How to Beat the Rising Cost of Fuel

Fuel is one of life’s necessities for those of us who own our own vehicle. Increasingly, that fuel comes at a significant premium. While gas prices were down for much of 2010, 2011 is shaping up to be a very different beast indeed. In fact, gas is slated to hit $4 per gallon this year, and it might not come back down. Of course, that’s usually the story with gas prices, but when you combine those high fuel costs with the lingering economic problems, it spells trouble for a lot of people. However, there are ways that you can beat the rising cost of fuel and save some money at the pump.

Idle TimeGas Pump
One of the best ways to cut down on your fuel costs is to stop letting your car idle. Warming it up in the morning is fine, but don’t let it sit there running for 15 minutes while you finish your breakfast and watch the news. Generally, you only need to let the engine warm up for about 45 seconds to a minute. This gives it enough time to begin circulating the oil and for the transmission fluid to warm up for operation.

If you’re warming your car up so that it can be nice and toasty when you get in, consider wearing a heavier coat or keeping a pair of driving gloves handy. Your car wastes an enormous amount of fuel when idling, so cut back on this and save.

Starting and Stopping
Needlessly starting and stopping your engine also wastes a considerable amount of fuel. While most folks don’t crank their car and then shut if off immediately, just to repeat the process, you might be able to identify some areas where you could just leave your car idling for a minute and reduce the costs. In reality, your car uses the same amount of gas during cranking as it does during a 60-second round of idling. Therefore, if you’re only going to be out of the car for a minute, leave it idling rather than turning it off. While that might seem at odds with the first tip, saving gas during the startup process is as important as anything else here.

How often do you “just punch it”? Hitting the gas pedal hard is necessary at times, like when merging onto a busy freeway or avoiding a potential accident. However, if you punch the pedal all the time, you’re just pouring money down the drain. Instead, accelerate slowly, as it requires more fuel to get your car up to speed than it does to maintain a certain speed once achieved. Avoid fast starts and you’ll make that tank of gas last longer.

Stay Cool
It might seem strange, but the gas pump at your local quick-mart doesn’t charge you the same amount of money for an identical amount of gas during different times of the day. When gasoline is cold, it is denser and it is less dense when it warms. Therefore, it’s best to fill up your tank during the morning or evening, when gas is at its densest. Because the pump calculates your purchase by volume, filling up when gas is at its densest will give you more volume for your dollar. Of course, it’s not always possible to do this, but it is a good way to start saving some money at the pump and making your car go farther on a tank.

More Idle Time Tips
Drive through lanes are very, very handy. They allow you to get food, make bank deposits and more without ever getting out of your car. However, they’re horrible on your gas mileage. Remember the earlier tip: if your engine will be idling for more than a minute, cut it off. That means rather than sitting in the drive through lane for 10 minutes, park and go inside. It’ll save you a considerable amount of fuel.

Plan Your Errands Effectively
You will also find that running your errands in a haphazard fashion will cost you more in fuel. The best way to save fuel and still get everything done is to plan your trip. Accomplish all of your errands in one trip, and start with the location that is farthest from your home and work backwards. Don’t leave your car idling at these stops either, unless you’ll be inside for 60 seconds or less.

Maintenance, Maintenance, Maintenance
If you really want your car to get the best fuel mileage so you save at the pump, then you need to maintain your car properly. Regular oil changes and tire rotations are just the start here. You also need to make sure that your tires are properly inflated, that your car is aligned correctly and that your air filter is clean and free of debris.

Following these tips will help you increase your fuel mileage, reduce the number of times you have to fill up your tank and save you some big money over time.

Categories Saving Money

One thought on “How to Beat the Rising Cost of Fuel”

  1. Idling for longer than 30 seconds may not be better than shutting off the engine and restarting. From the Washington State Department of Ecology Idling Reduction Fact Sheet:

    – Drivers who shut off their engines, rather than idling for 30 seconds, benefit from both fuel savings and improved air quality. (average of recommended times from the U.S. EPA, Natural Resources Canada and Programs Europe)
    – Frequent restarting has little impact on engine components like battery and starter motor. Wear caused by restarting is estimated to add $10 per year to the cost of driving, money likely recovered several times over in fuel savings. (Natural Resources Canada)
    – Excessive idling can be hard on your engine because it isn’t working at peak operating temperature. Fuel doesn’t undergo complete combustion, leaving spark plugs dirty and contaminating engine oil. (Oregon’s Clean Air Action Day fact sheet)
    – Idling isn’t an effective way to warm up your vehicle in cold weather. Modern engines need no more than 30 seconds of idling on winter days before starting to drive.

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