6 Gas-Saving Tips That Actually Work

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  • Smart driving saves gas.
  • Vehicle maintenance is essential to saving money.

Gas prices are increasing at a record pace, but you maintain some control over how much gas you need.

Rumors of shortages of oil out of Russia have swirled for weeks amid the sanctions against that country in response to its invasion of Ukraine. At the time of this writing, oil prices have climbed more than 7% over the past 24 hours. And the wild swings in gas prices and suspected price-gouging at the pump have left people a bit off-kilter. We're not quite sure who or what to blame, but we know we cannot sustain high gas prices forever. Until the day comes when our cars run on something other than gasoline, we'll need to protect our bank accounts by finding effective ways to cut down on the amount of gas we use.

Six time-proven tips that work

1. Drive the speed limit

If you're known for your lead foot, it's essential to acknowledge that you're wasting gas. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, each 5 miles per hour you drive over 50 equates to paying about an additional $0.30 per gallon. Let's say the speed limit is 65, and you cruise along at 75 mph. That extra 10 mph translates to paying someone in the vicinity of $0.60 more for each gallon of gas.

While every vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed, average gas mileage decreases rapidly once speeds reach more than 50 mph.

Here's how the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy breaks it down:

  • When speed increases from 50 to 60 mph, average fuel economy decreases by 12.4%.
  • When speed increases from 60 to 70, fuel economy decreases by an additional 14% (for a total of 26.4%).
  • When speed increases from 70 to 80 mph, average fuel economy drops by another 15.4% (for a total decrease of 41.8%).

Read more: Best Gas Credit Cards

2. Lighten up

Unless you have a good reason, like a foot of snow on the ground and a lightweight vehicle, don't keep anything heavy in your car. Each extra 100 pounds in your vehicle reduces your mileage by about 1%. While the exact amount by which it reduces it depends on how much weight you're carrying and the vehicle's weight, you get the point. Don't make your car work any harder than it has to.

3. Avoid hauling cargo

This is a tough time of year to give this advice, but if you can help it, skip hauling cargo on your roof. If you have one of those large, blunt, roof-top cargo boxes, your fuel economy drops anywhere from 2% to 8% in the city. When you're on the highway, it's more like 6% to 17%. And if you're on the interstate driving 65 mph to 75 mph, fuel efficiency drops anywhere from 10% to 25%.

In addition to the weight it adds to your vehicle, an external cargo container messes with the car's aerodynamics, creating drag. And while we're on the subject of aerodynamics, you'll enjoy higher mileage if you keep the windows rolled up and the sunroof closed on the highway.

If you need an external cargo container for vacation this summer, remove it when it's not in use (and budget for a higher gas bill when it is in use).

Read more: How to Make a Vacation Budget

4. Don't idle

As drivers, we idle more than we might imagine. We idle at stoplights and in line at the bank, coffee shop, or pharmacy. We idle when we're waiting for kids to get out of school and at crosswalks. It all adds up. For every hour we idle, we use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel.

You can't avoid all idling, but turn off the ignition and enjoy the quiet when possible.

5. Keep up with routine maintenance

A fuel-efficient vehicle is a well-maintained vehicle. Keep up with oil changes and check-ups. Rotate your tires every 5,000 to 8,000 miles, and keep your tires inflated to the maximum pressure when it's cold outside (you'll find the recommended PSI in your owner's manual or online).

6. Glide to a stop rather than slamming the brakes

If your father taught you to drive, there's a decent chance he sternly warned you against slamming on your brakes. You may have thought it was because your sudden stops scared him (and you may have been right), but Dad was correct for another reason. Sudden stops and accelerations burn up more gas than gradually changing speed.

Read more: How High Will Gas Prices Soar Due to the Ukraine Invasion?

No matter how often we go through gas shortages or spikes in gas prices in this country, we tend to act like it's the first time. High gas prices may be awful, but they don't last forever. If this is your first experience with costly trips to the pump, consider it a master class in ways to save money on gas.

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