The Ultimate Guide to Saving Money on Gas This 2012

Giving it up for GAS
bitzcelt / Foter

With the ever increasing oil prices these days, fueling has become one of the biggest monthly expenses for many families, especially if they own more than one vehicle. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can about the price of fuel, but the good news is that there are a few things you can try to make your tank go further.

Check out these tips to make 2012 your most frugal year yet, and don’t worry, we’re not going to suggest that you cycle to work every day or haul large bags of groceries home on foot after your weekly shopping.

Adjust your driving style

Believe it or not, the way you drive can actually have a big effect on how much fuel you use every time you step into your car, and if you’ve been driving inefficiently, you can probably save more money on gas than you thought possible.

Excessive braking and accelerating will waste a lot of gas, not to mention you’ll be wearing out your brake pads quicker as well. Keep a good distance between your car and the car in front of you to avoid having to slam on the brakes if it starts to slow down.

Cars use more gas when you accelerate, so try to drive as smoothly as possible. Don’t speed around the corner if you know there’s a traffic light up ahead and you’ll probably need to stop. Just keep a steady pace and gradually lower the gears as you reach the light. Then pick up speed slowly again once the light turns green.

The same goes if you are stuck in traffic. There’s no need to step on the accelerator and then slam on the brakes every time the car in front of you moves forward a few inches. Pay attention to the traffic around you and keep plenty of distance so that you can keep a slow and steady pace without braking and accelerating constantly.

Also, turn off the engine if you know you’ll be standing still for more than a minute or two, as idling will use a lot of gas unnecessarily.

Keep your car in shape

Even if you are too cheap to get regular maintenance on your car, you’ll end up paying the price anyway because when your car isn’t running smoothly, it will use far more gas than it needs too.

Have your tires checked regularly, as they can be the main culprits when it comes to wasted gas. If they are under inflated, you’ll use more gas and wear out your tires faster as well. Also, never use snow tires on regular surfaces as they will cause a lot of friction and waste gas.

The engine will also need a regular tuning if you want it to run efficiently, and things like oil filters need to be changed more often than you might think, especially if you drive on very dusty roads. Using the wrong motor oil can also waste gas, so check your manual and make sure you’re using the right kind.

Lighten your load

Recent studies have shown that fuel consumption can be up to 2% higher if your trunk is loaded with unnecessary items. Many people, especially families with children, tend to load their trunk full of junk that they used once and then forgot about.

Leaving knickknacks like unused hockey sticks, a child’s pram or a pile of toys into the back of your car could be costing you money, so clear out the junk. Bicycle or roof racks can also cause you to use more fuel, so be sure to remove them when you aren’t using them.

Previously it was thought that opening the windows could also cause you to use more fuel, but a recent study carried out by Consumer Reports found no measurable difference between driving with the windows up or down. So don’t bother sweating it out on a hot day, you aren’t doing yourself any favors.

Plan your trips in advance

How many times do you jump in the car throughout the day to run an errand, pick up the kids from school or go to the grocery store? Rather than making five smaller trips, why not try to plan everything into one or two trips? Obviously it won’t always be possible to do everything in one trip, but with a bit of careful planning, you can cut down significantly on the number of times you have to take the car out.

Another thing you could consider planning more carefully is your route. If you have to go out during rush hour, you can take a more roundabout way, which may normally take longer, but will actually save you time and gas that would otherwise be spent idling at stoplights.

Use regular fuel unless your owner’s manual requires premium

Many car owners think they are doing their car a favor by using the premium fuel as they think their engine will run better and last longer with it. However, unless your car’s manual specifies that you need premium fuel, you’ll be spending extra money and getting nothing in return, as most cars run just as well with regular fuel.

It is also a good idea to avoid buying gas on holidays or weekends, as the fuel prices will often go up during these times due to the fact that people tend to do more traveling.  

Try to avoid motorway service stations

Unless you absolutely have no other choice, it’s best to avoid filling up your tank at the service stations you come across on the motorway. They are not known for their rock bottom prices, and according to a recent survey by the consumer watchdog Which?, motorway service stations charge an average of 10p more per liter when compared to those located off the motorway.

Food and drink was also found to be far more expensive. If you’re planning a long trip with the family, be sure to fill up the tank before you get on the motorway and stock up on snacks and drinks for the kids.

Ally is part of the team that manages some of the most successful personal finance sites in Sydney, Australia, which provide helpful tips about Budgeting Planner and Saving Money Fast. Before joining the team, she was a Media Planner in McCann Worldgroup Philippines, Inc., wherein she had the opportunity to work on several innovative and globally recognized projects.