19 Ways to Drastically Cut Your Gas Bill

By Janet Alvarez, Wise Think on 4 July 2018 0 comments
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19 Ways to Drastically Cut Your Gas Bill

You may think you have little control over how much you must spend on fuel for your car. After all, you can't change the number of miles you have to commute each day (short of changing jobs or moving into a different place). But in fact, you can do a lot about increasing your fuel efficiency, which means getting more miles from each gallon of gas.

Gas efficiency isn't solely dependent on the type of car you drive (though that's a big part of it). The way you drive and your lifestyle have an impact, too. The better your gas efficiency, the less you spend per mile you drive, leaving you more breathing room in your budget.

Here's something else to consider. Getting more mileage from every gallon of gas isn't just good for your wallet; it's great for the environment. With a higher MPG, you lower your fuel consumption, spend less on gas, and have a better driving experience. No matter what kind of car you drive, you can benefit in knowing more about how driving habits, car maintenance, and lifestyle affects how much you pay for gas.

Also check out: save with highest reward gas credit cards.

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1. Be mellow, not aggressive

So called "jack rabbit" starts — flooring the gas to move from a stop — and then slamming on the brakes at the next red light is the quickest way to empty your gas tank and burn a hole in your wallet. According to fueleconomy.gov, you may experience a 33 percent decrease in fuel economy with rapid acceleration and braking. It may feel like you're more in control and getting to your destination faster, when in reality all you're doing to burning up gas, not to mention the extra wear and tear on your tires, brake pads, and engine. Go zen when driving and you won't be saving money just on gas — think of the health benefits (less stress!), lower insurance rates (fewer accidents and speeding tickets), and reduced car maintenance.

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2. Don't idle

Watch your MPG go down, down, down the second you start idling. Just consider that when you idle, you're traveling zero miles, but still using gas. The more you idle, the lower your fuel efficiency. Going to pick up food? Park and walk inside. Likely it's faster at the counter anyway, you'll be getting some exercise, and you'll save money on gas. It's win-win-win. The break-even point for idling versus using gas to start up the car is about 20 seconds, so consider that when you think idling is harmless. Many later model cars do this automatically by turning off the engine when stopped and restarting when the gas pedal is applied.

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3. Avoid turning left

Familiar shipper UPS integrated a no left turn policy decades ago and saves millions of gallons of fuel each year. Left turns take longer and require more idling. It might take a little longer to plan your route, but these days with GPS, you can set your no left turn preference in your settings and go. Not only will it help your fuel economy, but avoiding left turns is generally the safer way to go, too. According to a study by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Association, about 61 percent of crashes that occur while turning or crossing an intersection involve left turns, as opposed to just 3.1 percent involving right turns. Left turns are also more likely to kill pedestrians than right turns.

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4. Use a gas rewards credit card

If you're going to pay for gas, you might as well use a credit card that gives you cash back for those gas purchases. Some cash back credit cards offer as much as 3% back on gas. Other cards offer reward points that you can redeem for gas purchases. Of course, you should only use a credit card if you are paying the full balance each month. If you leave a balance on your card, no amount of cash back will make up for the interest you're paying on the debt.

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5. Drive 55 mph on the highway

Wind resistance is the biggest factor in getting good fuel economy. You get the most wind resistance on the highway. That's why in 1974, the 55 mph speed limit was implemented nationwide in response to the oil crisis. In the last 45 years, cars haven't dramatically changed in shape or form, so 55 mph is still the "sweet spot" for most cars. Drive 65 mph and your fuel economy will drop by 10 percent. Go 70 mph and it drops by 17 percent. Stay on the slow lanes and smirk at all the speedsters losing out on the race that really matters — the race for the best MPG.

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6. Turn on the A/C

In the old days, it was very inefficient to use the air conditioning in the car. If you've ever driven an old car, you can literally feel the car chug when you turn on the A/C. But newer cars can handle it much better. The load on the engine and gas usage with A/C running is minimal, and outweighs the extra wind resistance caused by having the windows down, especially at higher speeds. The drag caused by having the windows down on a sedan can go up 20 percent. Ironically, it matters less with a larger, less fuel efficient car like an SUV, since it has terrible aerodynamics to begin with. Leaving the windows down only creates 8 percent additional drag, which means there's little to no difference between using the A/C or having the windows down.

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7. Check gas apps

You don't need to drive around town comparing gas prices. There are handy apps that do all the leg work for you. Check out GasBuddy to find both the lowest price and the closest station. But also consider whether it's really worth trekking an extra long way to save a few cents. If there's a station along your usual route that isn't always crowded (where you have to sit idling), it could be the more efficient and cheaper option.

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8. Hug the curve

Ever watch auto racing where cars like to drive in the inner circle, or notice how track runners' starting points are staggered depending on how far from the inside of curve they are? You travel a shorter distance if you're in the lane that hugs the curve. Get where you're going faster and save on gas by taking the shorter route. This trick doesn't even require extra navigation like avoiding left turns.

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9. Work with the weather

If you're driving around during the hottest time of the day in summer, you'll be using the A/C a lot more than if you ran your errands in the morning or evenings. In winter, starting your car early in the morning when it's been sitting outside overnight means the engine takes longer to warm up to its most efficient temperature. Wait until the sun has warmed it up some. Since the engine does not operate efficiently until it is warmed up, it also hurts your MPG to make frequent short trips in cold weather. The engine cools down quickly in between. When planning your trips, drive to your furthest destination first. This way you'll warm your engine completely so it takes longer to cool down during stops.

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10. Clear the snow and ice

Those who live in areas with snow and ice know it's definitely a pain to shovel snow out of the driveway and de-ice the windows before even being able to get into the car and get going. But leaving clumps of snow and ice on your car will require additional use of defrosters and add drag and weight. A layer of snow on your car can be surprisingly heavy. Try to remove as much snow and ice as possible (before freezing yourself).

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11. Don't run the heater right away

It's cold in the car, and your first instinct is to blast the heater to get warm as quickly as possible. But running your heater before your engine is warmed up increases the load when it's not at its optimal efficiency. Find other ways to warm up in the car while you drive for bit first. Then run the heater. It'll get warm faster, too, and you won't have cold air blasting at you while it turns warm anyway.

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12. Close unused vents

Are you commuting alone? Then you'll want to close the vents on the passenger side, and point the rest of the vents directly at you. You won't need a higher setting to get the same result while your A/C or heater is cooling or heating an empty seat.

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13. Keep it cool

When you park, look for a shady spot. Crack your windows so the interior doesn't heat up as fast. Use sunshades and spring for tinted windows. These things will keep your car cooler in the summer heat, so you don't need as much A/C power to cool you down while driving.

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14. Just park it

Speaking of parking, we all want the prime front row parking spot so we don't have to walk across a large parking lot, but wandering around hoping for a lucky spot to open means driving at low speeds with frequent stops for pedestrians. Spots farther away have less traffic and are faster to get in and out of. Just park and walk, if you can.

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15. Pump up your tires

Keeping your tires inflated will optimize your fuel efficiency. Inflate your tires to the manufacturer's recommended pressure (usually found on the driver side door jamb). Check your tire pressure regularly since it will drop over time. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.4 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure. While you're at it, rotate your tires since uneven wear will cause more friction, which decreases fuel efficiency. Improper wheel alignment can cost you MPGs, too.

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16. Travel light

Do you keep a bag of golf clubs in your trunk? Some bowling balls? It's easy to use your car trunk as a miscellaneous storage space, but every 100 pounds reduces your MPG by 2 percent. It's certainly not as convenient to have to roll out your golf clubs each time you're headed out to the links and put them back when you're done, but it will definitely raise your MPG, which can be almost as important as a low golf score.

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17. Change the air filter

Having old and clogged air filters can do a number on your fuel efficiency. Check with your manufacturer's recommendations to see how often your filter needs to be changed. With that said, general and regular maintenance will do wonders for keeping your engine running optimally. Don't neglect to tune up your car.

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18. Cluster your destinations

Be efficient when running errands. Choose stores that are close to one another instead of driving around town to find a few things at a bunch of different places. Run all your errands at once and plan your route so you're not backtracking too much. Can you reduce your trips by buying in bulk? Are you stuck on certain brands that make you drive farther when a generic type would do? Are you making multiple trips to the same store because you didn't create a list and tend to forget items? Take a more efficient and productive look at your errands and see if you can reduce the number of trips and miles.

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19. Get instant feedback

If your car doesn't already have a real time fuel economy display, get one. If you can literally see your MPG ticking down as you're sitting in the drive thru, you might have more motivation to park and get out. It also reminds you about bad habits, like stepping on the gas aggressively or driving too fast on the highway. Gadgets like ScanGauge and SuperMID are popular and dependable, or download an app like Fuelio or Fuel Economy.

This article by Janet Alvarez and Lynn Truong was originally published by Wise Think.