Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ideas For Saving Money on Gas

Every time it seems that gas prices are coming down, they inevitably rise again.  This price fluctuation can be hard on your monthly budget.  There is plenty of advice out there on how to fight gas price rises.  People will tell you to do everything from drive slower to ride your bicycle or take public transit to trading your gas-guzzler for a more fuel efficient car.  There is probably some partial truth in all these random tips, but here are some sure-fire ways to save money on gas this spring.

How you drive can effect how much car your gas uses.

Frequent acceleration can lessen fuel efficiency in any car.  Steady driving, especially on the highway, can improve fuel statistics.  Several different studies have shown that driving over 60-65 miles per hour and accelerating quickly burns fuel faster than gradual acceleration and slower overall speeds.  Using your car’s cruise control can help you keep steady, moderate speeds while you are on the highway.

It is also helpful to keep your car in good shape.  Changing oil and making sure all fluids are clean and up to date can help keep your car running smoothly, and therefore more fuel efficiently.  One of the more important (but simplest) things that you can do is make sure that your tires are properly inflated.  Tires that are under-inflated can decrease miles-per-gallon stats by as much as 5%.  

Most drivers brake too frequently.  While braking does not require extra fuel, speeding up after braking is the driving action that eats up the most gas.  The more your brake, the more you have to accelerate.  Keeping a decent amount of space between your car and the car in front of you can limit the amount of braking that you have to do (you can simply take your foot off of the accelerator to slow down).

If you truly want to limit your gas consumption, you can change your vehicle.  Autos have become more fuel efficient.  Hybrid vehicles have decent fuel economy, but smaller cars with manual transmissions can perform as well as hybrids when it comes to fuel efficiency.  A manual transmission Honda Civic can actually challenge hybrid compacts when it comes to overall miles-per-gallon.  You can further increase your fuel efficiency by keeping your RPMs low through savvy shifting. 

Diesel cars are another fuel saving auto option.  While there are few diesel powered vehicles on US roadways (save commercial trucks), diesel is popular in Europe.  Despite the fact that diesel costs more per gallon than traditional fuel, it can still be a money saver because it burns slower than regular fuel, therefore lasting longer and providing better miles-per-gallon statistics.

Light cars get better fuel mileage.  But no matter what type of car you have, making it lighter can increase MPG performance.  The same goes for aerodynamics.  Those extra seats, video screens and speakers all add weight and decrease efficiency.  Ski racks or bike racks are useful, but they add drag to cars.  You can reduce this by taking them off of the roof or trunk when they are not in use.

There are some practical ideas for saving money that don’t involve fretting over miles per gallon numbers.  More and more people are planning ahead and combining errands and tasks in the same trip.  Cars make it convenient to make random trips whenever you need something.  But by planning a bit, you can combine tasks and errands into one trip so that you don’t have to retrace your steps the following day.  Despite your best efficiency efforts, the best way to save money on gas is to keep your car in the garage as much as possible.

Nicole Rodgers has been in the finance industry for 3 years; she currently helps people maximize their savings and gives advice on how to receive a tax extension form.

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