10 Simple Steps to Cut Fuel Costs and Improve Fuel Economy

Cut Fuel Costs

Don’t have a smart car? Take steps to lower your fuel costs!

How are these gas prices affecting you?

With gas prices hovering around $4, and even higher in some parts of the Country, consumers are rightfully concerned about keeping their monthly gas budget in check.

People with long commutes or those who drive for a living are painfully aware of even the slightest uptick in prices. These high prices have to be killing some folks.

To be honest, it’s not been too big of a deal for me. I have an extremely short commute to work every day (either to the local library or to my desk across the bedroom). Mrs. PT does as well. She commutes downstairs.

The increase in prices is something I’ve noticed (due to the media), but not something I stay up at night worrying about. Except when we went on our trip to Destin, FL. Gas expenses were almost 50% of our costs. Crazy.

Regardless of what type of commute you have, Summer is usually a time when we all need to start paying attention to this stuff.  So, if you’re in the same boat, pay attention to these simple steps to help you improve fuel economy:

1. Keep Tires Properly Inflated

This could cut your fuel cost by $65* every year. I’m assuming the flatter your tires, the more friction they create with the ground and the harder your car has to work to get going.

I mostly rely on the mechanics who change our oil to check the pressure, but more recently I’ve been checking them with the cheap little tire gauge that I have.  I also recently bought a small air compressor, which I use to keep them properly inflated.

Here’s an informative post explaining how to care for your car tires.

2. Proper Motor Oil Grade

Do you know what type of oil your car uses? I couldn’t exactly spout it off from memory. Check your car’s manual to find out, because using the correct grade could cut your costs by $40 a year. Get your oil changed regularly.

3. Keep Your Car Tuned Up

Beyond tires and oil, you should strive to keep your car in good running order. This means keeping things like air filters, spark plugs, and belts and fluids in tip-top shape. Before the heavily traveled summer months hit, take your car in for a tune-up.

Investing $100 today could save you hundreds over the length of the summer. It certainly helps to have a trusted mechanic to rely on, but you don’t have to take it into someone else.

Do a bit of research online and with your car’s manual to see if there are things you can do yourself.

Checking the oil and the air filter aren’t hard on most vehicles, and replacing filters is usually very easy. See if you can do it yourself.

4. Combine Your Trips and Walking

I’m bad about this. Some days I go out to work, drive home for a lunch I could have packed, and come home after work only to go right back out to run an errand.

If I’d only spend an extra 10 mins in the morning preparing a lunch and preparing for errands, not only would I save time, but I’d save gas.  Those 10 mins seem like an eternity when I’m rushing out in the mornings though.

Walking is a different story. Here in the big, spread out metroplexes of Texas, you’d be crazy to try and walk or even ride a bike anywhere. Although, I’d like to be able to do this sometimes.

It’s just not feasible for me. These two changes though could cut your costs by $100 a year.

5. Shop More Online

These days you can buy just about anything you want online, and with the advent of the many free shipping sites, you can just about get everything you need without having to pay to have it shipped in. Some people even have their groceries delivered from an online service.

Not only does this save you a bit of fuel expense, but it can also possibly save you time running around.

6. Eliminate Speeding and Jackrabbit Stops and Starts

Slow down, dude! When I see people pass me up speeding only to be caught by the red light a few hundred yards away, I just have to laugh. We all get in a hurry sometimes, but it’s still funny to me to see people do this.

I’m certainly not immune to this type of driving, but I have mellowed out tremendously over the past few years. This is the big tip which could cut your costs by $260 a year. It might also save your life.

7. Don’t Idle for More Than a Minute

If you know you’ll be sitting idle in your car for a few minutes, turn it off. If there is a long line at the drive-through, consider parking your car and walking in. Stuck at a train? Turn your car off.

Experts say it’s better to restart your car if you know you’ll be idle for more than a minute. One last tip, if you’ve been avoiding getting that zip pass for the tollway, consider the cost of idling to pay the toll at the booth.

8. Removed the Junk from Your Auto

Got some junk in the trunk? Clear it out and cut your costs by $40 a year for every 100lbs. We keep our cars pretty clear of stuff so we’re all good here. How about you?

9. Buy the Cheapest Gas

Duh! To keep fuel costs down, you should buy the cheapest fuel. But don’t let your efforts to get the cheapest send you all over town, wasting precious gas, to find the cheapest. Get smart about it.

Download the Gas Buddy app for your mobile device and you will quickly find the cheapest gas in your zip code. It can help you save as much as .10 per gallon just by going to the right gas station.

10. Consider Discounts and Cash Back

If you shop often at Kroger, as we do, consider becoming a loyalty member. Each time you buy $100 worth of groceries, you’ll qualify for .10 per gallon off your next gas purchase. Another way to save at the pump is to get cash back for using a gas rewards credit card or debit card.

Of course, as always, only use the credit card if you can pay off the balance in full each month. Interest on credit cards will defeat the purpose of using them for cash back rewards.

11. Know When to Buy

Gas prices are generally lowest on Wednesday, as demand is higher on the weekends. Also, fuel up in the morning to take advantage of the fact that gasoline is densest when it is cooler out—and pumps charge you by volume rather than density.

*Cost estimates based on a family that drives 12,500 miles in a year in a vehicle with a fuel economy of 20.1 miles per gallon.

Know any other ways to improve fuel economy? Leave ’em in the comments below…

photo by SqueakyMarmot

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  1. Financeyoga says:

    Great post. Just to give another tip that I always tell people, When you are on the highway, roll your wiindows up and use your AC. The windows being rolled down create a resistance that makes your car work harder, thus more gas. The AC is ran by a belt in which the engine turns, this means that using your AC does cost extra gas money, but while on the highway, it is actually cheaper on gas to use your AC with your windows rolled up. On the flip side to this, when in town, roll down your windows down and turn off the AC. I know it isn’t as cool, but you will save money because the AC will use more gas than if you rolled down your windows in stead. At such low speeds, the wind doesn’t cause nearly enough resistance to cost more than the AC would to cool your face.
    Great post, and hope this helps,
    Jeremiah Brown @Financeyoga 

  2. I like these tips – most of them are pretty straightforward to implement. The thing is that if you only were to implement the easiest ones you would see significant savings on your fuel bill over the course of a year. I think the issue that most people have is that it is hard to get visibility on the actual savings, $100 spread out over a year is hard to notice – but that being said it still is $100!

  3. That’s an excellent idea, Chris. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Good tips. I would also suggest doing more shopping online. You may have to pay shipping costs, but with gas approaching $4 a gallon, you’re likely going to be paying the same amount or more depending on where you live in relation to the stores you are shopping at. If you can start doing more shopping online in general, you may be able to save some money over the long term. Look for sites that have free or discounted shipping.