Unfortunately, this year it looks like we’re not going to be able to count on a nice drop in gasoline prices during the fall and winter. With crude oil futures sitting at $90 a barrel and demand for both oil and gasoline going nowhere but up, it looks as if gasoline may test the $3 per gallon mark within the coming weeks or months.
Since the $3 mark is usually reserved for the summer’s peak driving season and hasn’t ever happened during the winter months, we could very easily be setting ourselves up for $4 gasoline by the time May comes rolling around.
No matter what you do, increased gasoline prices are going to affect you in some way. While the price increase may hurt some more than others, the fact remains that we’re all going to have to become accustomed to the fact that the days of cheap gas (and energy in general) are in the rear view mirror.
That being said, there are plenty of things you can do to help minimize the effect of higher gasoline prices and allow you to do your part to help save the environment. Thankfully, most of these things are pretty common sense and can be integrated very easily into your regular “driving routine,” so much so that it shouldn’t take long for these habits to become second nature.
So, without further ado, here are the Top Ten Ways to Reduce Your Gasoline Consumption:
- Don’t drive if you don’t have to (see, I told you these were pretty common sense). Think about it, how many small, wasted trips do you take each week where you drive less than a mile or two? If you’re going to the grocery store to do some major shopping it’s certainly understandable to bring your car, but if you’re just going to pick up a couple items, why not walk or ride your bike? Same can be said for trips to friends’ houses, driving the kids to school, etc., etc. Moral of the story: if you don’t drive you don’t use gas.
- If you do have to drive, minimize the amount of time you sit in idle. Here’s a pretty easy general rule of thumb to remember: if you’re car’s running and you’re not moving, your gas mileage has dropped to zero mpg. I know for many of this, this is probably easier said than done, especially considering it’s pretty tough to avoid the daily rush hour traffic. However, if you find yourself stuck at a stoplight or know that it’s going to be a minute or two before you get moving again, turn off your car (assuming it’s safe to do so). Essentially, it takes about ten seconds worth of idling to use as much gasoline as it would to restart your car; this means if you’re going to be sitting at a stoplight for a minute or two, it’s best to shut the car off and save gasoline.
- When you finally get the car moving, make sure to use a nice, steady and moderate acceleration. A heavy foot means you’re going to get pretty bad gas mileage. Essentially, you’re making the car’s engine work much harder than necessary, and in order to get the required energy to quickly get up to speed, it’s going to need to burn more gasoline. However, you also don’t want to accelerate so slowly that you bog down the engine, as this will reduce your gas mileage as well. Nice and steady wins the race.
- Now that you’re up to cruising speed, try to stay at or near the speed limit. While the optimal speed for gas mileage is going to vary by make and model, it’s a pretty good rule of thumb that the fast you go, especially at highway speeds, the worse gas mileage you’re going to get. According to FuelEconomy.gov, driving over the speed limit at highway speeds will reduce your vehicle’s gas mileage by between seven and 23 percent. When it’s all said and done, that adds up to a lot of wasted gasoline and a lot of wasted money.
- When driving, keep your eyes down the road and coast whenever possible. By constantly tapping your brakes or accelerating up to stoplights or stop signs, all you’re doing is needlessly burning fuel. By being on and off the brakes, you’re wasting the energy (i.e. burned fuel) it took to get up to speed and then you’ll need to burn more fuel to get back up to speed. By accelerating up to stoplights and stop signs, again, you’re using energy that you know you really don’t need. If you give yourself plenty of room between the cars in front of you, you should have no problem seeing what the conditions are like ahead of you, which will allow you to do plenty of coasting and help you avoid brake tapping and needless accelerating.
- Keep your car as aerodynamic as possible; the more aerodynamic your car is (meaning the less drag that’s put on it) the better your gas mileage is going to be. This means you should drive with the windows up (more on that in a second), the sunroof closed and keep any extemporaneous items (car top carrier, sports team flags, etc.) in the vehicle.
- Obviously, there are going to be times when it’s warm in the car, you need some air flow and the vent alone just isn’t going to cut it. Now you’ve got to make the choice between rolling down the windows or turning on the air conditioning. If you’re traveling less than 35 mph, you should probably go ahead and just roll down the windows, as there shouldn’t be too much drag on your car. However, once you start traveling above 35 mpg and approach highway speeds, you should keep the windows up and turn on the AC. Regardless of which one you chose, you’re going to reduce your vehicle’s gas mileage, but by following this rule of thumb you can help minimize the effects.
- Before you get out on the road, make sure that your car’s tires are properly inflated. Think of it this way; have you ever tried to ride a bike that had under inflated tires? It took a lot more work to get up to and maintain speed, didn’t it? Same thing goes for your car; under inflated tires will essentially reduce your car’s gas mileage by two to three percent. While that may not seem like much, this might – if every driver in the United States improved their vehicle’s gas mileage by 2%, we would save nearly 3 billion gallons of gasoline each year.
- Replace your car’s dirty air filter. Driving around with a dirty or clogged air filter can reduce your vehicle’s gas mileage by up to ten percent, which at today’s prices, is the equivalent of adding about 28 cents to each gallon of gasoline you buy. It probably takes less than ten minutes to change the filter and will probably set you back less than 20 dollars, so there’s really no excuse to not get this done.
- Get all of the useless and needless items out of your car. As a general rule of thumb, for every extra 100 pounds you carry around in your car, you reduce its gas mileage by one to two percent; and if you want to get into the minutiae of it, for every extra pound you carry around in your car, you reduce its gas mileage by 1/100th to 1/50th of a percent. So, now that it’s fall, get the golf clubs out of the trunk of your car and maybe with the money you’ll save on gas, you can splurge and buy the big bucket of balls at the driving range.
Now that you’ve been armed with some pretty easy and simple ways to save gas and maximize your vehicle’s gas mileage, I’d like to suggest that you print out this article and leave a copy in your car as a reminder to try your best to reduce your gasoline consumption. In the end, both your bank account and the environment will thank you for it.