A trip to the gas station is like a visit to the local ZOO! It smells funny, the kids become instantly restless, and it costs way more than it should.

If you don’t live in New Jersey or Oregon, where laws prohibit motorists from experiencing the joys of self-serve refueling, you have to stand out in the cold, fumble around with the gas cap, and hit “yes” on the machine four times before it stops asking if you want a receipt (only to send you into the store to get your receipt when you’re finished).

And, of course, there are the ever increasing gas prices. I’m sure we can all agree that it’s never pleasant to spend the equivalent of half your grocery bill for 15 gallons of something you can’t even see. Wouldn’t it be nice to reduce the number of times you have to relive that experience and save a little money along the way?

Well, you can, and here’s how:

LAY OFF THE GAS (AND THE BRAKE)

I know what you’re saying: “Duh, of course the less you push the gas pedal, the less gas you use!” That tip is a no-brainer, but, did you know that laying off the brake also helps to save fuel? By anticipating the stop sign ahead or the slowed traffic on the highway, you can use less gas by starting to slow down sooner, instead of using the gas to maintain the same speed getting to the stop sign.

In addition, when driving on a highway, instead of driving 65 until you have to brake due to slowed traffic, begin to slow down as soon as you can. The less you have to use the brake, the less you are wasting gas that you couldn’t use anyway. Besides, driving at a slow and steady pace is safer for everyone.

PUMP UP THE SAVINGS

Your engine has to work harder when your tires aren’t properly inflated and your car is out of alignment, so make sure the air pressure is at the recommended level (on most cars, suggested tire pressures can be found on the inside edge of the driver’s door or on the tire itself).

While you’re at it, check your vehicle’s alignment. In addition to saving fuel, maintaining proper tire pressure and alignment will also extend the lifespan of your tires, and that’s an $800 bill we’d all like to put off as long as we possibly can.

IDLE CHATTER

According to the California Energy Commission, idling your car for two minutes uses the same amount of fuel as it takes to drive one mile. Ten seconds of idling uses the same amount of fuel as restarting your engine, so if you’re going to be stopped for more than 30 seconds, turn the car off.

While we’re at it, starting your car and letting it idle while you finish your make-up on those cold January mornings might make for a toasty start to your commute, but it’s certainly not saving you any money at the pump. Instead, bundle up and just drive the car. It’ll be warm in five minutes (instead of taking 15 sitting in the driveway) and you might save enough money to grab a non-fat caramel soy latte now and then.

TOO MUCH JUNK IN THE TRUNK

The more weight your car is carrying, the more gas you’ll use to get from point A to point B. In other words, it’s time to lighten up and stop using your trunk as a miniature storage facility.

Similarly, avoid the temptation to fill up as soon as your tank dips below the half way mark. Constantly toting around 10 gallons of gas in your 20-gallon tank, means an extra 80 pounds of cargo your car has to haul. Instead, wait until your tank is nearly empty (but not too empty), and refill to just above half a tank if you can.

THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT

Gas Buddy is a free app for smart phones that gives proud penny-pinchers instant access to daily fuel prices at gas stations throughout their neighborhood. In 30 seconds with the app, you might learn that the gas station you thought has the lowest prices in town is actually five cents-per-gallon more than the little two-pump station just down the road. Just be sure to always pull over before using the app. Savings and safety go hand in hand.

This has been a guest post by Shanna from Harrisburg, PA
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12 thoughts on “Less Per Gallon: Five Strategies for Saving on Gas”

  1. Laura Sebera says:

    I’ve been trying to drive the speed limit or a maximum of five over (everyone runs late, sometimes), and I’ve noticed it has been conserving my gas. I have to drive 60 miles (or more) a day just for work, plus more if I have to go elsewhere, so I plow through a tank of gas in a week or less.

    I think it’s dumb to cut the car off at a light, unless it’s known to be a particularly long light. There is a light here that sometimes takes 15 minutes to get through, especially at rush hour, so that I can see cutting the car off for. We also have some of the slowest trains in the world here, so I will turn the car off while waiting for one of those to pass.

    I LOVE GasBuddy; I check it every time I need to get gas.

  2. One positive thing in FL (since theres no dbl coupons) our WInnDixies have a program where every $50 you spend you get 5cents off a gallon!! It really adds up! Right now i have $1 off a gallon!

  3. Anonymous says:

    I use the GasBuddy app on my phone and it is awesome! And FREE!
    Also, you can win gas by updating gas prices and entering your name for the drawing.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Also replacing your air filter along with other routine maintenance. The harder the “guts” of your car need to work the more energy (gas) it spends doing so.

  5. diana_j_williams says:

    Thanks for the app. This is help alot especially for the gas I use commuting to and from work!

  6. Sinie Conley says:

    Turning your car on and off too often and in that short of a time span is really bad for your gas tank, and even worse for your engine. It takes the same amount of gas to start the car as it does to idle for 30 seconds, so you’re really doing more harm than good. I’d rather idle my car in traffic than 1, look like an idiot shutting off and on every time I hit a red light, and 2, have to take my car in for costly repairs for tearing up my fuel pump and stater. (And yes, I do know what I’m talking about. I work in the auto repair industry.)

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe I’m misunderstanding, but I read the “shut it off” advice as referring to situations like sitting in a slow line at the drive-thru or waiting for your kids to come outside when you pick them up from school or dance practice. Turning off your engine at a busy intersection doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    • Anonymous says:

      I don’t think they meant in traffic or at a red light..that wouldn’t make sense or be very safe.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I have been laying off the gas and the brake over several years now, and I have definitely seen improved gas mileage. The same thing goes for accelerating–if you don’t stomp down on the gas every time the light turns green, but instead allow a gradual increase to your desired speed, you will save even more gas. Just watch out for other motorists that can get pissed off at you if you are going too slowly approaching a red light, especially in urban areas, because inappropriate tailgating increases significantly. Many people are just go-go-go in today’s society and don’t care so much about saving gas, which is a huge contributor to dangerous driving.

    Also, in the winter you may not want to let your gas get too far past half full since condensation can build up in the empty portion of your gas tank.

    And for those without a smart phone, a great place to look up gas prices before you leave the house is http://gasbuddy.com/.

  8. good common sense advice–except that I’ve heard you should NOT let your tank get too low. it’s hard on the fuel pump.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree… I think AAA suggests never letting your gas go below 1/4 of a tank because you actually get better gas mileage when you’re above 1/2 or so (well, plus then you’ll never have to worry about running out of gas and having to call AAA). I wish I could find that article to quote it, but I do remember something like that : )
      I think the best advice in this article is keeping up with your car’s maintenance. It may seem expensive to get your oil changed every 3,000 miles but that keeps the long-term costs down!