It happens every summer – gas prices spike as consumer demand increases. Family vacations, long trips, and better weather all encourage driving and result in higher gas prices across the board and filling up the tank seems to empty the wallet.
However, there are a number of ways that drivers end up wasting gas, increasing their fuel bill and not getting anything in return. Here are 10 ways that you might be wasting gas, and how you can stop.
1. Flooring It
Few things are more exhilarating than standing on the gas and ripping up to 60 MPH in a few seconds. And few things waste more gas. Don’t putter along the on-ramp or create a safety hazard, but most of the time, gradual acceleration with just a little pressure on the accelerator will get your car up to speed perfectly well without burning a ton of fuel in the process.
2. Ignore The Lights
Stop-and-go traffic patterns are a major cause of wasted fuel. Cruising through green light after green light is efficient, letting your engine run at an economical speed and not wasting energy through constantly stopping and starting. Learn the timings of the street lights along your regular travel routes, and what speeds should be maintained in order to avoid the red-light cycles.
3. Keep Driving That Beater
Older cars have a certain classic style…but they also have ancient engine technologies that were designed in a day when gasoline cost 10 cents a gallon. Modern engines are vastly more fuel efficient while delivering similar power levels. An investment in a new car will pay huge dividends in fuel economy.
4. Buy E85 Fuels
Ethanol is a contentious issue, but one thing isn’t controversial: running an engine on E85/ethanol fuel cuts your mileage by about 7 MPG. Use regular gas whenever possible to maximize your mileage.
5. Let It Idle
Modern engines are extremely efficient in their start cycle. If you idle a newer car for more than about ten seconds, you’d be better off, in terms of fuel consumption, to shut it off and start it again when you’re ready to move again. Be careful doing this at intersections, but if you’re waiting for a passenger off the road, shut it down and save yourself some gas.
6. Drive In Traffic
You may not have a choice – but if at all possible, get on the highway when the road is clear instead of joining the commuter convoy. Traffic causes slowing and acceleration, wasting gas with every change in velocity. Cars get the best mileage when they maintain a steady speed – if you can schedule long drives for quiet times, you’ll see the results in the fuel bill.
7. Turn Off The Cruise Control
We like to control our speed, and we like to “get ahead” of other drivers. But if you’re engaging in that kind of racetrack behavior, you’re burning fuel for little, or no, improvement in your actual travel time. Get to the safe highway speed, engage the cruise control, and let the computer keep your speed and RPMs steady and stable.
8. Ignore the Octane Ratings
If your car requires a high-octane fuel, but you feed it regular gas, it will run just fine (thanks to modern computer-controlled ignition systems) but it will also lose mileage. You can lose 6 MPG just by being two octane rating points short of what your engine is designed for. It looks like a big savings to buy the cheapest gas – but for nearly all modern vehicles, the gasoline with the recommended octane level is the gasoline that will have the lowest cost-per-mile.
9. Blow Off the Maintenance Cycle
Oil changes, filter checks, sensor replacement – these maintenance tasks are unglamorous and easy to ignore. But they can also absolutely devastate your mileage, particularly sensors that fail with use. Keep your vehicle at peak maintenance, and you’ll make the money back by preserving your fuel economy.
10. Get The Expensive Tires
High-performance, high-grip tires might improve your safety (and sometimes that will be the most important concern) and road performance, but they also use a lot more gas. The “stickier” your tires are, the more fuel has to be burned to get them rolling. Don’t roll around on bald rubber, but don’t buy more tire performance than you actually need, either.