I know you just want to get to the meat of how to save money on gas, but let me just lecture for a moment.
Petroleum products, including gas, are not going to become cheaper. One of the reasons for this is simply that they are limited and more and more people are competing for a diminishing supply. This is Economics 101 stuff and is known as supply and demand. As supply goes down and demand goes up, the price goes up. Anyway, when was the last time you saw major price reductions on a commodity like gas?
At the same time, people around the world are beginning to realize that not only are petroleum supplies limited, but the effects of burning gas and other petroleum products to power cars, factories, and your lawn mower are creating a highly unstable environmental situation…one which may have disastrous consequences for our children and grandchildren if not for us.
Therefore, these tips not only tell you some ways you can simply save money on gas, but also nudge you a little bit along the path of change. As we have often heard, “If you keep doing what you’ve been doing, you will keep getting what you have been getting.” We have been getting more pollution and higher gas prices. Isn’t it time to make some sort of change?
Now, who am I and where do I get my info? Well, I have done a lot of research and reading, but I have also been a long-haul, over-the-road trucker and owned my own truck. With a vehicle that got 6 to 8 MPG and with 300 gallon tanks to fill every couple of days I became attuned to ways to reduce my out-of-pocket expenses. Last year, I traded my Dodge Intrepid and Isuzu Rodeo for a Toyota Prius hybrid…which is a great car. While you can do all sorts of things, including walking, in order to save money on gas, here’s my top five picks.
1. Trade in the gas guzzler: Now, I don’t have hard and fast figures on this, but I am willing to bet, based on personal observation, that at least 50% of people have much bigger, gas-guzzling cars than they need. Although I am off the road as a truck driver, I sometimes write articles on places I have visited, and this requires a certain amount of travel. All day long, whether in California or in Georgia, I see big SUV’s and trucks that only get a few miles to the gallon being driven by one person. I also see a lot of hot-looking, and sounding, cars that I know get really bad mileage. A lot of people drive these back and forth to work every day!
I was talking to a guy yesterday at a motel in Abilene. He’s going on a trip to the Grand Canyon with his kids. His truck gets 15 MPG! Where he is going, gas is hovering close to four dollars a gallon. If he only goes 1,000 miles each way, he needs 133 gallons. That comes out to about $500 just for gas at $3.75 a gallon. If he were to have a smaller, more fuel efficient car that got around 30 MPG, he could cut that in half. If he had my Toyota Prius, it would cost about $150.
How about commuting? Let’s imagine my new friend from the Abilene motel drives 10 miles to work each day. At 20 miles a day, that’s 140 miles a week. Since he’s probably going to get stuck in traffic sometimes, I’m just going to say that his average gas use is 14 MPG (easier math) and he needs 10 gallons of gas just to get back and forth to work each week. Let’s just say gas costs $3.00 a gallon. That’s $30 a week for gas just to get to work and back. Again, getting a smaller car with double the mileage would result in a $15 a week savings. That doesn’t sound like much until you think about it as an extra $60 a month (pay your water bill?), or $360 a year.
Oh yeah! With a Toyota Prius (Can you tell I like it?), he would save over $80 a month or $480 a year.
2. Keep your tires inflated properly: Proper tire inflation saves money on gas. One study conducted by the Rubber Manufacturers Association estimated that only 15% of drivers check their tire inflation properly. It is interesting to note, by the way, that the study also showed that more people check, their tire pressure as gas prices go up! Not only can proper inflation save you money on gas, but it saves you money on tires themselves. Properly inflating your tires can help handling and cut down on wear and tear on steering components.
3. Slow down: Here’s a little fact for you – Fuel economy drops about 10 percent between 55 mph and 65 mph, and 17 percent between 55 mph and 70 mph. Do I really need to say more? Come on, tell the truth. How fast were you going on the Interstate this morning on your way to work?
Now, here’s what I see every day on the highways of America. One person driving a gas-guzzling SUV with at least two under inflated tires at a speed near or in excess of 70 MPH! Do I really need to belabor this point? Suffice it to say that adherence to points 2 and 3 would save this person a lot of money, and cut down on pollution and our dependence on foreign oil.
4. Pay attention: Try this on for size. I see this one all the time also.
Since I was not only an over-the-road driver but also an instructor, I used to teach students to “play the lights” and pay attention. How much gas your car needs to use is based largely on what you NEED it to do. Yesterday, as a few thousand times before, I was cruising down a road and saw the light about an eighth of a mile ahead turn red. I was going to have to stop anyway, so I took my foot off the accelerator. No sooner had I done so than the driver behind me (individual in a big SUV with an under inflated left rear tire) pulled out to the left, accelerated around me, pulled back in front and then accelerated a few more feet until he finally realized that the light was red and then slammed on his brakes. Guess how much gas he wastes every day.
Folks, it’s simple. Wherever you are going is probably NOT going to move before you get there! Pay attention to what is happening in front of you and around you. If you are going to have to stop anyway, why not slow down and stop rather than burning extra fuel to get to the stop faster?
A lot of that “pedal to the metal” kind of driving comes from stress. Also, studies have shown that driving like that raises your stress level even more. Take up meditation or try yoga. It will actually improve your driving.
5. Keep your car properly maintained: If your plugs are clean, your oil is changed regularly, and the car is lubed, you will get better gas mileage. The engine and connected parts will be able to work more effectively and efficiently, and this translates to more miles per gallon. By the way, most of the synthetic motor oils available today will help you save money on gas by allowing your car to run more efficiently for longer periods between oil changes. This is an extra savings, by the way. Although synthetic motor oils cost more per quart than petroleum based lubricants, they last much longer, resulting in savings in cost of the oil as well as savings in cost of the oil change if you are paying someone else to change your oil for you. You are also helping cut down on the use of our limited supply of oil.
Of course, these are not the only ways that you can save money on gas. You can carpool, find less congested routes to and from work and shopping, shop online instead of sitting in a traffic jam, take turns driving kids to school, set it up with friends and neighbors to take turns running errands, combine errands into a single trip, or even learn to walk or bike short distances rather than driving. Hey, you might save money on healthcare with that last one, as walking or cycling around the neighborhood can help you with fitness, health, and weight loss, and that generally translates into fewer trips to the doctor, and fewer medications or medical, procedures.