A recent interview with the former president of Shell Oil is enough to make a grown man cry. The hair-raising predictions of $5-per-gallon gasoline, fuel shortages and rationing in the near future have been echoed by other oil industry experts. With this depressing prospect of high gas prices in mind, it’s high time to consider implementing fuel economy measures on a personal level to reduce fuel consumption.
While most people agree that reducing dependence on foreign oil, limiting pollution, and minimizing environmental damage are worthy but somewhat abstract goals, the specter of $5-gallon gas represents a direct, personal attack on the wallet.
Obviously, one of the best ways to lower your gasoline consumption is to purchase the most fuel-efficient car on the market. But since not everyone can dash right out to the dealership and pick up the newest hybrid, it’s good to have a Plan B. For most of us, Plan B is to maximize the efficiency of the car we already own.
Tune Up and Save
Aging spark plugs, a dirty air filter, and over- or under-inflated tires can all dramatically affect your gas mileage—by as much as 25%. Stay on top of these simple maintenance issues to get the best fuel economy out of your car.
Run Gas Charges Through a Gas Rebate Card
I’m considering a switch to the Discover Open Road card. The card offers a $10 cash rebate on your first five fill-ups, a 0% intro purchase and balance transfer APR for the first 12 months, and has no annual fee.
Everyone has seen drivers who floor it when the light turns green, race to the next light, and then slam on the brakes. More than just annoying, these drivers are also wasteful. Driving at a steady pace (try cruise control on the highway) will optimize gas mileage.
Many people wonder which takes more gas: letting the car idle for a few minutes, or turning off and restarting the car. According to the California Energy Commission’s Consumer Energy Center, it’s better to kill the motor if you will be idling more than 30 seconds. So when you are in the drive-through or lined up to pick the kids up from school, it’s more energy-efficient to turn off the car.
Another simple way to chip away at your bill when gas prices increase is to unload the trunk. Many of us haul heavy things around such as tools, old car parts, or heavy work files that may not be strictly necessary. Unload all non-essential items from your trunk to get better gas mileage.
If you have more than one vehicle, compare fuel economy using the calculator found on The U.S. Department of Energy’s website www.fueleconomy.gov. A 10 mpg difference can add up to hundred of dollars over the course of the year. If you have a truly inefficient car, crunch the numbers and consider a trade-in for a more fuel-efficient model.
The easiest way to save money on gas is simply to drive less. Almost everyone can find a way to pare miles off the weekly mileage total. Ask your boss if you can telecommute one day a week, or work four ten-hour days instead of five eight-hour days.
If you can’t reduce your number of days on the road, try to reduce your commute time, by altering your starting and quitting time to beat the traffic. Fuel (and life force) wasted in rush-hour traffic really add up.
Many of us have become accustomed to hopping into the car to buy a coffee, drop off a video, or pick up one or two things from the grocery store. A better idea is to think like the old country farmer, who went to town once a week and did everything he needed at once. Reduce or eliminate frivolous trips and consolidate essential errands as much as possible.
One way to observe the effects of these changes real time is to install a gas mileage meter. Some newer cars and trucks offer real-time mileage calculations as part of an electronic vehicle messaging center, but those of us with older models may be interested in an after-market MPG meter.
Gas Station Tips
Don’t drive across town to buy gas for a few cents less per gallon. The gas you burn getting there will usually exceed the savings.
Would you believe dollar-cost averaging applies to buying gas? It seems that gas prices over an extended period will tend to be lowest on Wednesdays–so gas up on hump-day whenever you can.
Don’t let your gas go into thin air. An incompletely closed gas cap can allow your gas—and your money—to literally evaporate. Always close the cap properly.
These and many other gas-saving tips are available on the personal finance website GetRichSlowly.com and on ConsumerReports.org (video). Implementing fuel-efficiency practices is a smart move given current gas prices, and an even smarter move if prices start to soar towards $5 per gallon.