“With gas prices rising at a fast pace, it’s important to not only shop around for the lowest gas prices but also pay attention to how you drive and other auto maintenance to ensure fuel efficiency,” budgeting expert Andrea Woroch told HuffPost.
Indeed, there are ways you can improve the fuel economy of your car on an individual level. Below, Woroch and other experts offer advice for making a tank of gas last longer.
Watch your speed.
“Try to follow the speed limit, and you’ll save a lot on fuel,” said Gerdes, coiner of the term “hypermiling.” Driving 5 or 10 miles over the speed limit might get you to your destination a little faster, but you’ll wind up wasting that saved time and pay more money by having to go to the pump to refuel sooner.”
He recommended getting out of the mindset that you need to race to where you’re going or simply giving yourself more time to drive to avoid the temptation to speed.
“Fuel economy peaks at around 50 mph on most cars, then drops off as speeds increase,” noted Ellen Edmonds, public relations manager at AAA. “Reducing highway speeds by 5-10 mph can increase fuel economy by as much as 14%.”
Make use of cruise control when you’re driving on the highway to keep your speed consistent as well.
Don’t drive when you don’t need to.
“As far as saving fuel, the motto to live by is ‘don’t drive when you don’t have to and drive smart when you do,’” said Wayne Gerdes, founder of CleanMPG.com. “Only about half our miles are actually going back and forth to work. The other half are optional.”
In addition to combining errands to cut down on car trips, he suggested walking or taking public transit more often if you live in a place where that’s an option.
“The best way to cut gas spending is to drive less, which you can easily accomplish by setting up carpools to and from work and school or sports practice with other parents,” Woroch added. “You can even find ride shares using sites like ridesharing.com.”
A little advance planning can go a long way when it comes to gas usage.
“Map your route before you go to minimize unnecessary turnarounds and backtracking,” Edmonds said. “Avoid peak traffic times. Combine errands and go to ‘one-stop shops’ where you can do multiple tasks like banking, shopping, etc.”
Avoid excessive idling.
It’s tempting to keep your car on when you aren’t moving, especially in winter. But Edmonds advises against doing this when you aren’t in motion.
“A car engine consumes one quarter to one half gallon of fuel per hour when idling, but a warm engine only takes around 10 seconds’ worth of fuel to restart,” Edmonds said. “Where safe to do so, shut off your engine if you will be stopped for more than a minute.”
Steer clear of traffic when possible.
Edmonds advised taking advantage of flexible work hours to avoid commuting during rush hour. Even if you can’t control your commute times, look for other ways to stay out of peak traffic.
“Use ‘fast pass’ or ‘express’ toll lanes,” she suggested. “Avoiding unnecessary stops or slowdowns on the highway helps save fuel.”
“The best way to cut gas spending is to drive less.”
Keep up with tire inflation and other maintenance.
“Make sure your tires are properly inflated, which provides maximum fuel efficiency so you don’t waste any gas,” Woroch said.
Keeping your car in shape with properly inflated tires and routine inspections is especially important to avoid higher costs later on.
Pay attention to acceleration and deceleration.
“Be mindful of how you accelerate and take it easy on the gas pedal,” Woroch advised. “Accelerating too fast too often will guzzle your gas.”
Gerdes noted that driving smoothly and going easy on the acceleration and deceleration is better for your tires as well.
“When you accelerate and brake hard, that works through your tires, but if you’re gentle with your car, your tires are going to last much longer and you can get a better mileage rating,” he said.
Pay attention to traffic ahead and try to maintain momentum as you approach stoplights to avoid unnecessary stopping and going.
“You want to keep your vehicle rolling,” Gerdes said. “When you see a stoplight, let your car gradually slow down. Don’t feel like you need to race to the stoplight and then brake right there. There’s no prize money for getting there first.”
Use recirculation in warm weather.
As temperatures start to rise again, it’s worth paying attention to your A/C usage to maximize fuel efficiency.
“Cars typically are more fuel efficient when the air conditioner is set to re-circulate interior air,” The Wall Street Journal noted. “This is because keeping the same air cool takes less energy than continuously cooling hot air from outside. Of course, turning off the air conditioner saves even more fuel.”
So if you’re driving in warmer weather and using the A/C, consider pressing that air-recirculation button.
Stop getting premium gas.
If you can fill your car with either premium or regular gas, Edmonds recommends going with regular.
“If regular gas is recommended for your vehicle, that’s all you need,” she said. “Opting for premium when your car doesn’t require it will only cost you money and doesn’t improve fuel economy.”
Shop around to save on gas.
“Gas prices fluctuate daily, but you can track down the cheapest price per gallon in your area using apps like GasBuddy, which is especially helpful if you’re driving in an unfamiliar area or on a road trip,” Woroch said. “If you have a membership to a warehouse club like Costco, fuel up at their gas stations for the lowest price per gallon, but go early morning or late at night to avoid long lines.”
The AAA mobile app and website also include a gas price finder to help users locate the cheapest option in their area. Woroch also recommended paying for gas with cash, as many stations charge transaction fees for credit cards. Or if you must use a card, consider investing in a gas rebate credit card to maximize cash back on fuel purchases.
Additionally, she suggested purchasing groceries strategically by going to stores that offer gas saving programs with rewards at the pump.
“For example, Kroger store loyalty programs offer 1 Fuel Point for every $1 you spend on groceries, which can be redeemed for savings at Kroger gas stations or Shell stations,” she explained. “Shop & Stop offers similar savings through their GO Rewards program, which gives you 1 point for every $1 spent, which you can redeem for up to $1.50 off a gallon at the store brand’s gas stations and participating Shell gas stations.”