As I drove my son to daycare this morning, I saw that my local gas station sign read $3.90 per gallon for regular gasoline. That’s right about the national average, though many are already dealing with more than $4 per gallon. This is the new reality for the 240 million Americans who rely on cars and light trucks to go about their daily lives.
And when faced with a new reality, you’ve got two choices: bury your head in the sand or do something about it. I hope you choose the latter, so here are some tips to make it easier. None are heavy lifts and if you follow them, you could save hundreds of dollars a year at the pump.
Steps to Cut Your Pain at the Pump
There’s no magic fix that will make gas cheaper overnight, but you can save money by using less. We’ve put together a three-course menu of different ways you can start saving gas. Buying the highest fuel economy car that meets your needs is always an essential strategy, but besides that, here are the top recommendations in each category:
Before you hit the road, make sure your car is in peak condition.
- Follow the maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual, though don’t fall for scams that push you to change your oil too often.
- Pump up your tires. You’d hate riding a bicycle with nearly flat tires, right? Well, your wallet hates paying more at the pump because you’re driving with underinflated tires.
Once you are behind the wheel, think about your pocketbook before you put the pedal to the metal.
- A green light does not signal the start of a race. Avoid unnecessary rapid acceleration and slow down. Dropping from 75 mph to 65 on the highway can cut your fuel use up to 20 percent. It could save a life too, so set your cruise control at no more than 65 mph.
- Look for convenient ways to drive less. Stop for the milk on the way home instead of making a special trip, carpool once a week, and try to walk, bike or take transit more often.
That’s Real Money
These are all real solutions that can help you save real money. Let’s look at a quick example (geek alert, I couldn’t help but run some numbers).
You are driving 30 miles a day (U.S. average), so let’s assume your vehicle is well tuned and you drive moderately and at the speed limit with half your miles on the highway at about 33 miles per gallon and half in the city at 21 miles per gallon. If your vehicle is poorly tuned, you don’t keep your tires fully inflated, and you speed a lot, we’re talking 24 mpg highway and 17 mpg city.
- Average vehicle, speeding, poor maintenance: $2,400 a year at $4 per gallon.
- Average vehicle, speed limit, well maintained: $1,850 a year at $4 per gallon.
So, right there, keeping your car well-tuned, your tires pumped up, and avoiding very aggressive driving can save you about $550 a year. Now, once a week switch from driving to carpooling, biking, or taking the train and you save another $250 a year, for a total of $800 a year less pain at the pump—that’s equivalent to cutting gas prices to $2.67 per gallon!
Get Mad and Get Even
So, if you are frustrated with high gas prices, do something about it. Start putting our tips to work. Even if you are not a very aggressive driver and keep your vehicle well-tuned, steps like slowing down, carpooling once a week, and keeping your tires inflated will save you a few hundred dollars a year.
And if you are still mad about high gas prices after learning about how you can fight back, let your local paper know. We’re making it easy for you to write a letter to the editor. Tell them about what you are going to do to save gas and help us push for a national plan to help everyone cut their projected oil and gasoline use in half in the next 20 years.
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