Cutting Gas Costs
To ease the pain from record-high gasoline prices, the Alliance to Save Energy offers consumers tips for cutting gas costs:
Before Hitting the Road…
- Keep tires properly inflated. Properly inflated tires are safer, last longer, and can improve your gas mileage by more than 3 percent.
- Use the recommended grade of motor oil. Improve your gas mileage by 1-2 percent by using the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil. Select motor oil with "Energy Conserving" on the API performance symbol. It contains friction-reducing additives.
- Keep your engine properly tuned. Fixing a car that is noticeably out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by about 4 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. DOE adds that replacing a faulty oxygen sensor can improve gas mileage up to 40 percent!
- Check and replace air filters regularly. Replacing a clogged or dirty air filter can improve your car's gas mileage by as much as 10 percent, according to DOE, and keeps impurities from damaging the inside of your engine.
- Plan ahead for the shortest, most gas-saving itinerary. With a little planning, you can not only save fuel, but wear and tear on your car as well. Avoid retracing your route to reduce the distance you travel. Combining errands into one trip saves you time and money. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer, multi-stop trip of the same distance with a warm engine.
- If you own more than one vehicle, drive the one that gets better gas mileage whenever possible. Do you really need that SUV for trips to the video store?
Once You're Behind the Wheel…
- Don't speed! Gas mileage declines rapidly above 60 mph. Each 5 mph increase above 60 is like paying an additional 10 cents a gallon for gasoline.
- Road rage costs. Aggressive driving - speeding, rapid acceleration, rapid braking - wastes gas and can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and 5 percent in town. Nix jack-rabbit starts in favor of slow acceleration from a dead stop. Sensible driving also is safer for you and others – so you may save more than gas money.
- Avoid excessive idling, which gets 0 miles per gallon. Cars with larger engines usually waste more gas while idling than those with smaller engines.
- Take advantage of cruise control. Using cruise control on the highway helps maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, save gas.Use your overdrive gears to lower engine speed, save gas, and reduce engine wear.
Think Before You Commute…
- Stagger your work hours, if possible, to avoid peak rush hours. You'll spend less time sitting in traffic, consume less fuel, and avoid additional stress.
- Take advantage of available carpools and ride-share programs. Sharing your commute with others cuts weekly fuel costs, reduces wear on your car, and may allow you to use less-congested High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes.
- Consider public transportation. Check the American Public Transportation Association's website for local information (www.apta.com/links/state_local/).
- Consider telecommuting – working from home – if and when possible.
Taking a Trip?
- It's a "drag." Avoid carrying items on your vehicle's roof. A loaded roof rack or carrier increases aerodynamic drag, which can cut mileage by 5 percent. Place items inside the trunk whenever possible to improve your fuel economy.
- Travel light. Avoid carrying unneeded items, especially heavy ones. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk cuts a typical car's fuel economy 1-2 percent.
- When renting a car, ask for a model that gets better fuel economy. Also, remember to fill up the tank before returning the car to the rental company, which always charges much higher gas prices – and perhaps even an extra gas surcharge.
Craving that "New Car" Smell?
- When buying a new vehicle, think high gas mileage. Check out the DOE website ( www.fueleconomy.gov) and the ACEEE website (www.greenercars.com) for information on fuel-efficient vehicles. Learn about current electric drive vehicles on the Electric Drive Transportation Association website (www.electricdrive.org).
- Consider purchasing a hybrid, which can provide a $1,500 tax deduction this year. Consumer Reports says that in its tests, the redesigned Toyota Prius hybrid – which gets 44 mpg with near-zero emissions – outscored four midsized family sedans and finished sixth out of 15 similarly priced sedans. The consumer magazine named the Prius its "Top Pick" in the Green Car category.
- Get your exercise! Whenever possible, walk or bike to your destination. You'll lose weight, lower stress, save gas, and reduce pollution.