The summer of 2007 began with prices hovering close to the $3.00 mark, and while things have come down a little in the last week or so, The even the "cheap" states along the gulf are seeing prices in the $2.77 /gallon range, for the lowest octane unleaded available. While it was reported late in spring that we wouldn't see much elevation this year, the fact is that gas is still more expensive than it ever has been, and we are all looking for ways to save money when we have to fill up.
While consumers cannot directly affect the prices paid at the pump, there are several things you can do to help conserve gasoline, and make filling your tank less frequent, if not always less costly. Here are ten "tips and tricks" for saving gas, broken into three categories: maintenance, driving habits, and shopping.
Don't forget, driving the right car for your individual needs can also be a big gas saver. Instead of the Chevrolet Suburban to run errands around town, consider a Toyota Prius Hybrid for 60mpg plus city driving.
Keeping your car well maintained is probably the most important way to conserve gasoline.
Three things to watch out for:
1) Tire Pressure: Check your owner's manual, and be sure your tires are correctly inflated. Information at AAA's website states that this is the most important factor in good gas mileage.
2) Tune-ups: Keep all the fluids and systems in your car well-maintained, and see a trustworthy mechanic for regular tune-ups.
3) Cleanliness: Dirt and grime on the exterior can increase drag, as can rooftop carriers. Using your trunk as storage space makes your car heavier, and means the engine has to work harder. If you don't use it on a daily basis, you probably don't need it in or on your car.
The way you drive absolutely affects how much gas your car uses.
1) Stick to the speed limit. This is harder to do than it sounds, of course, but consider that the difference in consumption between driving 55 and 65 miles per hour is about 2 miles per gallon.
2) Accelerate gradually. Sudden starts and stops over-exert your engine, and gradual acceleration is better for automatic transmissions, anyway. 3) Keep your foot on the floor. Your left foot, that is. Resting it on the brake during normal driving, even slightly, adds to drag.
4) Use air conditioning wisely in hot weather. On a long trip, keeping the windows up and the a/c on is more efficient than not, because it reduces that evil drag, but once the car is chilled, reduce power to the air conditioner. In stop-and-go situations, however, open the windows and use outside air as much as possible.
You can't try before you buy, but you can be an informed purchaser.
1) Shop for the best prices. Use websites like gasbuddy.com and gaspricewatch.com to find the best prices near you. Also, consider local and off-brand stations. Their prices can be as much as 10 cents less, per gallon.
2) Use a gas card or rebate credit card, or a store "club card." With prices the same for cash and credit, using a credit card can save you money (by giving a discount) or earn you a few cents a gallon, and if you live in a state where grocery stores have pumps of their own, using their "club cards" can save three or four cents a gallon.
3) Buy the lowest grade you can. Check your owner's manual to find out what is actually recommended. In many cases, it isn't the premium grade. If your vehicle supports the use of E85 fuel, consider using that. Also, note that in some of the Midwestern states the mid-range higher-ethanol fuel is actually less expensive than 87-octane unleaded.
In addition to these ten tips, other ways to save gas, thus saving money are basic common sense tricks: keep your gas cap tight to avoid evaporation; combine trips to stores, preferably finding shopping centers where many goods or services are available in close proximity; consider making a fuel-economy car your next purchase - or even a hybrid vehicle (which don't need to be plugged in, by the way) - and of course, whenever possible, walk.
By following these tips, you may not get to where you're going any faster, but your wallet will suffer less for it.