How to save green at the gas pump: Part 2

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Fuel prices

Yes, it has gotten that bad. Image: futureatlas,com/Flicr/CC BY

As fuel prices continue to increase at the nation’s gas pumps, it has become increasingly necessary for drivers to find ways to economize on the road. So far, we looked at turning to more fuel-efficient vehicles. Now we will explore some ways to wring the most value out of whatever you are driving now.

[The best way to buy a car]

Drive slower

A lighter touch on the gas pedal can save you real green. According to the Department of Energy, every five mph over 60 mph adds an additional $ 0.24 per gallon of gas. Sticking to the posted speed may also save you legal expenses in the long run.

Drive smoothly

Avoiding jackrabbit accelerations and sudden stops can increase fuel efficiency by as much as 5 percent in town,  according to the  Federal Trade Commission.

Take advantage of the accessories in your vehicle that facilitate a smoother driving experience when it is appropriate to do
so. Cruise control and overdrive can increase you fuel efficiency on the open highway.

Keep rpms down or off

Some vehicles have “eco” modes that assist drivers in being more fuel efficient. Drivers who don’t have these systems need
only keep an eye on the tachometer. Never let it rev over 3,000 rpms.

Unnecessary idling wastes fuel, costs you money and pollutes the air. Turn off your engine if you will be idling for more than a couple minutes.

Drive less

Many American drivers may find this tactic hard to swallow. But thinking ahead, routing  excursions and combining trips can save a significant amount of fuel and money. Smartphones and the Internet have made it easy to plan a shopping excursion and get the best deals in town. There are also various free apps available to direct you to the cheapest gas in your area.

By combining several errands into one longer shopping excursion, we eliminate back-tracking. Also, according to the FTC, multiple short trips from a cold start can use double the fuel a warm engine will use over the same distance.

Consider public transportation, especially for regular commutes. Carpooling is also a good idea; many employers and municipalities have programs to match up commuters going in the same direction. It might even be a good time to consider biking or walking if the distance isn’t too great. For most of us, the exercise would do us no harm, either.

Regular maintenance

The manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule in your owner’s manual is your best friend here. By following the suggested maintenance regimen, fuel efficiency will be optimized for your vehicle. According to the U.S. Energy Department, sticking to the suggested schedule for tune-ups will improve economy by 4 percent.

Maintaining proper tire inflation is essential for optimal fuel efficiency. As tires deflate, they lose resistance and that decreases efficiency.

Using the recommended grade of oil can also improve gas economy. Brands that say “Energy Conserving” on their packaging contain friction-decreasing additives that improve fuel efficiency.

Reduce weight

Take any non-essential items out of the trunk — or from anywhere in the car, for that matter. According to the FTC, an extra 100 pounds of weight in the trunk can decrease your fuel efficiency by 2 percent.

Fill up on Wednesday

Gas prices are raised on Thursday to take advantage of the increase in travel on the weekends. Beat them to it and fill up on Wednesday.

Avoid premium grades

Again, the specs in your owner’s manual are your best guide. Use the grade of gas it recommends. Unless your vehicle’s engine is “knocking,” or if it requires higher octane, spending more for higher grades of gas is simply a waste of money.

According to the FTC:

“Using a higher-octane gasoline than your owner’s manual recommends … won’t make your car perform better, go faster, get better mileage or run cleaner.”

Gas cards

Some gas credit cards will save you money by offering incentives, rewards or cash back programs. In most cases, if a card’s balance is paid off monthly, no additional charges are imposed. But read the fine print. Some carry interest rates as high as 26.99 percent.


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