Ten Tips for Saving Money on Gas

Posted by Daniel in Advice, Finance, Frugality, Life, Planning, Uncategorized

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As gas passes $3.50 per gallon and rapidly approaches $4.00 per gallon (or it’s already there…sorry CA), Mary and I can’t wait to move into our new house and cut our commute from 32 miles to 15. However in the meantime, we have taken measures to get the most out of our tanks of gas. So here are 10 tips that could help you increase those MPGs and decrease those gas bills!

1. Carpool. Mary and I are lucky enough to work at the same company, so it makes sense for us to carpool. By our calculation, we are saving at least $200 per month by this little step. Sure, it sucks sometimes when one of us has to work later, leaving the other with nothing to do, but we always remind each other how much money and time (Carpool lane) carpooling saves us.

2. Change the oil on time. Staying up to date on engine oil changes helps your car run better and get the most out of your gas. I make sure to change the oil in our Acura every 5,000 miles (Oil Co’s recommend 3,000 miles, car makers say 5,000), and every 7500 miles in our Volvo (synthetic oil).

3. Get a high performance air filter. K&N air filters are expensive, but they pay for themselves in the long run. They come with a 1 million mile warranty because you clean them instead of replace them, plus you can get up to 10% better gas mileage because they allow your engine to breathe better and give you better performance. I received 10% better gas mileage in my old Jeep when I put in a K&N filter. Note: Mr. Dave points out in the comments, that high performance filters are not recommended for some engines like the VW TDi engine.  Though if you have that engine you’re beating all of us on MPG anyway.

4. Inflate the tires. Making sure your tires are inflated to the recommended PSI will increase your gas mileage because a fully inflated tire offers less resistance when you are coasting.

5. Coast. If you have an onboard computer, have you ever set it to give you the instantaneous MPG? You will probably notice that when your foot is off the gas your MPG skyrockets. So if you see a red light ahead let off the gas, there is no need to speed to a stop, it’s just a waste of gas and you’ll have to replace your brakes sooner.

6. A/C or Windows Down? It’s summer, it’s hot, so what do you do? This all depends on what you are doing. If you are driving at highway speeds, roll the windows up and use the A/C, because the drag of the windows being down really hurts the gas mileage. Driving around town? Roll ‘em down!

7. Don’t carry around extra crap! Weight directly affects your gas mileage. The more stuff you have weighing down your car the worse MPG you get. So lose the golf clubs, toolbox, and other random stuff unless you need it.

8. Plan your routes. UPS saved millions of dollars a year in gas by rerouting their trucks to limit the number of left turns, and you can save money too! Plan your routes in the most efficient way possible. Generally right turns are faster and they use less gas waiting at lights than left turns, so why not try it out!

9. Get a gas card! Many credit card companies offer cash back on gas purchases, so why not!? You’re going to be spending the money anyway, so you might as well earn up to 5% cash back. Or even better get a gas company card, brand loyalty pays you in savings!

10. Don’t use E85. What? But the government said it’s going to be our saving grace and I want to help save the environment! I’m all for saving the environment when it is in my financial interest (like compact florescent lights that will pay for themselves), but if it will cost me more money, I’m less likely to do it. E85 is cheaper, and your car may run on it, but according to AutoTrader it contains 27% less energy than 87 Octane (the cheap stuff). That means you get 27% less MPG using E85. The only time it’s in your financial interest is when E85 is less than 73% of the cost of 87 Octane. At my local station, E85 is about 30-40 cents cheaper per gallon than 87 Octane. $3.20 / $3.50 is 91%… not in your financial interest.

I hope you can put these ideas to good use, and if you’ve got any more, feel free to leave them in the comments!

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19 comments

  1. Mr Dave

    With regards to number 3, this isn’t always a sure way to save money. It has been observed that the oil that K&N air filters are impregnated with can foul the Mass AirFlow sensor used on VW TDi engines (what powers my Golf, which is why I know this off the top of my head).

    I’m not saying avoid it, but do a bit of reading up on your vehicle and you could avoid have to replace your MAF.

  2. danielb

    Thanks for the input Mr. Dave. I love those TDi Engines, and I’m quite sure you are beating 99% of us on gas mileage with them.

    My brother in law converted his TDi Golf to run on veggie oil!

  3. Philip

    Good job, most people make this post and fill it with stuff that is outdated or not true. All of yours IMO are true savers.

    On #10 I have noticed that some gas stations have 10-15% ethanol in the blends, therefore reducing the overall MPG from that gallon of gas. Usually it is a small sticker on the pump. I am trying to watch for it, and then need to calculate the difference it would make.

  4. danielb

    Philip,

    Thanks. You’re point on #10 is very true, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a gas station that really offered pure gas. Almost every gas station uses additives and while it does lower our MPG, there is nothing we can do about it, and, if you believe the marketing, the additives clean our engines!

  5. Mr Dave

    The older the diesel engine, the easier it is to run on WVO or SVO. Newer diesels like my 05 have issues due to the thicker fuel and the higher pressures the injection system operates at. A nice ’85 Mercedes 300SD would love WVO.

    As with everything, do the research. If someone with a TDi is considering running veggie oil, cruise around the tdiclub.com forums and inform yourself. You can save money running veggie oil sure, but you can also put yourself in a world of hurt when it comes to repairs due to a poorly implemented dual-fuel system.

    My lifetime average for my 05 (and the newer engine is known for a efficiency hit, but for cleaner emissions) is around 41miles per US gallon. For the amount I drive every year, the difference in price of diesel (sometimes it’s higher than RUG, somtimes lower) and the extra I paid for the engine (about $1000US) works out in my favour. If I had only short commutes and didn’t road trip all the time with my car then it probably wouldn’t have been an economical choice to buy it.

  6. subtropic

    Is there any basis for the saying that putting acetone in the gas tank will lower the amount of gas your car needs to run?

  7. Mr Dave

    subtropic: between TANSTAAFL and if it sounds too good to be true, I’d be pretty skeptical of using it as a regular additive. That said, it seems like many injection cleaning additives due contain acetone, so most likely the benefit people are seeing when running acetone can be related to cleaning out the injectors.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that your fuel deliver system was designed to deliver gas (or diesel, or propane) and the fuel lines may or may not deal well with having acetone run through it.

    A quick check of snopes seems to agree with me: http://www.snopes.com/autos/techno/acetone.asp

  8. danielb

    Thanks Mr. Dave. Snopes is the best!

  9. GodKillzYou

    The #1 way to save on gas is to siphon. But yes, these tips are great, too.

  10. wellwell

    These are great! There are a lot of things here that I’ve never heard (or thought of) before–like having the windows down while on the highway. It’s so obvious, but I never even thought of that!

    Now, all I have to do is get a smaller car, rather than my stupid SUV that gets 15 mpg. My first car was a diesel Jetta. It was amazing. 40-some mpg on the highway. But I was dumb and traded it in.

  11. WarmWaffles

    Get a turbocharger in your car. Now some of you may disagree with me and that is fine but, look at what a turbo does. It recycles unburnt fuel and drops it right into the air intake there by getting more efficiency from your fuel. If you stand on the pedal then yes a turbo charger will hurt your gas mileage but for me I have done the calculations in my car and I have noticed a slight increase in my gas mileage after I put the turbo in. A turbo doesn’t run like a supercharger does. A supercharger runs off of the pulleys and puts a bigger work load on the motor.

    Get bigger tires. When I say this I mean get bigger tires radius wise, not width wise. As long as it doesn’t significantly lift your car it should help because your car is not sitting at a high rpm when at highway speeds but is reduced by maybe 100 or so rpm’s. Not much in short term gains but in long term it will pay itself off.

  12. athenivandx

    Hmmm, I’m not sure whether to put a link to this post on my Wall of Fame-thought provoking posts page, or start a new page for good advice……..

    I don’t have a car of my own yet, but when I get one, hopefully this summer, this advice will mean alot more to me……..

    thanks for sharing………and once I decide what to do (first two lines) you’ll be linked……..

    The Integral of athenivanidx

  13. Philip

    @ WarmWaffles, when you start changing the diameter of your tires you are creating other changes too. To get the tires turning will require a higher moment of inertia. If you never stop the car then you will see an advantage, but I stop ALOT, way too often on highways even.

    Also, be careful when you change tire size, speedometers are calibrated for the size of tire that you have on the car stock, if you change then the rotation of your wheel no longer goes the same distance. Bigger tires means the speed on your speedometer is too low, and you could be speeding more than you think. Easy to calculate this difference if you really want to know how it changes.

    And quite honestly, I don’t think that changing tire sizes really effects efficiency, from some design analysis that we did in class we were allowed tire size changes and it made little to no change on our total efficiency on an EPA urban drive cycle.

  14. danielb

    @ Warm Waffles, I agree with Philip on this one. Changing the tires is a slippery slope. In high school (when gas was .95/gallon) I had a lifted jeep with bigger tires. I never changed the gears and never recalibrated the speedo. I know it was off by about 15% however. But I also had a ton of drag!

    @ Athinivandx, Thanks, I apprecaite it!

  15. athenivandx

    I’ve been insanely busy and haven’t had time to update my WOF page……..yet. I’m packing for a move……….

    but I’ll certainly put your article up when I can

    The Integral of athenivanidx

  16. corwin sage

    Mythbusters proved awhile ago that having your windows down does not affect gas mileage more than running your ac

  17. danielb

    Corwin, actually they “partially busted” that myth. It showed that at 45 MPH it’s more fuel efficient to have the windows down. At 55 MPH it’s more efficient to leave them up.

  18. Improve Gas Mileage Guide

    These are good tips – but some of the best ways to save money on gas have to do with the way you drive. You don’t have to go so far as to use hypermiling techniques – although you certainly can if you like – but slowing down, accelerating smoothly, and even ridding your car of excess weight (check your trunk) can get you started saving money on gas right away.

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