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Save Money on Gas With These 10 Tips

written by: Olivia Emisar•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 9/8/2011

Wall Street speculators have forced gas prices to spiral out of control in recent months. Fortunately, you can counteract these increases by driving smarter and more efficiently. Try some of these unusual tips to save on fuel.

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    United Parcel Service

    UPS strives for efficiency to serve its customer as well as lower the cost of doing business. Bob Stoffel, UPS Vice-President, explainsUPS Truck  that making only right-hand turns has enabled the company to deliver over 300,000 more packages, reduce CO emissions by 20,000 metric tons and reduce mileage by over 20 million miles. Engineers worked on this system to increase efficiency and productivity that benefits the environment and saves money. The popular television show Myth Busters corroborated the findings during a replication of UPS techniques. Here are three main tips to save gas to replicate UPS results:

    • Make only right turns to save time and gas instead of idling the vehicle to make left turns.
    • Plan trips that coordinate errands on your way to/from work to eliminate excessive driving.
    • Plan road trips during off-peak hours to maintain steady speeds that save money and time.
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    Government Recommendations

    The United States Department of Transportation states that driving at a steady speed by following posted speed limits reduces mileage by 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent in the city. Government studies state that driving 5 miles over the speed limit increases the cost of fuel by 0.24 cents per gallon. Not only does driving at the speed limit save money on fuel, but it is a safe practice that allows the driver greater control over the vehicle to avoid potentially fatal accidents.

    • Drive at the speed limit.
    • Remove excessive weight from the vehicle. A mini-van equipped with a seldom-used removable middle or third seat will easily add 70 to 100 pounds of weight. Sporting gear that is used on occasional weekends should find its way back to the garage after using it and only placed back in the trunk when it is necessary. This tip to save gas can shave 2 percent off the gas bill per 100 pounds of weight.
    • Cruise control: Using cruise control enables steady highway speeds that reduce fuel consumption.

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    Vehicle Maintenance

    Everyone has heard that the best tip to save gas is to keep vehicles properly maintained, but most people do not understand how this practice saves money or helps the environment.

    We have recorded steady mileage on a 1998 Plymouth Voyager and a 2001 Chevy Silverado 1500, 5.3 liter V8. The mini-van factory specifications when it was brand new stated 19 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. With the simple outlined maintenance plan below, the 13 year old mini-van yields 23 to 25 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway.

    Factory specifications for the Chevy Truck were 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. We currently get 23 in the city and 27 on the highway. When the truck is hauling an RV, the mileage drops to 17 to 18 mpg on the highway. These are impressive results that can compete in mileage with brand new vehicles.

    • Change spark-plugs: it allows for less gas to fire up spark-plugs and a car that drives better and safer.
    • Oil changes: Using synthetic oils are better for the environment because they require less changes and also increase mileage due to less deposits with less chance of gunking up the engine. Gunking makes the engine work harder and use more gas.
    • Air Filters: Practice changing the air filter at every oil change. Air filters clean the air going into the carburetor and eliminate "burning rich" which is the term used for a vehicle burning more gas since the oxygen-to-fuel ratio is off-balance.*
    • Rotate and inflate tires. Use the vehicle's manufacturer recommendations. Under-inflated and worn-out tires create greater rolling resistant that forces the engine to use more fuel to move the car.

    *The truck and mini-van's standard throw-away air filters were replaced with AirHog high-performance air filters. The initial cost is offset by their longevity (five years when cleaned as recommended) and better for the environment by reducing waste. On average, we have seen an increase of 4 mpg since switching to high-performance air filters.

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    Ten Bonus Tips To Save On Fuel

    The list of tips to save gas is far from complete; there are other ways to increase savings and reduce consumption, though some are less practical and can even be dangerous. For instance, driving a stick shift saves fuel but most people do not own a standard car or want to buy one.

    Another way to save fuel is called "dragging", where a small vehicle takes advantage of following extremely close behind a freight truck to allow the truck to absorb the wind resistance, thus, saving fuel. This is considered a dangerous practice because the truck driver can't see a small vehicle in the mirrors, and the vehicle behind him can't see what's ahead of the truck. Any sudden braking will likely cause a fatal accident.

    Additional practical and safe tips include:

    1. Costco and Sam's Club warehouses are worth the price of membership in fuel savings alone. Both have rewards cards that will reimburse up to 3 percent on the cost of fuel purchased at their stations. This savings is in addition to the lower cost of fuel at their stations.
    2. Free memberships at grocery stores that also have a gas station offer cents off their fuel stations based on grocery purchases. This is a good way to combine necessary trips.
    3. Tighten the gas cap: A loose or worn out cap allows gas to evaporate increasing the need for refills.
    4. Do not idle: Modern cars don't need to be warmed up like older vehicles.
    5. Use websites like to check gas prices before heading out the door.
    6. Use a GPS with live traffic updates to plan alternate, fuel saving routes.
    7. On the market for a new car? Focus on mileage first when determining needs and work your way down to other specifications. If purchasing a vehicle for a family of six, narrow the choices available to the vehicle that offers the highest mileage.
    8. Ditch the designer premium gasoline and use a lower grade as allowed by your manufacturer. All gasoline stations receive their fuel from the same manufacturing and distribution locations. Brand names cost money and do not increase performance or mileage.
    9. Travel on well paved roads whenever possible. Dirt and gravel roads can increase fuel consumption by 30 percent.
    10. Share the cost of fuel by carpooling with co-workers and trade with chauffeur duties with other parents.

    While walking and bycicling is often touted as the best way to save on gas, it is not often a practical alternative in most situations, but worth implementing whenever possible.

    Please be sure to check out the other tips and strategies in Bright Hub's collection of personal and household budgeting guides.

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