How to Save Money on Gas

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Gas prices keep going up, and the money in our wallet keeps evaporating more quickly. There are many ways you can spend less money on gas and reduce your overall fuel consumption. But, you must think it through and begin formulating new plans! One technique that has been around for a while but has drawn more attention recently is hypermiling. However, use your head because some hypermiling techniques are illegal and extremely dangerous.

Steps

  1. Drive less
    1. Walk, bike, ride the bus or join a carpool.
    2. Reduce your commute by moving closer to work or working closer to home. This will save time as well as money. You may even be able to save even more money by becoming a one-car family.
    3. Combine trips. If you can do several short trips in one longer trip, you will save fuel and time. Make lists to avoid having to go back. Call ahead to avoid wasted trips.
    4. Walk between stops. Once you get into town, some of your stops may be near each other. Park between some or all of them and walk.
    5. Park in the first spot you find. If you wander all over the parking lot looking for that really close parking space, you will use more gas. Do not be afraid to walk a ways if it comes to that - the walk will do you good!
  2. Find good prices
    1. Do not be brand conscious when buying gas. Buy where you can get the best deal. Regular gas is very much a commodity meaning there is not any significant difference between any of the brands. In fact, all the brands fill their tanker trucks at whatever refinery is closest and the only difference between "brands" is a few gallons of a proprietary additive package that gets mixed with the fuel loaded to the truck. All additives must meet OEM and EPA performance standards so the only real difference between brands is the audacity of the superior performance claims.
    2. Use a fuel with the lowest required octane. Low-octane "regular" gas is usually all that is required. Octane is only a rating of the fuels resistance to engine-damaging pre-ignition ("knock") in high-performance engines (that few people have). Low octane gas is less expensive and a better value if that is all your engine requires. Best case scenario you are wasting money by filling up with a higher than recommended grade of gas. Worst case scenario that high octane fuel is building up damaging carbon deposits in your engine because it is not being burned as completely as lower octane fuel would be. Check your owners manual to be sure. Modern high performance cars will sometimes recommend higher octane fuels because they are engineered to use those fuels. The use of lower than recommended octane will not make your car explode, the ECM (Engine Control Module, aka:computer) will adjust the fuel injectors and spark timing to save the engine and compensate for you cheaping out at the pump. Those adjustments will consist of retarding the spark (reducing power and efficiency) as well as dumping lots of extra fuel into the cylinders to cool them, potentially costing you more than getting mid grade or premium IF that is what your car requires. Also remember that engines need less octane at higher altitudes. If your engine does not "knock" on regular, paying more for a higher octane rating is a waste since the increased octane makes no significant improvement to gas mileage and it is no better for your engine. All available fuels have detergent and additive packages.
    1. Apply for a credit card which offers gas savings when you use the card for purchases. This works in much the same way that some credit card companies allow you to earn frequent flyer miles when you use their card for purchases.
    2. Join a loyalty club. Some gas stations, department stores and grocery stores offer lower prices when you present their membership card. Keep your eyes open and verify that their prices are really lower than other stations in your neighborhood.
    3. Check the web for deals. With the ever increasing gas prices, use the Internet to find the cheapest gas near you. Some of these sites even offer text messaging capabilities, where they will send you the a text message with the location of the cheapest gas in your area. Here are 3 sites that enable you to search for lower price in your town: MapQuest, GasBuddy.com and GasPriceWatch.com. GasPricesRelief.com now supplies a free gas card valid at most gas stations. But do not drive miles out of your way or wait in excessively long lines (your car gets 0 MPG while stopped and idling.) just for a cheaper station, or you will defeat the purpose. Also you may want to check out SaveCashOnFuel.com for lots of interesting ideas!
    4. Mix octanes. In some areas, the lower octane may be too low for your car and the mid-grade or higher octane may be more than what you need. To avoid overpaying and still get the correct octane for your car you can mix the gas. For example, if your car takes 87 octane and the pumps have 85 octane and 89 octane, then when filling your car, fill half the tank with 85 octane and the other half with 89 octane and this will give you an equivalent of 87 octane plus it will save you money because the lower octane gas costs less.
        1. Determine whether gas with ethanol is right for your vehicle
          • If there is a high proportion of ethanol, the lower energy content of the fuel will almost always lower mileage.
          • Fuel with ethanol may be less expensive than standard gas, but consider the reduced fuel economy. You may or may not save money by filling up with cheaper (subsidized) ethanol blended fuel. You first need to know if, and how much your fuel economy suffers on ethanol blended fuel vs. non-ethanol fuel. You then need to calculate your fuel cost per mile (or km) for each fuel.
          • Ethanol is not much better for the environment, because only ethanol made with sugar cane is more fuel efficient from the harvesting and processing than regular gas. Fuels with ethanol additives can corrode fuel lines in vehicles not designed with ethanol fuels in mind, but E10 and E20 do not damage your engine.
        2. Do not refill your tank until the last quarter tank but do not push this any further. Doing this can extend your gas because you are hauling a lighter fuel load. It also gives you the opportunity to buy more gas if you run across a bargain. However, in cold weather, you run an increased risk of condensation in the fuel tank. Running a car with less than a quarter tank can shorten the life of the electric fuel pump and running on empty will often destroy the pump because it is forced to run constantly trying to pressurize fuel since it often has access to only air. The hard-running pump motor then overheats because it needs a bath of liquid fuel to transfer operational heat to and it also loses pressure building ability because its internal seals needs gas to lubricate against friction. Keeping the tank one-quarter full also is a safety issue as you never know when you might experience an emergency and need gasoline in your car!
        3. Fill the tank full. If you need to fill up, fill up all the way. The more money you try to save by adding $10 today and then $20 tomorrow will be wasted since each time you will have to travel to the station and wait for a pump. Instead, do it all at once to save time and money.
        4. Do not top off the tank. It is wasted money and bad for the environment because it invariably forces liquid fuel into the evaporative emissions system where it overwhelms circuits that are supposed to only route fuel tank vapors to the engine while it is running and can be burned.
        5. Buy gas on Wednesday. Gas prices are statistically the cheapest on Wednesdays, but this is only statistically true over a large number of days. It wont be true every week.
        6. Buy gas three days before a holiday. Gas prices almost always go up for holidays.
          1. Take care of your car
            1. Give your car a tune up. Properly maintaining your car will keep your car running as efficiently as possible.

          1.      Change the oil regularly. Use a synthetic oil instead of mineral oil. This will cause your engine to run better and give you better mileage.

          2.      Upgrade your air filter. More efficient brands of air filters cost a little more but will pay for themselves in most vehicles in fuel savings. Check it every oil change and change it regularly. Clogged air filters cause engines to work overtime which requires more fuel.

          3.      Use a fuel injector cleaner or complete fuel system treatment occasionally. Not only will you see a boost in gas mileage, but in your cars overall performance. Fouled injectors vaporize fuel poorly, affecting how completely the fuel is burned.

            1. Upgrade your tires. Low resistance tires, such as Michelin Energy MX 4 Plus claim to increase gas mileage.
            2. Check the air pressure in the tires every week. Buy an inexpensive air pump and an accurate tire gauge. Keep all tires inflated to the pressure as recommended for your car.
            3. Clean out any unnecessary items in your car. If you have heavy objects in your car that you do not need, remove them. If your car is lighter, it will use less fuel to get where you are going.
            4. Remove unneeded racks. If you have a bicycle or ski rack, remove it when you are not using it. It causes drag and lowers mileage.
              1. Buy a different car
                1. Buy a diesel. Diesel cars can often get better mileage than comparable hybrids. Getting a diesel car also allows for use of bio-diesel or even waste vegetable oil (WVO/SVO) fuel.
                2. Buy a hybrid. Not only do hybrids give you immediate savings at the pump, the U.S. government and your local state offer tax breaks for people who use gas-saving cars. Federal deductions for using gas-saving cars can be as high as $2,000, but check before buying to see if theyre still in effect. Also, check with your insurance company because Hybrids have higher insurance rates.
                3. Buy a smaller car. Generally speaking, smaller cars are lighter and get better mileage.
                4. Buy a motorcycle or scooter instead of a car. They are cheaper and often get 70 MPG or better. Riding gear is available for most weather conditions. A good example is the Kawasaki EX250, which costs about $3,000, gets 60-70 MPG at highway speeds, and can go 0-60 MPH in under 6 seconds!
                  1. Drive smarter
                    1. Avoid idling. While idling, your car gets exactly 0 miles per gallon while starting the car uses the same amount as idling for 6 seconds. Park your car and go into the restaurant rather than idling in the drive-through. Idling with the air conditioning on also uses extra fuel. Also, avoid going so fast that you have to brake for someone. Whenever you brake, you waste the gas it took to get going that fast.
                        1. Plan your trips in advance. This can prevent wasting fuel and wasting time. Plan to use alternative routes. Often back roads can prevent you from stopping at traffic lights and more importantly sitting in traffic jams. Try to schedule your trips and errands when traffic is lighter.
                            1. Use a global positioning system (GPS) to help you navigate and find the fastest and shortest distance to your destination. Avoiding hills and stops will increase your gas mileage.
                            2. Drive at a consistent speed. Avoid quick acceleration and hard braking. Cruise control will keep you at a constant speed, even when going up and down hills.
                            3. Avoid stops. If approaching a red light, see if you can slow down enough to avoid having to actually stop (because you reach the light after it is green). Speeding up from 5 or 10 miles per hour will be easier on the gas than starting from full stop.
                            4. Anticipate the stop signs and lights. Look far ahead; get to know your usual routes. You can let up on the gas earlier. Coasting to a stop will save the gasoline you would otherwise use maintaining your speed longer. If it just gets you to the end of a line of cars at a red light or a stop sign a few seconds later, it wont add any time to your trip. Ditto for coasting to lose speed before a highway off-ramp: if it means you catch up with that truck halfway around the curve instead of at the beginning, you havent lost any time. In many cities, if you know the streets well, you can time the lights and maintain the appropriate speed to hit all green lights. Usually this is about 35 to 40 MPH.
                            5. Maintain a safe following distance. Do not stick to the bumper of the car directly in front of you. You will brake more and accelerate more to keep that unnecessary and dangerous narrow gap. This also gives you a lot more room to play with when you are timing traffic signals. Likewise, ignore tailgaters. They will tailgate you whether you go the speed limit, or 100MPH over the speed limit. Allow them pass when it is convenient.
                            6. Slow down. Air resistance goes up as the square of velocity. The power consumed to overcome that air resistance goes up as the cube of the velocity. Rolling resistance is the dominant force below about 40 mph. Above that, every mph costs you mileage. Go as slow as traffic and your schedule will allow. Drive under 60-65 since air grows exponentially denser, in the aerodynamic sense, the faster we drive. To be precise, the most efficient speed is your cars minimum speed in it is highest gear, since this provides the best "speed per RPM" ratio. This is usually about 45 to 55 miles per hour.
                            7. Take off slowly from a full stop. This is one adjustment that will have dramatic effects on your gas mileage; do not tear off from a stoplight or stop sign!
                            8. Stay well away from store fronts where you will spend significantly more time idling and waiting for pedestrians and other vehicles.
                            9. Use A/C only on the highway. At lower speeds, open the windows. This increased the drag and reduces fuel efficiency, but not as much as the AC at low speeds (35-40 mph). The air con - when used a lot - is known to use up about 8% of the fuel you put into your car.
                            10. Shift into neutral if you are not comfortable with downshifting. Standard transmission vehicles may save gas by shifting into neutral when going down hills steep enough to maintain speed (although engine braking is safer on steeper declines). Do not do this in a Hybrid car, they use this "regenerative engine braking" to generate electricity and charge the batteries. NOTE: This strategy will result in more wear and tear on your brakes. Neither of these strategies is recommended for normal automatic cars. Also, if you own a car with fuel injection, it is more efficient to keep the car in a high gear while going down hills. Simply take your foot off the gas.
                            11. Park in the shade. Gasoline actually evaporates right out of your tank, and it does so faster when you park directly in the sun - winter or summer. Parking in the shade also keeps it cooler inside, and you will need less A/C to cool off when you get back in. If there is no shade available, park so that your gas tank (the actual tank under the car, not the valve to fill it) is facing away from the direct sun. Also, todays fuel systems are supposed to be airtight. Your gas cap should have a seal in it. Make sure that the seal is keeping the fumes in and outside air out.
                            12. Tips

                              • If you are driving a stick shift with fuel injection, note that 50% throttle at 1200 rpms uses less gas than 10% throttle at 2500 rpms. As long as the engine is not lugging or pinging, shift as soon as possible and use plenty of throttle. The engine is more efficient when it does not have to pump air past a closed throttle plate.
                              • You could use a GPS to calculate how far away you are from the next state and if you know fuel tax is less in the next state, just put enough fuel in to get you to the next state and fill up with gas where it is cheaper
                              • Pencil gauges are not accurate for measuring tire pressure.
                              • When choosing the optimum air pressure for you tires the figure imprinted on the tire wall is the MAXIMUM. The figures printed on the sticker in the door frame, in the fuel filler flap, and in the manual are for comfort rather than fuel efficiency. Generally speaking, a slightly higher pressure will improve fuel mileage and handling, but too high will degrade traction and wear the tires rapidly, as well as being unsafe.
                              • Reusable "oiled" air filters may increase gas millage because of the amount of dirt that they trap and they will allow more air to move into the engine which in turns causes a better combustion in the engine
                              • Be careful with the "oiled" air filters refered to above, if over-oiled when cleaned, the excess oil can and does adhere to and damage the MAF (mass air flow) sensor, and cause the check engine light to come on. This also causes increased fuel consumption since the vehicle will think the engine is running lean and dump more fuel in when not required. Always clean these filters regularily and LIGHTLY oil them as recommended on the oil can.
                              • Most car modifications do not improve mileage. Extra wings add drag. Power improvements often hurt mileage. However, if your car is turbocharged, chiptuning may result in a mileage boost. The mileage boost will be canceled out if you drive more aggressively due to power improvements.
                              • Many of these tips change slightly if your engine is turbocharged or diesel. For instance, diesel engines use almost no fuel while idling. Diesel trucks will often be left idling all night to provide heat or power for the trucker inside the cab, at the cost of relatively little fuel.
                              • Wholesale unleaded is now a traded commodity. Watch the futures price as it will forecast price at the pump, which will be about equal to the wholesale price plus taxes plus about a nickel per gallon for the station.
                              • Keep meticulous records of what you spend and how many miles you drive so you can quickly spot changes in vehicle performance. It will also help focus you on the goal of saving.
                              • Every MPH faster yields you less advantage than the last one. Going 10MPH is a big difference over 5MPH, but there is very little difference between 55MPH and 60MPH, unless you are on a very long trip. Many people mindlessly speed wherever they go, and gain absolutely nothing but a heftier fuel bill. Assuming everything goes perfectly (and when does it?) going 5MPH, even 15MPH faster on a highway for a short trip will yield nothing but aggravation as you keep catching up to slower traffic.
                                • Slow down a little below the speed limit, and the highway can seem like it is wide open.
                                • Often the right-most lanes keep moving more than the left-most in areas prone to traffic-jams. Vehicles continue to exit, which keeps leaving gaps to fill in.
                                • A manual transmission saves an average $1000 on the cost of a new vehicle, and eliminates routine transmission maintenance that an automatic transmission requires (and most people never do this maintenance once the warranty is up - so a used car with an automatic is a risky purchase). In most cases, an automatic transmission gets significantly worse mileage overall than a manual transmission.
                                • Neutral is also a gear on a manual transmission, which you use constantly anyway. Learn how to coast between traffic lights, applying power only as needed to keep the car rolling (more or less) with traffic. Learn to judge terrain and use neutral to its full potential to keep the car moving for free, and save more gas over time.
                                • Regenerative braking recovers far less energy than acceleration requires to replace the momentum it loses. To coast further without regenerative braking excessively slowing your automatic transmission equipped hybrid, putting just the right pressure on the accelerator can prevent the regen drag without adding engine power (i.e. if done right the engine wont start AND the regenerative braking wont kick in). With manual transmission hybrids, just leave it in neutral to defeat regen and coast further.
                                • If you are always stuck in rush hour traffic after work anyway, try to find something to do near your work until the traffic dies down, rather than try to fight through it.
                                • If you want more information about the mileage NOW, and your car doesnt have a real-time fuel economy indicator, there are various OBDII reader devices (like the ScanGauge or Equus 3130) that can be plugged into cars with an OBDII port, and provide live real-time information about fuel consumption rate (gallons per hour), engine RPM, speed, whatever you want that is tracked by the engine computer. Some of them also allow the data to be recorded and downloaded to a computer with a serial or USB cable. Some are little more than a serial/USB cable that plugs into a portable computer with software to give you all manner of instruments.
                                • The more convenient it is to check your tire pressure, the more often you will do it. If you are dedicated enough to do it with a manual hand/foot pump, fine.
                                  • You can spend a little extra on a pretty good self-contained electric one with a jump start and flashlight on it, too, and then consider it a safety purchase.
                                  • If you have a garage, an air compressor has many uses besides tires.
                                  • If you have a larger vehicle (with higher pressure truck tires), you will need a real air compressor; the little electric ones made for cars will fail right away, and you will wear yourself out trying to pump it yourself.
                                  • Warnings

                                    • Do not get crazy in your search for cheaper gas stations. If your car has a 15 gallon tank and you find a station that is 10¢ cheaper per gallon, your savings is a maximum of $1.50. But if you get 20 miles to the gallon, and drove 10 miles each way to that station, you have already used one gallon of gas to save $1.50, which at $4.00 per gallon would actually be a loss of $2.50.
                                    • Do not put a lower or octane in your car than your cars manual states it requires. However, unnecessarily high octane is a waste of money. Octane is only a rating of the tendency of the fuel to cause damaging engine knock. Higher octanes are sometimes recommended for high performance vehicles because the compression ratios and ignition timing of those engines require higher octane. The engine will self-adjust to any provided fuel, however that adjustment will consist of retarding your ignition timing (reducing efficiency) and dumping TONS of extra fuel in the cylinders to keep them cool. Using the RECOMMENDED octane will provide you with the BEST POSSIBLE fuel economy.
                                    • Be careful of credit card interest rates which may negate your gasoline savings. Also verify that the stations you use do not charge higher prices to credit card customers.
                                    • Stopping and starting the engine frequently will cause extra wear. Do not stop the engine if you are going to idle for less than a minute.
                                    • In very cold environments, it is recommended to allow the vehicle to idle and warm up, rather than just start it and take off. You might save gas, but your engine oil wont do its job until it is fully liquid, so you will spend more money on overhauls.
                                    • Drafting is dangerous. All the fuel savings in the world will not matter a bit if you get wrecked while trying to save gas. Safe driving habits will save a lot more money than risky driving, and maybe even save lives. Slow down. Be careful.
                                    • Nearly all gas-saving devices do not work, and some even decrease fuel mileage. Intake twisters, gas pills and fuel line magnets do not help mileage. Even if the mileage improvement claims were true, they often cost enough to negate any potential savings.
                                    • Chipping the car (changing/flashing the ROM in its brain) is usually meant to improve power, but often fuel savings are claimed as well. Be paranoid about it. It usually can achieve the power statistics it claims, but possibly at the cost of dreadfully expensive engine and drive-train wear and damage. The wrong chip (or a buggy version of a chip) can result in a dead car that is expensive enough to repair that it is totaled. Needless to say, chipping a car definitely voids the warranty.
                                    • Be very careful when shifting into neutral when going down hills. You may find yourself going a lot faster than you thought you would. This is actually illegal in some jurisdictions.
                                    • Keep in mind that the engine will assist with braking down steep inclines. If you ever need to brake while going down a hill, keep your vehicle in gear. Staying in neutral and only using your brakes (freewheeling) can cause the brakes to heat significantly, resulting in brake fade or breakdown, and total loss of control.
                                    • Be sure to keep to right lanes if you are not going to keep up with speeding traffic, and allow other traffic to pass.
                                    • If you drive slowly enough on a long enough trip to add hours, be sure to take extra breaks.
                                    • When you sign up for the loyalty cards at your nearby store, realize that they do that to track your spending for their own benefit. That is not to say that you do not get a lot out of it. The savings can be substantial.
                                    • Things You Will Need

                                      • Tire Pressure Gauge

                                        Sources and Citations

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