I have a couple of pet peeves when it comes to routine car maintenance, but my least favorite task is definitely having to inflate my tires. First I have to run around the car—practically on all fours—just to unscrew the little caps and check the pressure reading on each tire. Then I have to wrestle with the air machine to go around all four corners of my SUV to fill up each tire. But it’s not over yet—I have to run around again, check the tire pressure and repeat this until all of my tires are fully inflated. It’s frustrating, time consuming, and I hate doing it.

But recently I learned that this small, necessary task can save me more than $100 per year—not to mention keep me much safer on the road. I have to admit, I'm feeling a bit more enthusiastic about checking tire pressure now!

How it all adds up: tires, gas and safety

Of course, no one wants to spend more than necessary on gas and tires. But there are greater risks than just paying more than you need to for gas or auto repairs. You are also risking your life by driving on under-inflated tires.

1. Cost per tire

A new set of tires is often one of the more expensive maintenance purchases we make in a year, but once they are installed, it’s easy to forget all about them—unless we understand how tire neglect affects our bottom line.

  • The average tire price today is $250/tire. Driving off the lot on tires that are 10% under-inflated will cost you $25 per tire—so you sacrifice $100 of the value of four new tires with every purchase.
  • The more under-inflated your tires are, the more money you lose—each 10% adds $25 more dollars. If your tires are 20% under-inflated (which the majority of drivers' tires are today), you sacrifice $200or nearly the total value of one brand new tire!

2. Cost per fill-up

I don't actually know anyone who likes spending money on gas. But everyone I know spends time and energy looking for lower gas prices. One of the easiest ways to lower gas prices automatically is just to keep your tires properly inflated!

  • The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that you can save up to $0.09 per gallon of gas just by keeping your tires properly inflated. This is because properly inflated tires increases fuel efficiency.
  • Every time one tire loses one pound of air pressure, you sacrifice 0.3% fuel efficiency per gallon of gas. That is 1.2% loss in fuel efficiency if each tire is just one pound under ideal PSI (pounds per square inch).
  • In terms of how much cash you lose by not filling up your tires, Popular Mechanics estimates that you sacrifice around $2 per fill-up ($0.03 – $ 0.05 per gallon) if you leave the gas station without filling up your tires to the proper PSI. So if you fill up 24 times in a year (just twice per month), you leave $48 of the value of gas purchased on the table.

3. Cost to you

In addition to the financial costs of driving on under-inflated tires, there are undeniable safety implications to this dangerous habit.

  • 11,000 auto crashes annually are attributed to tire wear/tear, overheating, and blowouts.
  • 660 fatalities and 33,000 injuries annually are linked to under-inflated tires.
  • AAA reports receiving an estimated 4 million roadside assistance calls annually for assistance with tire issues.