Anyone who drives on a daily basis is feeling the burn of soaring gas prices. With no end in sight, the numbers on gas station signs are climbing, making life difficult for both businesses and individuals. So, in lieu of walking, how is it possible to cut down on high gas costs?
First of all, there is no “quick fix”. Gas prices will continue to climb, and there isn’t much that consumers can do about it. However, there are ways to maximize gas mileage and to cut down on spending. If you are frugal about how and where you spend money on gas, and if you keep track of the distances you travel everyday, you will be better able to control gas mileage and to keep spending at a minimum.
If you have a daily commute to work, or if you are responsible for running the kids to soccer practice, then you are most certainly affected by rising gas prices. Families with children are also more likely to drive a larger vehicle, such as an SUV or a minivan. Those types of vehicles get lower gas mileage than small– or mid-sized cars, which can more than triple your monthly gas prices.
Use the Highways
Cars get better gas mileage on highways because you are traveling at a constant speed. If you use highways to get to work every morning, you’ll get better all-around gas mileage.
If highways are not an option, choose streets that aren’t impeded by stop signs or stop lights at every intersection. Traveling without intermittent acceleration and deceleration will improve your gas mileage.
This is not always possible – especially if you live and work in a large metropolitan area – but try leaving for work early to avoid rush hour and coming home either earlier or later in the day. Peak rush hour times are usually from 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM. In the larger cities, those times might stretch at least half an hour in both directions.
If you are stuck in traffic, evaluate the option of taking the feeder roads versus the highway itself. Sometimes, feeder roads move more quickly and smoothly despite the inclusion of traffic lights.
This seems like such a simple solution, but studies show that 95% of commuters drive solo to and from work. Traveling with two or three people in the car, with everyone chipping in for gas, will greatly lower the gas mileage, and will help unclog traffic-ridden freeways.
To find a carpool, talk to people you work with or post a notice in the lobby of your office. There will probably be at least ten people who live near you, and some of them might be willing to carpool. You can also post to message boards and forums on the Internet, searching for people who live and work near you. Even if everyone doesn’t work in the same office, you still might be able to work it out.
To make it easier on everyone, try meeting at the nearest Park and Ride in your neighborhood. The person who has been chosen to drive can pick the carpool members up there, and drop them off at their cars in the evening.
Get Your Oil Changed
Practicing good car maintenance will greatly improve your average gas mileage. Take your car in for scheduled tune-ups and keep your oil changed every three months or every 3,000 miles, whichever comes first. If you have a long commute to work, you may have to get your oil changed more often.
If you drive an older car, you might want to look into financing a newer model. A 2006 model car can get up to 65% better gas mileage than one purchased in 1998, which is a significant difference. You might also want to consider a smaller car – a coupe or sedan – rather than a truck, SUV or minivan.
Monitor Teen Driving
Teenage drivers are rarely concerned with things like gas prices unless they are working to pay for their own. If you are footing the bills for your teenager’s vehicle, stay on top of where they go and how long they’re gone. Not only will this help you keep control of your teenage driver, but it will also help you determine how much they are spending on gas.
You should also educate your teenager on the art of good driving. Many teenagers are fond of “stamping” on the accelerator and peeling out of parking lot. Let them know that this burns gas inefficiently, and that you expect them to drive carefully and with thought to gas prices.
If you are concerned about your teenager’s driving practices, monitor the odometer on their car. If they are burning up more miles than they should, confront them about it and find out where they’re going. Going for a luxurious drive is no longer a cheap excursion; it can make your gas prices soar.
Follow Your Owners’ Manual
The Owners’ Manual for your car should give specific instructions for care, maintenance and other factors that influence gas mileage. Make sure that you are putting the right level of octane gas in your vehicle, and that you are repairing or replacing parts at the prescribed intervals.
Different cars have different operating systems, and the rules for an old vehicle might not apply to your new one. Take the time to carefully read your Owners’ Manual, and you might discover information that you wouldn’t have known otherwise.
You should also check for recalls that apply to your vehicle. On most car company websites, you can check for recalls using your vehicle’s VIN, or Vehicle Identification Number. Recalls on parts that affect gas mileage might be something to look into, and it might also protect your safety and that of your passengers.
Websites like GasBuddy.com are free for consumers, and they can help you find the best gas prices in your area. You can run searches based on your city or metropolitan area, and the website lists local gas stations and what their current gas prices are running. This way you don’t have to waste gas as you drive around town looking for the cheapest price, and it can prevent you from spending too much.
Something you can do to make the biggest difference of all is having all the branded gas rebate credit cards in your wallet. This can amount in a savings of around 5% with some cards: