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According to AAA, the national average price for regular gasoline is $4,033 as of Aug. 9. That’s $0.156 cheaper than just a week ago and $0.663 less than last month. A full 23 states have average gas prices below $4 as of the same date. But just because gas prices are finally dipping from painful highs, that doesn’t mean you should stop trying to save money while you’re on the road.
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According to AAA, personal driving habits play the biggest part in increased fuel consumption. Experts agree that even small, easily adaptable changes to those habits will help you get maximum miles from your tank of fuel. Ten ways you can save a bit of cash while driving your car or truck follow.
1. Slow down
Sticking to the speed limit is crucial to save fuel. Per Admiral, a driver will “use up to 9% more fuel by driving at 70mph instead of 60mph and up to 15% more than at 50mph.” Speeding along at 80mph can waste 25% more fuel than driving at 70mph. AAA recommends that drivers try to avoid “jackrabbit” starts and hard acceleration as best as they can as these movements increase fuel consumption.
2. Stop Idling
The economic driver should always avoid prolonged idling because it wastes fuel unnecessarily. If your car will be stopped for more than 60 seconds, shut off the engine to save fuel, says AAA. But as CNET reports, the Argonne National Laboratory recommends turning off the engine for stops longer than even 10 seconds will help reduce emissions and save fuel costs — unless you’re driving a diesel rig, in which case you may be better served by letting the engine run until the vehicle arrives at its destination.
3. Start Using Cruise Control
Cruise control is the easiest way for drivers to keep a constant speed and save fuel. It is particularly valuable when driving on a highway, when there are less reasons to vary your speed. However, as AAA notes, it’s better to keep control of your speed yourself on slippery roads to avoid veering off course.
4. Inflate Your Tires
As CNET reports, the US Department of Energy states that gas mileage can be improved by 0.6% to 3% by having your tires inflated to the proper pressure — and that you can lower your mileage by 0.2% for every pound per square inch of air dropped. Even a slightly deflated tire can cause drag or resistance and make your car work harder than it needs to. Ensuring your tires are correctly inflated helps fuel efficiency and prolongs their life on your car.
5. Cut the Air Conditioning, Maybe
Given the suffering caused by recent heat waves rolling across the country, this may seem a difficult prospect. But minimizing your use of air conditioning can really make a difference. Opinions conflict on the matter, with AAA saying that air conditioning being utilized — even while the vehicle is traveling at highway speeds — requires more fuel than, say, open windows. Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, disagrees, per CNET. De Haan argues that air conditioning is preferable to open windows at such speeds (largely due to drag), and recommends using the AC when performing such journeys. When driving in urban areas with a low speed limit, or with plenty of stops and starts, rolling the windows down for cooling is preferable, per De Haan.
6. Practice Sensible Driving
Sensible driving is key to boosting your car’s fuel economy. Adjusting your speed to anticipate traffic lights, taking a route known for fewer stops, coasting to red light stops and accelerating smoothly will all help you from consuming fuel. It is difficult to do it in the city, but if you can avoid repeated braking and acceleration — and reduce sudden rpm jolts to your vehicle’s engine — you’ll ease the pressure on its gears, and you’ll save fuel.
7. No Heavy Hauling
Taking racks and items like bicycles off the top of your vehicle when you don’t need them will save you money. Cars are designed to mitigate wind resistance, so a bulky storage unit perched atop your car defeats that purpose. As AAA explains, your car uses more fuel to move a heavier load. “On the highway, even an empty bike, canoe or ski rack can reduce fuel economy, and a loaded rack or car-top container will have a major effect on gas mileage,” the site notes. Also, your car is not a free storage locker, so don’t treat it like one by cluttering up the back seat and trunk with heavy junk.
8. Plan Your Car Outings
According to CNET, try to avoid driving back and forth to do errands — and try to do all your away from home tasks in one trip, if possible. Driving at off-peak times, planning trips ahead to accomplish multiple errands in one go, carpooling or car sharing can all help in reducing your gas bill.
9. Search for Bargain Gas
As Admiral suggests, fuel is your car’s biggest running cost, so it makes sense to buy it as cheap as possible. Especially now, gas varies in price throughout a city. If it isn’t a long drive to get it, try to find out which stations have cheaper fuel. Fill up at supermarkets and wholesalers who normally provide less expensive gas, and use coupons and discount cards when you can.
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10. Don’t Drive if it’s Not Necessary
If you are concerned about saving, simply don’t drive. There are plenty of good reasons to use public transport and even more to walk, run or cycle to your destination. Helping the environment, your bank balance and your physical and mental health might be the incentives you need to cut down on driving.
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