As the summer heat begins to blanket the country, it brings with it rising gas prices. And the economy is unforgiving on our monthly budgets. There’s nothing to really be done about the cost of a gallon of gas, short of far-ranging changes in transportation, but you can still lower your cost of living with some savvy decision-making. For starters, change the way you approach the problem. Instead of worrying about gas prices, consider ways you can improve your current gas mileage. If you think about energy efficiency at the pump and at the car dealership, and bring a bit more common sense with you behind the wheel, you’ll be fine.
Think of your approach to driving first and foremost. Studies have shown that people’s driving habits impact a car’s fuel efficiency in significant ways, so changing your behavior could save you money at the pump. Driving at a consistent, moderate speed with slow, easy breaking and acceleration will shrink your gas bill. It was actually broken down by the federal government, that driving five mph faster than 60 mph will cost you an extra twenty cents a gallon. For highway speedsters, that adds up fast. Use cruise control whenever possible and you’ll cut all the thinking out of it. And if you find you need to sit idle longer than thirty seconds or so, turn the car off. You’ll save fuel, even if you have to start it up again soon.
After you’ve got yourself thinking more about improving gas mileage, its time to address your behavior at the pump. Start by fueling up on Wednesdays, as it’s statistically the day with the cheapest prices. And go early in the day or late at night, so you’re filling up when gasoline is the most dense. You’ll end up pumping more overall, but for the same price. Also, make sure you stick with regular unleaded, unless your car’s guidebook says you should. You won’t get a performance improvement, just a larger credit card bill. Avoid overfilling the gas tank, and lock that gas cap on tight. If you don’t, you could waste gas through vaporization. Finally, don’t drive farther than you must for gas that’s a few cents cheaper. That fifty cents or so of savings will be eaten up by the extra mile you drive.
Now that you’ve got a plan at the pump, there’s more to consider before you even leave the house. Running errands in bunches, instead of one at a time, will save you gallons of gasoline each week, as will carrying as light a load around with you as possible. That means unpack the trunk, and pull off the bike, ski and luggage racks unless you need them. Schedule and keep regular maintenance appointments for your vehicle. Driving around with an air filter that needs to be cleaned will cut your gas efficiency by 20%. And keep your tires inflated to the right pressure. That alone can lower your fuel economy as much as 25%. But if you really want to get serious about your fuel efficiency, consider alternate means of transportation. Leave the cars parked in the steel buildings and join the bicyclists. Your travels around town may take a bit longer, but you’ll be canceling out your carbon footprint while saving hundreds of dollars a month at the pump.