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25 ways to save money on gas

Changing your driving habits can make a big difference.

By Karen Datko Sep 29, 2009 1:57PM

This post comes from partner blog The Dough Roller.

With gas prices nearing $4 a gallon, saving money on gas is more important than ever. Fortunately, there are a lot of relatively simple and inexpensive things you can do to save money on gas.

What follows is a list of 25 ways to reduce what you pay at the pump.

Car maintenance

Replace a dirty air filter. According to the Federal Trade Commission, replacing a clogged air filter can increase gas mileage up to 10%.

Keep your car's engine tuned. Having your car's engine tuned according to the owner's manual can improve gas mileage by 4%. 

Get regular oil changes. Clean oil in your car's engine improves gas mileage by reducing friction. You should also look for oil that says "energy conserving" on the performance symbol of the American Petroleum Institute. It contains friction-reducing additives that can improve fuel economy.

Keep tires properly inflated. Properly inflated tires can increase your miles per gallon by up to 3%.

Use the right motor oil. Make sure you use the proper grade of motor oil, which can save you 1% to 2% at the pump.

Rotate tires and check alignment. Rotating the tires for even wear will improve your car's performance and gas mileage, as will keeping the car properly aligned.

Buying gas

Buy the recommended gas for your car. Most cars run on regular octane gas. According to the FTC, there is no reason to buy a higher grade of gas than what is recommended in the owner's manual. If you want to read more on this, check out the FTC's "Low-down on high- octane gas."

Steer clear of gas-saving gadgets. You've probably read about any number of gadgets that promise to increase your car's gas mileage. Most of these gadgets don't deliver on their promises, and some can even harm your car. For more information on these gadgets, you can read the FTC's "Gas-saving products: Fact or fuelishess."

Find the cheapest gas near you. Check out GasNearU or Gas Buddy to find the least expensive gas in your neighborhood.

Use gas-rebate credit cards. Some credit cards can save you up to 5% on gas. Three of the best cards in my opinion are the Discover Open Road Card (5% cash rebate on gas and car maintenance purchases), Chase PerfectCard MasterCard (6% rebate on gas purchases first 90 days, 3% thereafter), and BP Visa Rewards Card (10% rebates on gas purchases from BP during first two billing cycles, 5% thereafter).

Driving smarter

Keep it under 60. At speeds above 60 mph, miles per gallon starts to decrease significantly.

Avoid jackrabbit starts. Peeling out when the light turns green so you can be the first car at the next red light is like throwing money out the window. Gentle driving can save you up to 5%.

Unload. Remove unnecessary weight from your car (no, this doesn't include your spouse). Lightening the load by 100 pounds can improve your gas mileage by 2%.

Avoid using the roof rack. Items on top of your car, in addition to weighing you down, increase wind resistance, which lowers your gas mileage.

Use cruise control. Using cruise control on the highway when it's safe to do so improves fuel economy.

Use air conditioning on the highway, not in the city. If it's hot outside, using the air conditioner on the highway improves gas mileage over rolling down the windows because of air resistance. But in stop-and-go traffic, it's best to let Mother Nature cool you down.

Remove snow tires. Deep tread and big tires consume more fuel. When winter is over, remove the snow tires for better gas mileage.

Driving less

Telecommute. For many, it's the commute to and from work that burns the most gas. Telecommuting even one day a week will reduce those costs 20%, will reduce wear and tear on your car, and save lots of time, too. And telecommuting is a great way to start what I like to call slow-motion retirement.

Work four 10s or nine nine-hour days. If your boss isn't too keen on telecommuting, maybe he or she will allow you to work four 10-hour days and take every Friday off, or nine nine-hour days and take every other Friday off.

Rideshare. Join a group of friends or neighbors to carpool to work. This can substantially cut down on gas consumption. And if you live in an area that uses high-occupancy vehicle lanes, it can also get you to work faster.

Plan errands. We all have errands to run throughout the week and particularly on the weekends. Combine errands so you have to take fewer trips to get your chores done. In addition to saving gas, you'll also save time and aggravation.

Walk or bike when possible. More and more people are riding their bike to mass transit or to work. Even biking to work one or two days a week will save a substantial amount of gas.

Car and tire buying

Buy fuel-efficient cars. There are plenty of hybrid and other fuel-efficient cars to choose from. In my "Best of March 2008" article, you'll find a link for some of the least expensive hybrids on the market. Another great site to check out is Fuel Economy, a government-run Web site about hybrid vehicles. These cars are the ultimate in money management when it comes to fuel cost.

Buy an electric- or gas-powered scooter. These scooters are commonplace in many parts of the world, and their popularity is growing in the U.S. A Vespa, for example, gets up to 72 miles per gallon and has a top speed of 59 mph.

Consider fuel-efficient tires. Some tires are designed to increase fuel efficiency by decreasing the rolling resistance of the tire. Of course, there are other considerations when buying tires, including traction and handling, but the tires you put on your car can have a significant impact on your fuel economy. The Michelin Energy LX4 is an example of a fuel-efficient tire.

If you have other tips on how to reduce gas consumption, please leave a comment.

Other articles of interest at The Dough Roller:

How to pick your first mutual fund

Frontier markets: To boldly go where few investors have gone before

Senator Clinton's health care plan -- A detailed analysis

Published May 14, 2008



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