With gas prices remaining high or even going up in some places, the economy stubbornly stuck in recession, and a looming fiscal cliff to contend with, it looks like the belt tightening practices of the last several years are far from over. So the average commuter may be looking for a few good ways to maximize the money that goes into the gas tank. In other words, you want to get the best gas mileage possible. But aside from trading in your gas-guzzler and laying out the cash for a more fuel-efficient vehicle (or even a pricy electric model), you might not exactly know how to optimize your fuel consumption in order to stretch every dollar in your gas budget. So here are just a few tips to help you stave off the need for a new vehicle by improving the gas mileage of your current mode of transportation.
The first thing to do is keep your car in ship shape with regular maintenance. You might not want to shell out the money for an oil and fluid change every three months or 3,000 miles, and replacing filters and attending to other issues can definitely strain your budget. But these minor expenditures could not only help you to avoid pricy problems down the road (engine seizure due to lack of fluids, grit in the engine from filthy filters, etc.); they could also ensure that your machine is operating at peak levels and producing optimum gas mileage for your model. In addition, you should get a smog check done every couple of years, even if it’s not required by your state in order to register the car.
The reason is that your air-fuel mixture may change over time, so that you’re burning more fuel than is necessary. A smog check can identify this issue as well as other potential problem areas that could compromise the fuel-efficiency of your vehicle. You could also ask your regular mechanic to check the performance of the fuel injectors by hooking up a scan tool to the onboard diagnostics if you think your ratio is a little rich on fuel.
In addition, you can try to drive more efficiently. You know that your car gets better gas mileage on the highway than in the city, and this is because you can maintain a constant speed. But going over 60 mph will result in drag that forces you to put your foot on the gas more. Most car manufacturers report that the best fuel efficiency ratings occur between 35 and 60 mph, so if you can find a route that allows you to hit this sweet spot (like a 45 mph throughway with few traffic lights) that would be your best bet.
You should also avoid extra weight in the car whenever possible, downgrade to the middle octane rating if premium fuel is merely “recommended” for your car (rather than required), plan trips so that you don’t end up driving more than you need to, and use apps like Gas Buddy to find the cheapest prices in proximity without having to drive around in search of savings. It’s easy to save on maintenance with a DIY attitude and some online tutorials, and you can certainly secure cheap vehicle insurance online, but when it comes to saving money by improving your gas mileage you might have to work a little harder to find creative means of meeting your goals. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to pinch pennies here and there, and all add up to bigger savings over time.
So, how do you save money on gas?