NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Gas prices continue to rise to atmospheric levels, leaving many Americans to wonder how they can save on fuel during the forthcoming summer months.
Fortunately, while little can be done to stop escalating costs, there are a few steps motorists can take to minimize the toll it takes on their pocketbooks.
“The biggest way to save on gas is to lower the amount of fuel you use,” Jen Funkhouser, the co-founder and CEO of CarCheckup, tells MainStreet. The most obvious way to do this, of course, is to simply drive less, but for those who prefer to stay on the road, there are some small changes to your driving habits you can make.
Turn off your car. “Minimize the time you spend in idle,” Funkhouser says, explaining that any time you find yourself stopping for more than 30 seconds or more – minus time spent in traffic – you should turn off your car.
Drive defensively. You should also cut back on driving fast, unnecessarily changing lanes, breaking hard and, conversely, slamming down on the accelerator since, according to experts (and the U.S. Department of Energy), aggressive driving eats up more fuel than defensive driving does. In fact, according to recent government estimates, gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph and drivers should assume that each 5 mph over that limit costs an additional 24 cents per gallon for gas.
Perform necessary repairs. The Energy Department estimates that fixing a serious maintenance problem can improve your gas mileage by as much as 40%. If you don’t have enough money to pay for a major repair, the DOE suggests some smaller adjustments, like keeping your tires properly inflated (improving gas mileage by 3.3%) and getting a tune-up improves gas mileage by an average of 4%. You could also just get rid of that junk in your trunk, since extra weight will also reduce your car’s fuel efficiency.
Use your smartphone. According to Andrea Woroch, a consumer savings expert for The Frugals, a network of money-saving websites that includes CouponSherpa.com, drivers looking to save on fuel should take advantage of all the help their smartphone has to offer.