You know, I think I filled up for about $2.85/gal a couple weeks ago, but it looks like it's rising again. Isn't that the way it goes? I don't know about you, but—with the variable nature of gas prices--filling my tank costs between $70-$90 per month and it's definitely one of my bigger budget concerns.
Here are some sensible ways to make sure you're getting the biggest bang for your buck.
- Drive like a grandma. You don't have to be the first one out of the gate when the light turns green. Accelerate gently—you'll get up to speed eventually and use a lot less gas doing it. Same goes for braking: if you see a yellow light in the distance, start coasting right away instead of keeping on the gas. (Hey, you'll save wear and tear on your brakes, too!) Edmunds.com has tested and found that simply changing your driving style like this can improve your mileage up to 35%.
- Don't accelerate up hills. Maintain your speed, or even let it drag a little. The guys at NPR's CarTalk report that trying to increase your speed when you're going uphill can drop you down to single-digit MPGs.
- Fill up during cold snaps. There's a tip going around that you get more gas for your money if you fill up in the morning or the evening—that is, in the cool of the day—when gas is denser. The reality is that gas is stored in thick-walled tanks underground, and the temperature isn't going to change a whole lot during the course of the average day. But if you've had a couple unseasonably frigid, cloudy days? Hey, you might as well give it a try.
- Keep a light trunk. Every hundred pounds of extra weight in your car lowers your fuel economy by about 2%. Carrying around any bricks?
- Quitcher idling! It may be tempting to start your car and go inside for ten minutes while the defrost does its magic. . .but every two minutes you let your car "warm up" uses about a mile's worth of gas. I was very paranoid for awhile about damaging my engine by driving it cold, but it turns out that experts say 30 seconds or a minute of idling should suffice for all but the coldest of days. (If you're down in the single digits or worse, you might give it a little more.) The best way to warm your car up is simply to drive it gently for the first mile or so. Spending a lot of time idling can actually increase the wear and tear on your engine instead of preventing it!
- Check your tire pressure. Underinflated tires can drag your mileage down by almost 4% according to Edmunds.
- Don't get sucked in by gas rewards programs. Okay, this might sound a little weird, but you don't want to found your approach to fuel economy on the 10 cent/gallon discount you get at your local grocery store. It's a mind control ploy—if you're saving money on gas by going to a certain store, you'll rationalize spending more there. More info on getting the most out of Gas Rewards here.
- GasBuddy.com. Visit GasBuddy and see which gas stations in your area routinely carry the cheapest gas.
- Save your errand for another day. Do you need a reason to procrastinate? Well, here you go. Saving up your errands to consolidate them into one multi-stop trip simply makes sense. When you think of something you need to go do and it isn't urgent, add it to a list. When your list has a few things you can do along the same route then go knock them off the list. You'll save time, money, and even wear on your car. (Just drive to your furthest stop first to get your car up to its best operating temperature and hit the rest on your way home.) It takes a little planning, but you'd be surprised how efficient you can become!
For example, when I was living in one town and working in another town, and the other town had the cheaper groceries? Yep, I'd hit the store when I got off work instead of getting home, scraping bottom in the cupboards, and making another trip to go to the nearby price-gouger.
What are your favorite ways to beat gas-pump woes?