drivers can do don’t involve much time, energy, or money and some can be initiated immediately, like, slow down. Excessive use of both gas and brake pedals decrease fuel economy drastically not to mention adding unnecessary wear and tear on components.
It is important to make sure your car is regularly serviced and properly maintained.
Also, any parts or accessories you add to your vehicle that add weight or wind drag will decrease fuel economy (rooftop cargo carriers, larger tires and wheels, hood ornaments, etc.). Going back to the weight issue, make sure you are not carrying any unnecessary baggage. Clean out the trunk or cargo area. Why haul around the kids’ (or your) weekend sports equipment on your daily commute to work?
Have a habit of idling for extended periods of time at your favorite drive-thru or waiting on the kids in the carpool lane at school? Stop it, literally. Turn off the engine and you will not only save fuel but reduce emissions into the atmosphere.
Plan your drive routes more efficiently and combine trips. Make several two-way trips into one round trip and see the savings on your fuel gauge. Today’s more advanced GPS navigation systems also let you tailor your driving plans via the most efficient routes.
Keep your vehicle clean. Not only will you feel better about driving it but a slippery surface will reduce drag and ultimately save fuel. Not by earth-shattering numbers but over the life span of your vehicle it will help.
As with your home energy savings, adjusting the vehicle climate controls can enhance fuel savings there as well. Turn off the air conditioning or defroster when not needed. The alternative of opening windows at higher speeds, though, will increase drag and therefore fuel usage so some fine-tuning will be needed here to get the correct balance of comfort and economy.
Carpool – we have been hearing this one for quite some time and it still rings true. Going to the buddy system will share fuel costs and maybe cut the perceived and actual drive time by not only being able to use an HOV lane for your commute but conversation during the drive will take your mind off the minutes ticking away (provided you get the right carpool partners).
In addition to these fuel-saving tips there are also ways of saving money right at the pump itself. Many big box retail outlets and grocery stores have fuel stations on the property and offer fuel savings based on some type club or customer membership and give pennies off per gallon based on dollars spent shopping. (The wife and I use the latter here, sometimes saving 40 cents per gallon when refueling after a couple of grocery runs.)
There are also apps for that. And Websites. GasBuddy.com is a great place to begin to find location-based fuel pricing information and automakers themselves now include the ability to find low fuel prices in your vehicle at the push of a button and then draw out the route for you to get there most efficiently.
Much of this is enhanced common sense driving. The shortest route between two points is usually the quickest (and most efficient). Reduce weight and drag and the engine does not have to work as hard. Keeping your vehicle in tip-top shape not only save fuel but reduces the risk of breakdown and will extend its life. Keep these tips in mind, make them habits, and you’ll be on your way to saving money at the pump, no matter what the current price.