Save Money While You Drive: Fuel Efficiency Tips That Will Cut Car Costs
Most of us have been staying home more than ever these days, which means our vehicles aren’t being driven as frequently. That alone has saved us some money during a financially stressful time — and it doesn’t hurt that gas prices have tanked (pun intended) during the pandemic.
But now many states are opening up again. Many people have been able to avoid experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, which tend to be more severe than those of a traditional cold that most people can recover from in about 10 days. Free of the coronavirus, more Americans will be commuting to work, going out to eat, and partaking in at least some summertime activities. And since having access to your own vehicle is one of the healthiest ways to get from point A to point B, it’s no wonder that most of us will be driving on U.S. roads in the coming weeks.
Because money is still a concern for those who have been out of work, you may be wondering if there are some additional ways to cut costs while behind the wheel. Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to upgrade to an electric vehicle to save money on fuel. Fueling a car with electricity is actually comparable to fueling with petroleum, at $1 per gallon of gas. But there are other ways to improve fuel efficiency while driving your existing vehicle, allowing you to save money and be a bit more eco-conscious, too. Here are just a few ideas you may want to try out.
Drive Slower (But Not Too Slow)
Those who own recreational vehicles know that drivers are not recommended to exceed 60 miles per hour. For most American cars, peak operating efficiency occurs within the 50 to 60 miles-per-hour range. If you exceed that 60 MPH mark in a car, your gas mileage will decrease by quite a bit. In fact, if you accelerate to 80 miles per hour on a highway, your gas mileage might fall to 20 miles per gallon — which is about the same as what you might experience in a residential area or in spots with heavy traffic.
With that in mind, it makes sense to drive more slowly. However, driving too slowly can also decrease your car’s fuel efficiency (not to mention irritate the motorists behind you). On highways where the speed limit is around 55 or 60 miles per hour, you’ll get the best fuel efficiency if you stick to that range. In areas where the speed limit is 30 or 40, you’ll probably be sacrificing your gas mileage for safety and legality — but that’s likely worth it. If you have the option, it’s often better to take a highway than backroads for the bulk of your trip — as long as you don’t go too fast.
Don’t Over-Accelerate or Quickly Brake
When you’re in a hurry to get somewhere, you might be inclined to accelerate quickly or brake at the last second. Those are bad practices for fuel-efficiency. According to statistics published in the SAE International Journal of Fuels and Lubricants, jerking on the brakes caused aggressive drivers to burn 25% to 68% more fuel. Speeding up as soon as a traffic light turns green or slamming on the brakes at every stop sign isn’t just dangerous; it can cause you to waste gas, too.
Of course, your brakes are there to keep you safe. But if you can gradually slow to a stop and actually use your brakes as little as possible, you’ll conserve energy and require less fuel. The same goes for gradually coming up to optimal speed. Using cruise control is often a recommended practice — but even if you don’t use that feature, you can mimic the idea by gaining speed slowly and saving fuel in the process.
Stop Idling If You Can
If you don’t have a hybrid vehicle, you’ll still have to idle when stopped at a traffic light or in bumper-to-bumper conditions. But that doesn’t mean you have to idle in your car at other times. If you’re giving a family member a ride or are waiting to pick up your takeout order, turn the car off while you’re parked. If you’re sitting in a parking lot or your driveway, you can still turn the engine off while you listen to the radio; just turn your key halfway and you’ll save some fuel. In fact, you don’t even need to warm up your car for very long on those chilly mornings. Taking longer than a minute to do so will waste fuel and is actually unnecessary for modern cars.
Lighten Your Load
Although a large vehicle like a reefer trailer can carry up to 44,000 pounds, you shouldn’t test the weight limits of your own car if you’re looking to save fuel. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, having an extra 100 pounds of weight in your vehicle will decrease your MPG by roughly 1% — and if your vehicle is on the smaller side, any extra weight will impact your fuel efficiency even more. If you’re hauling anything in your car, you should remove it promptly (rather than forgetting about it for months).
That goes for roof cargo, as well. Using a roof-top cargo carrier will negatively impact your car’s wind resistance and lower fuel economy. In fact, these boxes can make your fuel efficiency decrease by anywhere from 2% to 8% in city driving, 6% to 17% on highways, and 10% to 20% on high-speed interstates. Rear-mount cargo boxes are better for fuel efficiency, so if you do need to use one of these, this is the better way to go. Either way, you should remove any kind of cargo container when it isn’t in use.
Other than being strategic about where you fuel up, you won’t have much control over the cost of gasoline. But if you remember these tips, you’ll be able to get more bang for your buck when you fill up your tank — and you might actually become a better, more eco-conscious driver at the same time.