With gas prices going sky high, everyone wants to know how to save money on gas. There’s one simple solution, of course: drive less. I’ve seen that advice on myriad message boards, blogs, LJ communities, newspaper websites, etc, etc, etc. Ah, if it were only that simple. Most of us are already driving as little as possible.
To people who live in areas where public transportation is not an option and neither is riding a bike to work, many of us are looking for that cure-all solution to get better gas mileage in your current vehicle. Many unscrupulous companies are preying on this desire by coming up with “gadgets” that are supposed to make your car get better gas mileage. Popular Mechanics has a great article debunking these gadgets. The bottom line here on these gadgets and also fuel additives is, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
So what are some common myths about getting better gas mileage and which are the facts? Let’s look at the myths first:
Air conditioning wastes gas. First, it depends on your definition of “wastes”. When its over 100 degrees and 100% humidity in Tennessee, any relief from that miserable heat is not a waste, in my opinion. The truth is, wind resistance at high speeds brings down your gas mileage the same as air conditioning does. A general rule of thumb here is to roll your windows down at speeds under 40 MPH and use the air conditioning at speeds over 40 MPH.
Let your car idle rather than turning it off. Unless you drive a diesel or a car with a carburetor instead of a fuel injected car, letting your car idle while you run into the store is not only wasting gas, but is also illegal in many states: check your state and local laws.
Gas is cheapest mid-week. Sure, that may have been true at some point, but with gas prices doing nothing but rising, this is now a myth. However, there may be some validity to the statement that it’s better to buy your gas in the morning. The theory is, gas expands as the temperature goes higher. I’ve not found any information to contradict that. It’s nicer to stand outside and pump your gas when it’s cooler, anyway.
So, how can you save money on gas? Here are a few tips:
If the longer way has less stop signs/lights, it may be the better way to go. Now, if it takes you WAY out of your way, no. But slightly longer routes without stop signs or stoplights is better. Keeping a consistent speed without a lot of braking and speeding up saves you quite a bit of gas.
Also important: drive the speed limit. I read somewhere that driving just 5-10 miles per hour over the speed limit can reduce your gas mileage by 15% or even more, depending on speeds and conditions. I noticed that myself on the way to and from Myrtle Beach this weekend. I drove faster on the way there and averaged about 31 MPG. On the way back, I stuck to the speed limit and averaged 34 MPG. It makes a difference!
Get rid of the extra weight. Every bit of weight adds to your fuel consumption. Is there really any need for you to be carrying the family silver around in your trunk? (I am, actually. And no, there’s no need. I just need to stop being a lazybones and get it out of my trunk.) Get everything that isn’t necessary out of your trunk. I have an uncle who, during the gas crisis in the 1970s would drive around with a quarter of a tank of gas in his car (or less) at all times. His big 1971 Land Yacht Brougham Supreme had a gigantic gas tank and he didn’t want to be hauling the extra weight around.
Aerodynamics, yo. Roof racks and all that fun stuff add quite a bit of wind resistance and makes your gas mileage suck. Don’t be a drag.
Finally, don’t drive unless you need to and combine your trips whenever possible. At least until we come up with a car that runs on garbage, our days of Sunday driving are over. I can’t tell you how much that makes me sad, but I have hope that eventually, we may be able to do so again.
What are you doing to save money on gas?