The 2011 CES pegs annual fuel costs (including motor oil) at $2,655, which is 5.9 percent of the typical budget (after backing out Social Security and pensions). Each time you buy a new tank, revisit these strategies and add a few new habits to your gas savings repertoire.
39.1 Ditch the Car
You don’t have to worry about gasoline prices if you never own a car in the first place (see Chapter 44).
39.2 Buy Gas Efficient Vehicles
This way, you save whenever you get behind the wheel. Consider hybrids.
39.3 Perform Maintenance That Maximizes Mileage
□ 39.3.1 Keep Tires Inflated
Buy a quality gauge and check tires monthly. Find the recommended pressure on the driver’s side doorjamb or in the owner’s manual.
□ 39.3.2 Align Wheels
Misaligned wheels hinder gas mileage.
□ 39.3.3 Keep Oil Filled and Changed
Low oil causes low mileage, so check it regularly.
□ 39.3.4 Use the Proper Grade of Oil
According to the Department of Energy (DOE), a failure to follow manufacturer recommendations cuts mileage by 1-2 percent.
□ 39.3.5 Tune Engines
The DOE reports that this improves mileage by 4 percent on average.
□ 39.3.6 Replace Air Filters
On older cars with carburetors, replace clogged filters to improve their mileage. On newer cars with computerized engines, replacing the filter won’t improve mileage, but it will improve acceleration.
39.4 Limit Miles
Curb your transportation costs. When you drive less, you save on both gas and depreciation.
GET THERE SOME OTHER WAY
□ 39.4.1 Walk
Exercise this option and save on gas and doctor bills.
□ 39.4.2 Use Alternative Vehicles
Motorcycles, scooters, bikes, and skateboards—to name a few.
□ 39.4.4 Use Public Transportation
A great choice for foul weather.
STAY WHERE YOU ARE
□ 39.4.5 Embrace Telecommutes
One less trip to work each week saves 20 percent on commuting costs. Discuss it with your employer.
□ 39.4.7 Use the Mail
Mail carriers pick up from your front door. Visit Stamps.com to print out the precise postage.
□ 39.4.8 Make Grocers Come to You
Order online and take delivery. You pay extra, but it might cost less than driving. Run the numbers.
□ 39.4.9 Shop Less at Malls and Box Stores
Shop online or by telephone instead.
□ 39.4.10 Never Drive to Health Clubs
Outfit a home gym or walk to nearby parks. For more ideas, see 10.1.
□ 39.4.11 Cut Down on Library Trips
Visit bookmobiles. Download e-books from your library’s website.
□ 39.4.12 Use Recreation Car Pools
Hitch rides with friends. Keep drivers happy by chipping in for gas.
□ 39.4.13 Move Movies In-House
Watch DVDs at home.
□ 39.4.14 Dine Locally
Try neighborhood eateries or visit diners on the way home from work. Reduce restaurant visits (see 13.1).
□ 39.4.15 Keep Kids’ Activities Close
Favor lessons, programs, and sports nearer to home.
□ 39.4.16 Vacation Locally
Within 150 miles are many special places you’ve never visited. Check with your AAA office or read travel guides. Contact your state’s tourism office.
39.5 Plan Ahead
□ 39.5.1 Avoid Short Trips
Frequent cold starts suck petrol. Combine errands so that your engine remains warm and energy efficient.
□ 39.5.2 Remove Items not in Use
An extra 100 pounds of junk in the trunk cuts gas mileage by as much as two percent. Don’t haul around heavy items—golf clubs, tools, doggie crates—unless they’re in use on your current trip.
□ 39.5.3 Remove Idle Recreational Racks
These add weight and inhibit aerodynamics.
□ 39.5.4 Use GPS or Maps
If these keep you from getting lost, you save both time and gas.
□ 39.5.5 If You Own Two Vehicles, Strategize
Use the fuel-efficient car more often. Plan ahead for the eventual replacement of your gas guzzler.
39.6 Adopt Gas Friendly Driving Techniques
□ 39.6.1 Avoid Speeding
According to the DOE, every five miles per hour over the speed of 60 costs you 27 cents more per gallon.
□ 39.6.2 Avoid Fast Acceleration
Jackrabbit starts are costly.
□ 39.6.3 Avoid Hard or Frequent Braking
Whenever you brake, your car’s inertia is disrupted. Follow at a safe distance and let up on the accelerator to slow your car.
□ 39.6.4 Avoid Crawls
You waste gas whenever you troll for parking spaces, inch forward at drive-thrus, or crawl along in traffic jams. Park your car at outlying spaces, avoid fast food, and drive off-peak.
□ 39.6.5 Turn Off the Engine at Long Lights
According to studies, whenever the wait exceeds 10 seconds, you’re better off shutting down the engine. Note: in many states it’s illegal to cut the engine if you’re in street traffic, apparently because of concerns about rear-end accidents. Check your local laws.
□ 39.6.6 Limit Air Conditioning
The AC sucks gas, so below 45 MPH roll down windows. At speeds above 45 MPH, open windows interfere with aerodynamics, so close them and run the fan.
□ 39.6.7 Install a “Fuel Economy Monitor”
These give real time feedback and change driving habits fast.
□ 39.6.8 Limit the Use of Four-Wheel Drive
This drains gas, so use it only when conditions warrant.
□ 39.6.9 Use Cruise Control
A big gas saver in light highway traffic.
□ 39.6.10 Use the Overdrive Gear
If your manual transmission includes this feature, use it and save both on gas and engine wear.
39.7 Shop Around
□ 39.7.1 Know the Lower Priced Stations
Watch for gas station prices as you cruise frequent routes.
□ 39.7.2 Buy Warehouse Club Gas
Plan visits for when your tank is low.
□ 39.7.3 Patronize Loyalty Discount Programs
Does your grocer issue gas discounts whenever you reach monthly benchmarks? If so, buy there.
39.8 Save at the Pump
Keep a copy of Appendix 6 in your car and look it over whenever you stop for gas (and keep using it until the listed tactics become ingrained habits).