Paying today’s crazy-high gas prices bring on some pretty serious reactions and a certain amount of denial. Many wonder when this will end. Some get angry. Others suck it up and just pay the price, figuring it will return to a reasonable cost at some point. Many are considering electric cars for the first time. But what can you do about it right now to cut your gas bill, in real time, with the car you’re driving?
The thought of boycotting your local gas stations is a pleasant thought but won’t work unless you’re already driving electric. You still need to get the kids to school, go grocery shopping, and get business done. You need some real options that make sense and can be done pretty easily.
Here are some strategies that come to mind. None involve dumping your car and getting a new one. We know that’s not always possible, especially today with unreasonably high car prices due to current conditions. You need to keep driving your everyday ride but just have to do something about the high gas costs that are wrecking your budget. So, consider giving these tips a shot.
YOUR ACTION PLAN
1. Start here: Don’t drive as much. Really, this isn’t as painful as it sounds. We’ve grown accustomed to our cars providing mobility on demand. That’s a good thing when it isn’t hurting our wallets or contributing to growing oil dependency. It’s not so good today. So plan ahead. Combining your day’s errands into sequential trips one after another is a great strategy. This is an easy way to save fuel, cut your gas bill, and lessen your carbon footprint. It will also decrease tailpipe emissions by eliminating unnecessary cold-starts when your car’s emissions control system is least effective.
2. Ease off on the pedal. Okay, maybe you’re not really hot rodding your way down the street. But chances are good you’re not thinking about taking it easy from one traffic light to the next. Light accelerator pressure and a conscious effort to avoid quick starts and stops do make a difference in fuel economy, sometimes a pretty big one. Give it a try. While you’re at it, smooth out your pedal pressure at highway speeds as well by using your cruise control whenever appropriate.
3. Feeling the need for speed? Let it go. It’s easy to creep past posted speed limits without thinking about it. That’s especially on urban highways where traffic often tends to move well beyond 65 mph. We’ve found some freeways regularly flowing at 80 mph and sometimes more. The problem is that fuel efficiency diminishes rapidly above 60 mph. The EPA points out that each 5 mph driven above that speed has the net effect of costing you about 20 cents more per gallon.
4. Do you need premium? If you’re filling up on mid-grade or premium fuel, check to see if you really need to do this. Some high-compression engines do require higher octane fuel to run properly. In fact, serious engine damage could result from using a lower grade fuel than is specified in your owner’s manual. But if you don’t need premium fuel you shouldn’t be filling up with it. Premium fuel costs about 20 to 40 cents more per gallon but doesn’t provide better performance in engines designed to run on regular. If you’re fueling up with premium and don’t need to, you’re essentially pumping cash out your tailpipe. Not a pleasant thought, is it?
MORE MONEY SAVING TIPS
5. Pressure can be a good thing. Check your tire pressure weekly and keep your tires aired up to the recommended psi. This is so simple you’d assume everyone does this regularly. Not so. And that’s too bad since tires with low pressure create greater rolling resistance that can cost you up to 3 percent in fuel efficiency. Tires heat up while you drive, so checking pressure while hot will give an artificially high reading. Make a habit of checking tire pressure before driving when your tires are cold. You might also consider buying more fuel efficient low rolling resistance tires the next time your car is ready for new treads.
6. Cash or card? This is an obvious one. Gas stations typically have prices posted for regular, mid-grade, and premium fuel. Two sets of prices are often shown, one for cash and one for credit/debit cards. You’ll often note that the cash price is significantly lower, often 20 cents per gallon less than if you use a card. So, you know what to do.
7. Shop around. Like any business, gas stations have competition. It’s often the case that gas prices can vary by as much as 50 cents per gallon, maybe more in a geographical area. We’re not suggesting that you waste gas by trolling for the lowest price, but do pay attention to posted prices as you go about your daily drives. You’ll see which stations tend to offer the lowest gas prices. One of the best ways to price shop is with a free service like GasBuddy that allows you to search online for your area’s lowest gas prices. Make the process even easier by downloading the app so you can check on price fluctuations on your phone whenever it’s convenient during your travels.