July 8 2009|11.39 AM UTC

David Tu

15 Wallet Fattening Gas Tips for the Summer

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As summer continues to chug along, your plans for road trips may be slightly hampered by the usual rise of gasoline prices during the summer.  Here’s a quick list of 15 ways you can keep fuel economy optimal during a season of weekend getaways and road trips.

Smart fill-ups: According to the savvy-money folks at WiseBread, it is better to fill up your tank during the week then the weekend. During the weekend gas prices increase in order to meet the demand. The ideal times to fill up are Tuesday nights and Wednesday mornings.

Dump the Pump more often. Gas prices are expected to rise this summer – they’ve already gone up 19% in the last month – so explore ways to cut back on your monthly gas bill by taking public transport or car pooling to go to work, as well as walking to neighborhood shops for your errands.

Take cover: Did you know that a hot car evaporates gas? If you live in an area that can get especially hot, you should consider parking your car in the shade or in the garage on a very hot day.

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Start a gas-pool: Get a group of your friends or coworkers together and start a gas fund. Every week, one person will be responsible for driving. To even it out, have passengers pitch in a small sum to even out the costs for everyone.

Keep back 500 feet: Tailgating is not only unsafe but it wastes tons of gas, as mentioned by CNN Money. Each time the driver ahead slows down you have to slow down even more. Once the driver ahead accelerates again, you have to speed up again. By staying back you will be able to drive smoothly and save precious gas miles.

Watch your speed. Driving at a reasonable speed will conserve gas. As a rule of thumb, you can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas.

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Buy a fuel efficient vehicle. Practical for those looking to swap out their older vehicle — pick the most fuel efficient car for the class you’re considering.  For example, the most fuel efficient standard pickup truck is the Chevrolet Silverado Hybrid (8 cylinder), topping in 21 MPG for city and 26 MPG for highway; while conversely, the least fuel efficient standard pickup is the Dodge Dakota (6 cylinder), measuring at 16 MPG for city and 20 MPG for highway.

Cool it on the AC. Now that we are headed for warmer weather, use the “economy” or “recirculation” setting on your AC.  When you’re not driving on the highway (or driving in a low speed), consider simply rolling down the window to keep the car cooler.

Cruise control. Consider using cruise control on the highway for better fuel management. When the engine keeps at a consistent speed, it is more efficient in its fuel usage.

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Lighten up. Avoid letting your car become your closet.  Take everything out of the car that you don’t need so your engine won’t have to work as hard. If you’re packing for a road trip, try to keep luggage inside the vehicle rather than strapping  them to roof, where they may create wind resistance and more drag.

Drive gently and no more slamming on the brakes: Instead of driving aggressively, try driving gently. By making a gradual acceleration instead of aggressively hitting the accelerator, it will improve your fuel economy. Also, do not slam on your brakes; instead allow your car to gradually decelerate when coming up to a red light or stop sign. This will save you gas.

Stay on the straight and narrow. Constantly switching lanes and taking sharp, abrupt corners means you are wasting more gas says TreeHugger.com. Stay in your lane, keep driving straight ahead and take your time with turns.

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Live near public transportation. If you’re going to move somewhere temporarily for the summer, choosing a public transportation rich area can do wonders. Household residents living within proximity of public transportation drive an average of 4,400 fewer miles annually compare to those with no access to public transportation. At current US average gas price of $2.62 and average mpg of 22 for modern cars, that’s a saving of over $520 per year!

Lube the car correctly. You don’t have to religiously do an oil change every 3,000 miles, but using the correct manufacture recommended grade of motor oil can save up to 1-2 percent in gas. You should also look for motor oil that says “energy conserving” on the label to be sure it contains friction-reducing additives.

Keep it pumped. Properly inflated tires play a big role in good fuel economy, so keep those tires at the proper pressure.  Check your car’s owner manual or look for the pressure rating inside the driver’s side door — remember, occasionally the pressure levels may be different for the front and rear tires!

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

josh July 12, 2009 at 7:35 pm

Actually gas has gone down 10 cents in the last week and will continue to drop. we have seen the peak of gas prices for the summer barring any hurricanes.

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Anonymous July 13, 2009 at 1:08 am

Josh has spoken. There is hope.

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God July 13, 2009 at 1:10 am

Oh, there will be plenty of hurricanes. Just you wait, Josh…. Just you wait….

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What Eva July 13, 2009 at 2:01 am

“use the “economy” or “recirculation” setting on your AC.”

Nope. In a car (unlike a home unit), the compressor is engaged as long as the AC is on. It doesn’t matter what you do with the air intake or temperature setting.

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Hmmm July 13, 2009 at 6:15 am

Not to sure about the evaporation stuff. In order to evaporate it would have to be exposed to the air or it would just condense on the top of the tank and fall back in, not?

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Anonymous July 13, 2009 at 7:01 am

While driving on the highway modern cars get better gas mileage while running the air conditioner than having the windows down. Aerodynamics!

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d July 13, 2009 at 7:02 am

doesnt tailgating save gas? i mean maybe not on city streets where your stopping every 5 seconds.. but drafting a big truck on the highway can save you a boat load of gas

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josh July 13, 2009 at 7:06 am

OH NOES!

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TZ July 13, 2009 at 7:25 am

Umm . . . I am not buying into the idea that lane changing uses extra fuel.

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Future Josh July 13, 2009 at 8:38 am

Oh man… Just came back from the future… I was soooo wrong about the gas prices… The hurricanes… Destroyed everything… ONE POINT TWENTY-ONE GIGAWATTS!!

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Tom July 13, 2009 at 10:27 am

I believe they tested the windows down vs. using the AC on Mythbusters and showed that you don’t save any gas by putting your windows down.

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BillShrink Guy July 13, 2009 at 11:40 am

Huh. Didn’t know God reads our blog.

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Another Josh July 13, 2009 at 11:59 am

If I follow these tips will I too be able to afford a trunk-full of beer?

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BillShrink Guy July 13, 2009 at 12:14 pm

Another Josh: Actually if you clicked through the flickr image link, according to the caption, that’s a picture of a trunk full of empty beer bottles. Twist!

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BillShrink Guy July 13, 2009 at 12:23 pm

What Eva: The thing is, it’s not as clear-cut as that. Car gurus will probably know this as well, but different vehicles may have different types of AC compressor units. Some vehicle setup will have the compressor going on/off as needed to get to the temperature you’ve set, while others use a variable line and will be more efficient in its handling of climate control. You’re right though that the tip we threw out dumb-ed things down a little bit, but if your car specifically has an AC in economy mode, using it will most likely save you mileage, unless your car’s engineer decided to throw extra toggles on the dashboard for kicks. Here’s a Popular Mechanics article with some more snippets.

Tom: Sorry almost missed your comment there. Here’s a complete study from the Society of Automotive Engineers on the affect of windows down on vehicle fuel economy as compared to AC load.

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Witt Sullivan July 13, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Cruise control does NOT keep the engine running at a constant speed, it keeps the car at a constant speed, while the engine revs up and down, letting off the gas for coasting down hills and revving up to go up hills. If you watch your tachometer needle, it goes up and down. If you “lock” your ankle on the accelerator so the engine maintains the same rpms, the engine runs more efficiently.

You actually lose efficiency when using cruise control.

Running your AC on recirculate does save energy, because it’s cooling air that’s already been cooled from the interior instead of cooling down warm air from outside.

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BillShrink Guy July 13, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Witt: You’re right of course. Again, we may have simplified things too much (missing further explanation between the two sentence). We’re not saying cruise control keeps the engine running at constant speed, we’re saying if the engine & its RPM is kept at a constant speed, fuel economy is more efficient. The reason we specifically say to use cruise control on the highway is because in the US, most highway will have a pretty flat/fixed terrain — even when you encounter a situation where the engine speed will change due to terrain, it will occur more gradually versus an average driver giving more/less acceleration immediately. Thanks for the input on recirculating interior cabin air, that was the reason why it was included in the tip list, too.

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