With summer in full swing and the price of oil hovering near $90-100 per barrel, everyone is feeling the pinch at the gas pump. High fuel costs affects us every summer, and this one is turning out to be no different.
Except this year, the high cost of filling up our gas tanks has been compounded by the economy’s continued slump, high unemployment, meager savings account rates, and other trouble spots in families’ finances.
Here are five ways to save some money this summer on your gas bill.
- Keep your car moving. I know that it may seem like a counterproductive idea to keep driving to save money on fuel costs, but stop and go traffic can play havoc on your fuel gauge. Depending on the amount of congestion that you encounter, you could be adding a lot to your fuel bill. Studies have shown that stop and go traffic can reduce mileage at least 5% to 10%. While living in the traffic-riddled city of Atlanta, my brother-in-law used to have a theory that you could save a lot of time on your daily commute by only making right-hand turns. Who would have thought that something so simple could save you money, as well.
- Tune up your car. Studies have shown that tuning up your car can save you money on gas by improving your fuel economy. In fact, simple tune ups can save you approximately 4% on your gas costs. If you can avoid major mechanical problems with your car, you could also save on car repairs.
- Clean out your trunk. Studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy found that your fuel consumption will be up to 2% higher if you drive around with an extra 100 pounds in your car’s trunk. So, for example, if you have a 15 gallon gas tank in your car that you fill up once a week, that extra 2% in fuel costs can add $50 onto the roughly $2, 500 that you spend on fuel per year (assuming $3.50 per gallon gasoline). Instead, you could save money this money if you’d just stop carrying around needless gear and added weight in your car’s trunk.
- Use gas reward credit card. You can earn up to a 5% rebate at certain national gas station chains in rotating categories by using a credit card like the Chase Freedom when you fill up. Make sure you enroll each quarter to be eligible and note that the 5 percent is earned on purchases up to maximum quarterly spend. Plus the Chase Freedom card has no annual fee. While many of these credit cards have high interest rates, the savings or rebates may be well worth your time and effort in gas savings if you pay your credit card bills off every month instead of letting your balances carry over and accrue interest. The best credit cards can help you earn a rebate on your gas costs.
- Carefully pick the day you fill up. I used to work at a gas station, and one of the tips that I learned was to not fill up your car while the fuel truck is there replenishing the gas station’s fuel tanks. Pumping in the new gas stirs up any sediment in the station’s large tanks and can be transferred to your car while you are filling up. Timing can also save you money on changing gas prices. Many gas station owners change their prices on Thursday mornings by 10AM. Beat the deadline if you think prices are rising, as they often do heading into the weekend when more people are on the road.
While many of these fuel (or cost) saving measures may not seem like much when you look at them individually, they can add up to some serious savings when you combine them. Saving 10% or 20% on your fuel costs can put hundreds of dollars back in your savings account every year. This can make a huge difference in your family’s budget when times are tough.
What about your fuel savings? Do you fill up your tank every week? What are some things you do to save money on gas? Did I miss any good tips?
13 Responses to “How to Save Money on Gas”
You may also want to look into getting a gas card. Look for ones where a bank has specifically teamed up with one gas station as they offer the best cash back structures. Also, make sure the gas station is one where you have several locations nearby.
I had a long post from earlier answering Tyler’s question, but it hasn’t shown up here yet.
Anyhow, Tyler: I don’t think the accelerations rate matters much (slow -vs- fast). What matters most is avoiding over-acceleration. You know you have over-accelerated if you have to use your brakes (like at stop-lights, etc).
Ron) Google search for “100+ Hypermiling tips”. Those are the experts. Also, search for “Wayne Gerdes” and read articles about him.
Good conversation, but back to the points of the posting. Is there any data that really backs up these five simple points increasing mileage by at least 10% cumulatively? I really doubt it.
The real issue is acceleration rate, cruise speed, braking habits, and tire pressure. I keep great records, and I’ve never seen any change with plug changes, air filter changes, oil changes, or even weight changes (although I have on my motorcycle when I have it loaded, but that’s a much larger percentage increase than 100 pounds additional in my car). But I have seen somewhat large changes (3-5 mpg on a 30 mpg car) with faster cruising speeds or 20 mph headwinds. The rest just doesn’t seem to matter to my data.
So I’d like to see data before I keep seeing posts like this that regurgitate things to do that may or may not make sense.
Mythbusters actually tested the drafting concept, and got good MPG increases for reasonably safe car separations, and 30+% MPG increases for extreme drafting (not recommended).
I would like to see Mythbusters test rapid versus gradual acceleration. I think gradual will be better. I actually get very good MPG at slow speeds, as long as they are steady (e.g., no stop lights).
60% throttle is the baseline I’ve heard for accelerating to cruising speed most efficiently. Any time you are in a lower gear, your mileage suffers and at 60%, you are revving your engine up in it’s powerband where it is most efficient, but not forcing it to maximum output.
Just wanted to throw it out there that trading vehicles for the sole purpose of improving mileage is rarely a money maker. If you are already trading or mileage is the thing that kicks you off the fence, go ahead. Spending $1000s of dollars on a trade to pick up a few mpgs takes many years to recoup and increases depreciation costs.
Tyler: Here’s a fun read about the “king” of hypermilers:
For your question about acceleration speeds (I’m no expert cause this can get technical really quick).
Seems what really matters is ‘wasted acceleration’: like accelerating up to a light and then hitting the brakes.
Basically, if you have to use your brakes, you are doing it wrong, and all that fuel burned accelerating you up to speed was just lost.
I’ve got the stop lights on my commute figured out pretty well, and I normally don’t use the brakes unless I’m under 20 MPH (after coasting down from 55). Sometimes I get lucky and don’t have to use the brakes at all (at a red light) since my coast was perfectly timed and I arrive at the light just as the cars ahead of me are starting from their stop.
Then all the cars in front of me race up to, and brake hard, at the next light. However, I accelerate slowly (probably 2500-3000 RPM) to my speed, then coast, so as to not use my brakes again — timing my arrival at the intersection as the cars in front of me start their next race to the next light 🙂
So, all of us cars are going the same distance, at the same time (going through the same green lights), but I’m doing it much more efficiently than they are.
Re: BG and acceleration vs. fuel mileage
I would like some data to back up your low acceleration claims. I have often held the belief (and seen data before, but of course cannot find it now) that you are best to quickly accelerate to your cruise speed, as your fuel-mileage-losses from accelerating are much smaller than the losses for spending large amounts of time at lower speed (and worse mileage).
I’d also heard about how right turns save you money (less waiting/idling). Apparently UPS developed software to optimize routes to minimize left turns! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Parcel_Service#Fuel_economy)
I wouldn’t quite consider myself a “hypermiler”, but I do try to coast as much as possible. I’ll take my foot off the gas earlier instead of waiting and then putting on the brakes. I’ll keep the speed limit, or only 5 above (saves gas AND speeding tickets!)
And rather than driving all over the parking lot, I’ll take the first spot I see and then walk. Less driving, more walking!
Nickel: that’s right, don’t want to burn a ton of gas going out of ones way to get to cheap gas. The app is really helpful when you are on a road trip, and you can see the prices at gas stations up ahead without having to take an exit to find out / get ripped off.
Another tip: For older cars (1996 and newer) that don’t have the built-in MPG instantaneous read-out on the dash, get yourself an UltraGauge (www.ultra-gauge.com). I have one in my ’97 beater and have noticed my driving habits (and MPG) improve just by having the instantaneous MPG readout (and instantaneous Gallons/hour) available at all times.
Some things I’ve figured out by having this device: my car will burn 1 gallon of gas for every 3 hours of idling (roughly 0.33 gallons per hour at idle).
Acceleration is a major MPG killer — keeping a constant speed, avoiding stop-n-go will help improve MPG. Accelerate slowly (I try to keep my acceleration below 2 GPH).
Let off the gas well before a stop (light or sign), coast up to the light at 110+ MPG.
If Idling long, shift into neutral (keep foot on brake), or for the adventurous: shift into neutral while coasting to a stop (this is a ‘hyper-miler’ trick with 160+ MPG during the coast down from a high speed).
Drafting works (again, only for the adventurous, be mindful of tailgating laws / police around). Really helpful on interstates behind slow moving 18-wheelers, even at a safe distance.
And of course: the slower you drive, the better your MPG 🙂
penfed.org platinum cashback rewards credit card gives you 5% cash back on gas (statement credit monthly instead of waiting for big increments to cash in rewards). The Chase freedom is only 5% on gas one quarter of the year. Joining the credit union is now free as an American Red Cross donor/volunteer (not verified).
BG: But be careful not to drive too far out of your way to find cheaper gas… You may burn more than you save, plus the extra time spent.
Why not mention the #1 best way to save money on gas: use the GasBuddy app for Iphones / Droids or go directly to GasBuddy.com.
I definitely agree with your first point. When you stop moving your gas mileage drops to 0 (yes, it’s an obvious statement).
I adjusted my commute by 15 minutes to try and and avoid traffic and saw my average gas mileage jump by 5 mpg. Doesn’t seem like much, but over the course of a year it really adds up!