11 Ways to Save at the Pump

Tips for saving money on gas.

Gas prices are going up, again, and they might not be going down anytime soon. In the short term it’s painful, but in the long term, it may well be a useful reality check. High prices serve as a good motivator for all of us to be mindful of fuel conservation and reduce our own carbon emissions, saving money while we’re at it. Here are 11 ways you can conserve gas on the road, at home, and while you play.

Beware of public transportation. If you have a good public transportation system, by all means, use it. However, the good news is – more people will be using it. The bad news is – more people will be using it. State and federal budgets have been taking a beating, so that means that public transportation systems have had their share of cuts. The American Public Transportation Association has warned Congress that transportation systems could be overloaded if gas prices continue to rise. More funds for public transportation systems are more important now than ever, so start writing your politicians. In the interim, carpooling is another good option, and it goes without saying, drive a car with the best gas mileage that suits your budget and your needs.

Make friends with a mechanic. For those who do not have a public transportation system, no good bike path system, and have to drive – the first step is to make sure your car is in good condition. Correct tire pressure, clean air filters, wheel alignment and good general car maintenance will optimize your gas mileage.

Lose some weight. Get rid of any excess items you are carrying around in your vehicle. Extra weight makes your car work harder and use more gas. Also lose the sports racks, luggage boxes, and any other accessory that creates drag on your car when you aren’t using them.

Learn to (eco)drive. Back to driver’s education class, everyone. Give up your jackrabbit starts, quick braking, variable speeds, and just plain speeding. Embrace the posted speed limit, use cruise control whenever possible, and choose routes that have fewer stops and starts even if they are a little longer distance.

Wear deodorant. Lots of it. Summer is coming, and with it hot temperatures. While late model cars are pretty efficient, running your air conditioning can consume up to 20% more gas, so use the 4-40 rule. When driving under 40 m.p.h, roll down your (four) windows and feel the breeze. Driving over 40 m.p.h. increases the drag on your car (negating any benefit from not using your air conditioning), so roll the windows up and use your air conditioning sparingly. If you really want to avoid any impact on your fuel efficiency, drive with the windows up, the air conditioning off, and use your air vents.

Hone your time management skills. Condense all your errands into one trip on one day, instead of going out multiple days. Also, buy your gas in the early mornings or evenings when it’s cooler. Cooler gas is denser, so you get more for your money (the pump only measures volume).

Cut off ties to activities more than 10 miles away. Find things to do nearby instead. Ones that you can walk or bike to are even better. Learn to love your neighborhood and your town.

Vote for your town to build more bike paths. As much as we need better and extended public transportation, a plan to build more bike paths is a good idea in the long-term, too. Biking or walking is healthier and does more to alleviate carbon emissions than even taking public transportation. Currently, in many places, biking is simply too dangerous to be a good method of transportation. Wider road shoulders and sidewalks, paved bike trails and a refresher course of road rules regarding right-of-way for bicyclists, pedestrians, and drivers are all good ideas.

Let your grass grow. Buck the neighborhood association rules and consider some natural landscaping. If you must have a manicured lawn, take stock of your power tool inventory. Before you get out your power mower, leaf blower, edger, and other gas-driven yard implements, consider replacing them with manual tools. Buy a push mower and use hand clippers, a rake, and a manual edger and you can get a workout, have a beautiful yard, save on gas and lower emissions.

Don’t go into the office. If your work permits it and your boss can be persuaded, work from home when you can.

Rethink your recreation. Gas-powered boats, jet-skis, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles, dirt bikes, and recreational vehicles are all popular forms of entertainment, but it might be time to change how we spend our free time and look for non-gas-powered alternatives. Some of those weekend activities could become prohibitively expensive this summer.

image: Don Hankins

Andrea Newell

Andrea Newell is a Michigan-based writer specializing in corporate social responsibility, women’s issues, and the environment.