Feature Articles: Budgeting & Saving
Cut down on how much gas you use — and save
Brenda Procter, M.S., state specialist and instructor, Personal Financial Planning, University of Missouri Extension
With high gas prices, saving a little at the pump can add up to big savings. Here are some ideas for increasing your car’s fuel efficiency, saving money and helping the environment.
Walk or bike when you can
The best way to save on gas is not to buy it. If you live in town, sometimes you can walk or ride a bike to where you want to go.
If possible, adjust your work schedule to work at off times so you don’t get stuck in traffic and can use less fuel.
You and a neighbor who work together can arrange to take turns driving or one of you can drive while the other helps out with gas.
Use air conditioning less at slow speeds
On short trips or at low speeds, air conditioners reduce gas mileage. Drive with your windows down or run the air at a low setting.
Use air conditioning more at high speeds
At high speeds, open windows create drag and reduce your gas mileage, so it’s cheaper to use air conditioning on highways. Turn it off a few minutes before you get where you’re going and let the fan circulate the cool air.
Keep your car in good shape
Cars in poor running condition use more gas. If you can come up with the money for a tune-up, it will pay for itself in better gas mileage.
Clean or change the air filter
Replacing or cleaning a clogged air filter can improve your car’s gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.
Clean the spark plugs
Dirty spark plugs waste gas.
Check your tires
The wrong tire pressure wastes gas and is hard on tires.
Use the recommended grade of motor oil
Using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil can improve your gas mileage by 1 to 2 percent. Look for motor oil that says “energy conserving” on the API performance symbol to be sure it contains friction-reducing additives.
Use steel-belted radial tires
Radial tires can increase gas mileage by up to 10 percent.
Drive for fuel efficiency
Aggressive driving (speeding, accelerating and braking too fast) can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent on the highway and by 5 percent around town.
Drive the speed limit
Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds more than 60 miles per hour. Each 5 miles per hour you drive past 60 is like paying an extra 10 cents per gallon for gas.
A lead foot on the accelerator can cost you over time. It takes less gas if you accelerate to higher speeds gradually and methodically.
Don’t let your car idle too long
Try not to idle your car engine. Idling gets 0 miles per gallon. It usually takes less gas to restart the car than to let it idle for more than two minutes.
Use cruise control on highways
Cruise control helps you maintain a constant speed and usually saves you money on gas.
Don’t top off the tank when you fill up
Some of the gas may expand in the heat and overflow from the tank.
Don’t use a higher octane gas than you need
Most cars are built to run on regular unleaded gas, so it’s like burning money if you use a higher octane.
Clean out the trunk
You need a spare tire and an emergency kit in your trunk, but check to see if you’re carrying extra weight you don’t need. Remove the pet food, kitty litter, chains, school books and other extras from the trunk to save money. The more weight you haul, the more it costs.
Buy a fuel efficient car if you can
Fuel is a big part of the total cost of owning a car. A fuel efficient car can save you thousands of dollars over a few years. Even if the car costs a little more, the gas savings may pay for itself.
Adapted from Reduce Your Gasoline Consumption and Save by Sandra Huston, Ph.D., former specialist, Personal Financial Planning, University of Missouri Extension.
Energy Information Administration. http://eia.doe.gov/neic/experts/contactexperts.htm.
AAA. http://fuelcostcalculator.com/ and http://www.fuelgaugereport.com/MOavg.asp.
Veretto, Pat. Frugal Living: More Ways to Save Gas. http://frugalliving.about.com/.
Willis, Gerri. 2004. 5 tips: Saving money on your car. http://money.cnn.com/2004/04/07/pf/saving/willis_tips/.
Last update: Wednesday, May 30, 2012