Twin Commas Logo

Save Money on Gas - 5 Ways to Improve your Fuel Economy

Savings usually start with everyday, basic things. One thing we all take for granted, but should take time to improve is our fuel efficiency. We all know we're burning through gas as if there's no tomorrow, but we can do a few things to help ourselves. These are five things you can do immediately for no cost that will save you a few bucks at the pump.

Fill Your Tires

Checking tire pressure gauge

Usually the quickest way to get a few extra miles out of a tank of gas is to refill your tires. Tires should always be at their maximum pressure, and they need to be checked after winter because most will lose air during cold weather.

The idea here is pretty simple. Tires create friction with the road. When they are low on pressure, the part touching the road flattens out and creates a larger patch that contacts the ground. Because of this large patch, they create more friction and your car wastes more gas trying to move them. By inflating tires to their max, this flat contact patch becomes more like a point, with very little rubber touching the ground. The less area touching the road, the less friction you'll have, and the more gas you'll save.

Tire manufacturers usually label their tires with a higher maximum pressure than the car manufacturer recommends. I generally lean toward the tire's upper limit. You'll get a little extra efficiency, but you should note you may give up some stability and handling by exceeding the car maker's recommendations.

Close Your Windows

When I was growing up, I remember a lot of people telling me to open windows instead of using air conditioning because it saved gas. This may have been beneficial with older cars, or low speeds, but anymore it's just a myth.

Dog with head in wind out car window

In truth, drag is one of the biggest enemies to fuel efficiency. Drag is the force pushing against the forward motion of your car, literally because your car is dragging air. Remember when you were a kid and you stuck your hand out the window? The air would push against it so hard, your hand felt as if it could fall off. When your windows are open, air comes into the car and is captured by your seats and rear window. You're in essence pulling a huge mass of air with you, and it's many many times more than your hand grabs when you stick it outside.

The air conditioner may use a little power from the engine, but the drag created by open windows (especially at highway speeds) is a far greater factor.

Throw Away the Junk

This seems simple, and many people write it off as negligible, but the extra weight you carry in your car does cost you in gas mileage. Why would you want to tow something you don't need? Most people have newspapers, magazines, books, work files, extra shoes, etc. cluttering up their car. Getting rid of these things not only cleans up your car and makes it look nicer, but you'll save on gas. If you worry every time gas prices go up by a penny, you should worry about every pound of useless weight in your car.

Drive Patiently

Most of our driving habits are anti-fuel efficient. You would be surprised how much gas you can save just by easing up on the gas pedal. Have you ever slammed on the gas when you get a green light, only to slam on the breaks when you get to the next red light? Have you ever had to slam your breaks on the highway, then hurry to get up to speed again? These situations, like many others in everyday driving, can be avoided by anticipating what's ahead and being patient. You'll be a safer driver, reduce your road rage, and you'll save an alarming amount of gas.

Change Your Oil

Oil poured on gears

Any time you can reduce friction, you will improve fuel efficiency (as with your tires above). So, naturally you should go after the thing that's doing all the work, creating the most friction, and burning fuel--your engine. It's normal cycle creates a lot of friction, but oil is there to reduce it.

As oil gets older, it is filled with contaminates and breaks down, becoming less viscous (slippery). By changing your oil frequently and using high quality oil, you will improve your gas mileage. Check your fuel usage before and after your next tune-up, and you will see a noticeable difference, especially if you're driving an older car.

Savings Estimate

Try some of these and you'll soon see savings at the pump. If we assume the average person drives 15,000 miles per year and gets between 15 and 20 miles per gallon, such a person could realistically save $300 or more per year by watching their driving habits.

The table below is a summary of potential savings. The chart assumes two things: driving 15,000 miles per year and improving fuel efficiency by 10%. With these things in mind, look for your average fuel efficiency on the left and find where this row intersects the column corresponding to the average gas price in your area.

Fuel Efficiency Chart