The summer driving season is here and in case you haven’t noticed, gas prices are rising. The national average cost of a gallon of regular gas is currently $2.96, up nearly 60 cents a gallon over last year, and it may even go higher, depending on national and international events. Because we tend to drive more and drive farther during summer, that adds up to a significant hit to the wallet.
Billshark thought this would be a good time to review the best ways to keep your gas bill down.
- Drive less
Oh, sure, you might say. I have to drive, regardless of prices. But one way to drive less is to plan more. Combining trips and planning your route are two great ways to save on gas. UPS plans their drivers’ routes to focus on right turns only wherever possible. That saves the cost of idling at intersections waiting to make left turns. And if you’re not moving in traffic, shut off the engine. AAA says that a car engine consumes up to a half-gallon of gas per hour to idle, but a warm engine takes only about 10 seconds worth of fuel to restart.
- Drive evenly
If you maintain an even speed on the highway, you’ll use less gas than if you constantly accelerate, decelerate and brake hard. If you can’t resist that type of driving, set your cruise control to help. If you have a stick shift, be sure to use the overdrive when on the highway.
And slow down. “When going from 55 to 65 mph, we lose between four and eight mpg,” Jon Linkov, deputy automotive editor at Consumer Reports (CR), told NBC News, reporting on mileage tests CR performed. “If you’re driving 55 and you go 20 miles an hour faster, you can lose as much as 15 miles per gallon.”
- Lose weight
Not you, your car. Are you still carrying around the 20 pounds of kitty litter you stashed in the trunk last winter in case you got stuck in the snow? Get it out of there. Do you routinely use your car to store your kids’ sports equipment, or your own, even when you won’t need it? A clean car is a lighter car, and won’t use as much fuel.
If you can avoid carrying things on your cargo roof rack, do so. And if the roof rack is removable, take it off if you don’t need it. Anything that impacts the aerodynamics of the car—that is, the efficient flow of air over the vehicle—will cost you gas mileage.
This is also true for the age-old question of whether to drive with the windows down or use the air conditioning. CR’s tests have shown that using the A/C can reduce fuel efficiency from one to four mpg. So unless it’s broiling outside, consider cracking the windows and leave the A/C off.
- Watch where you buy
Gas prices near interstates are always higher than you’ll find at stations farther from these major roads. Download one (or more) of the many smartphone apps to help you track prices around town. But be careful of driving miles out of your way to save a few cents per gallon on gas. Unless you have to be in that area for some reason, the time lost, the wear-and-tear on your car, and the gas consumed to get there may cancel out any savings.
And don’t use premium gas unless your car’s maintenance manual calls for it. Likewise, forget the myth about filling up early in the morning. Because gas is stored in underground tanks, it’s always cool, regardless of outside temperatures.
- Take care of your car
That means performing regular vehicle maintenance, including replacing fluids, filters, and spark plugs. And check tire inflation at least once a month, because under-inflated tires consume more gas.
- Shop smart in the future
The easiest way to save on gas consumption is to buy a vehicle that uses less gas. The next time you shop for a car, think about mileage when you buy. The U.S. Department of Energy offers comparison mileage ratings on various makes and models at https://www.fueleconomy.gov.
Buy the most fuel-efficient model you can get away with. In other words, if you need a van for the kids and their gear, or a pickup truck because you often haul heavy loads, go for it, but look for the least gas-hungry model you can find. Otherwise, buy something smaller, maybe even a hybrid. Also, consider a manual transmission in whichever vehicle you buy, as they use less gas than automatics.
And while you’re thinking of saving money, why not let Billshark take a look at your bills? You’re probably spending way more than you need to, and we can help you find those hidden savings.