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Money leaks: Driving like a maniac

Slowing down saves gas, and also reduces anxiety about seeing police cars stopped on the side of the road.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 23, 2011 9:20AM

This post comes from Jim Wang at partner blog Bargaineering.


When I first started driving, I was like any other early driver: I wanted to get where I was going as quickly as I could.


If that meant sacrificing a few miles per gallon to do it, I didn't think twice. Back then, gasoline was much cheaper, I had far more disposable income, and my fuel efficiency wasn't something I spent too much time thinking about.


Now that I use the car more often and see the pain at the pump each time I fill up, I'm more cognizant of how my driving habits affect my fuel use.


Nowadays, I drive more casually. I tend to drive at slower speeds, I'm almost never in a rush, and it's done wonders for both my fuel mileage and my general disposition. At first, it was tough. Then I learned to enjoy what was on the radio, enjoy the sights (even if it was just some trees whizzing by), and I felt zero anxiety about seeing police cars stopped at the side of the highway. (When you're going at the speed limit or just a few miles over it, instead of 10, you won't get pulled over for speeding.)


It has translated to better fuel efficiency -- reducing a money leak -- but more importantly, I think I'm calmer. 


Here are a few driving tips that can get you a few extra miles per gallon:


Slow down. A 20-mile drive takes 15 minutes if you're flying at 80 mph. It takes 20 minutes if you're going at 60 mph -- except you won't ever get pulled over on the highway going 60 mph. Are you really trying to save those five minutes or do you just prefer to drive fast? Chances are, it's the latter. (If it's because you want to save five minutes, leave five minutes earlier.) When you slow down, you save gas (less wind resistance to fight) and you lower your stress, both of which are good for you.


Don't accelerate or brake sharply. When you accelerate, whether it's slowly or quickly, you use more gasoline than when you're idling (duh!) or coasting. When you accelerate quickly, you use it much faster than if you accelerate slowly, so avoid increasing your rate of speed drastically and you'll cut down on wasted fuel.


The reason why city driving mileage is lower than highway mileage is because of the constant acceleration from a complete stop (such as at lights and stop signs). Braking doesn't cost you fuel; it costs you speed. But after you brake, you need more fuel to get back to "normal" driving speed. So avoid braking by giving yourself ample distance between vehicles.


Lighten your load. Are you carrying a lot of unnecessary stuff in your car? The heavier your car, the more fuel it takes to move it around. Some people have even resorted to removing seats to reduce the weight of the car. (I would not recommend removing your spare tire, though!)


Perform regular maintenance. As we try to save a few extra dollars, you might have considered changing your oil less frequently than the manual instructs or skipping check-ups and maintenance needs. Don't. Regular maintenance and oil changes keep your car at peak performance and lengthens its life span, both of which will save you money in the long run.


Use the proper fuel. If your car takes regular unleaded gasoline, use regular unleaded. If it requires premium, use premium. Don't use premium if you only need regular, and don't use regular if your car requires premium. The octane has to do with how much the fuel can be compressed before it ignites. Premium isn't "better," so don't buy it unless you need it. (You can read more about the high-octane gas myth.)


What are your best gas-saving tips?


More on Bargaineering and MSN Money:



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