At the end of summer 2023, a gallon of regular gas cost just a hair under $4: perhaps not the worst you’ve ever seen, but not exactly a bargain basement price either.
According to J.D. Power, Americans spend about $5,000 on gas a year, a not insignificant figure.
If you’re looking for ways to save on this expense, this guide can help. It shares seven easy ways to boost your gas mileage, meaning you’ll go farther on a tank’s worth. Read on to learn how to save.
How to Improve Gas Mileage
Gas mileage is measured in miles per gallon (mpg). If a vehicle gets 25 mpg, this means that, on average, it can be driven for 25 miles for every gallon of gas pumped into it. Overall, miles per gallon is typically higher for a vehicle during highway driving than on city streets where speeds are slower and vehicles idle at stop signs and traffic lights. Vehicles can, in fact, typically get five more mpg with highway driving than with city driving.
Fortunately, there are ways to improve gas mileage no matter where you’re driving, many of them reasonably simple. To help, here are seven money-saving ideas for better gas mileage and two busted myths.
1. Reduce the Weight
Get rid of excess weight in the vehicle by removing unnecessary items in the trunk and backseat to lower fuel consumption. Every 100 pounds added to a car boosts fuel consumption by 2%. Think carefully about what to remove. Maybe those golf clubs don’t have to perpetually stay in your trunk. Taking out a toolbox full of tools, however, might reduce the weight being carried, but those items might be sorely missed in an emergency.
2. Watch Your Speed
In general, the mileage a driver gets from a gallon of gas decreases pretty quickly when traveling more than 50 miles per hour, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Lowering your speed by five to 10 mph can raise fuel efficiency by 7% to 14%. Why? Higher speeds decrease fuel economy because of two factors: air resistance and tire rolling resistance.
3. Keep Tires at Optimal Pressure
The DOE reports that keeping your tire pressure in the sweet spot can enhance your gas mileage. If your tires are underinflated, you can lower gas mileage about 0.2% for every drop of 1 psi (pressure per square inch) in the pressure of the tires. Overall, proper inflation can boost your mileage by up to 3%, which can add up at the pump.
4. Monitor Your Driving
Using a trip computer, drivers can receive immediate feedback about the impact that an action, such as the rapid acceleration of a vehicle, has on gas usage. These real-time, personalized insights into how to improve fuel economy, fuel consumption, maintenance reminders, and more.
5. Plan Your Gas Stops
Using a combination of strategies for how to improve gas mileage can help to reduce fuel costs. Having to fill up at a pricey pump, though, can negate all of that hard work. So, when out on the road, especially when away from home in unfamiliar territory, consider using apps like Gas Guru or GasBuddy. They can help you to find the most affordable gasoline in town, wherever you are when it’s time to fill up.
Recommended: 25 Ways to Cut Costs on a Road Trip
6. Road Trip Wisely
If you’re planning a trip and have a choice of cars to drive, some factors to consider are the car’s size (you want enough room to be comfortable as you travel as well as any luggage you bring) and its gas mileage. Using a trip calculator can estimate fuel consumption for each car so you can pick the one that will cost the least in gasoline.
7. Cold Weather Strategies
When thinking about how to get better gas mileage, take a look at the thermometer, and plan your winter driving carefully. FuelEconomy.gov states that the miles per gallon can be 15% lower, more or less, at 20°F than at 77°F. Since most of us can’t hibernate all winter long, money-saving suggestions include warming up your car for 30 seconds only and then driving gently to allow the vehicle to warm up in a more cost-efficient way. Also, combine trips whenever possible — especially in the winter.
Myths About Gas Mileage
Some strategies to improve gas mileage are tried and true, but there are still some myths that continue to be perpetuated. Here are a couple of common myths that don’t prove to be true when it comes to saving money daily on gas.
1. Refueling When Cool
Some people buy gasoline in the morning when temperatures are cooler, believing that this will help them get better gas mileage. The theory behind this idea is that cooler gas is denser, so you’ll get more bang for your buck in the mornings. However, consumer watchdogs say this won’t make any practical difference though, especially since most gas stations store the gasoline underground where temperatures are pretty stable.
2. Changing the Air Filter
In the past, people believed that dirty air filters reduced fuel economy because of lowered air intake. While studies have shown that a vehicle’s acceleration was lessened when an air filter change was overdue, swapping it out probably won’t boost fuel economy in most cars. Wondering what changed? Engine computers have the ability to compensate for the reduced airflow to maintain the right ratio between air and fuel.
Budgeting for Gasoline and More
How much can you afford to pay for gasoline each month? If you aren’t really clear about that, making a monthly budget can help. Basic steps of creating a budget include:
• Gathering all of your financial documents together
• Figuring out your monthly take-home pay
• Adding up monthly fixed and variable expenses
• Using this information to create a workable budget
While creating your budget, consider how much gas is used for needs (such as getting to work) and how much for wants (driving around town while trying to decide what restaurant to pick). One popular personal budgeting method involves dividing expenses into needs and wants and then also having a category for savings. Called the 50/30/20 rule, this method divides after-tax income in this way:
• 50% towards needs
• 30% towards wants (or discretionary expenses)
• 20% towards savings
This isn’t the only way to create a personal budget, though. There are plenty of budgeting resources to help you find the method that works best to manage your money.
Gas prices can take a chunk out of the budget but by understanding a few important principles, you can help improve your gas mileage and make the most of the money you spend at the pump. Doing so can be part of taking control of your finances and managing your money well.
Photo credit: iStock/FG Trade
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