Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Six Ways to Save on Gasoline and Improve Efficiency

It's been all over the media - $5 per gallon gas by 2012 was predicted by a former president of Shell Oil.  This story has been bantered around and even morphed into "$5 by 2011" by some media outlets.

Many industry analysts aren't quite so pessimistic about gas prices, but almost all agree they WILL go up, and we ARE past peak oil production.  In other words, it is getting harder, more dangerous, and more expensive to extract oil from the Earth, so expect worldwide production to stay at a plateau or decrease slightly, even as demand rises.

Today we'll look at how you can prepare yourself and start saving money immediately with six simple tips. Follow these tips and you could see big savings, reduce pollution, and reduce dependence on foreign oil!

  1. Drive Gently
  2. Jackrabbit starts, aggressive driving, and hitting the brakes all decrease your gas mileage - a lot.
    My commute is 22 miles, 17 highway and 5 city. If I drive in the right lane, try to maintain a steady speed, look ahead and anticipate slow downs by taking my foot off the gas, and accelerate steadily and evenly after slowing, I can get 45 mpg.  And if everything falls into place, I've gotten 49 mpg.
    As an experiment, I decided to drive in the left lane and keep up with everyone who ordinarily pass me going 8-10 mph over the speed limit.  I got 38 mpg.  That was only one day, and traffic was actually lighter than normal so I think I would have done even worse on a normal day.  
    Even speeding reduces gas mileage. Many cars are optimally designed for best mileage performance in the 45-60 mph range. The more you speed, even if maintaining a steady speed, the worse your mileage will be.
    My mindset has changed to the point where I look at aggressive drivers and I don't just think "dangerous", but I now also think "wasteful".

  1. Combine Trips
  2. This is another common sense step that can save big. Plan ahead and use some self restraint. Keep a grocery list and only go once a week. Combine other errands like dry cleaning, filling the tank, etc. Not only does this save gas, it saves time.

  1. Get a Fuel Monitor
  2. Perhaps your car has a MPG monitor built in. if so, place it on the "real-time" display and keep an eye on it. Over time, if you pay attention, you will improve your driving habits and reduce fuel consumption. Some studies have shown 20% improvements in fuel usage once a MPG monitor is used.
    If you don't have an MPG monitor, consider buying one third party. Amazon caries a few MPG monitors, or check out MPG Meters.

  1. Telecommute
  2. It is year-end review season at many companies. If you've performed well and have a job you can perform from home, ask to telecommute one day a week. Better yet, if you work a traditional work week, consider asking to work four 10 hour days, AND telecommute one of those days.

  1. Carpool
  2. Consider carpooling with a co-worker or friend who works nearby. Carpooling can be inconvenient, especially if your job requires that you stay late on occasion. but remember - you don't have to carpool every day to save big. Try once or twice a week to start.

  1. Maintain Your Car
  2. President Obama got laughed at when he suggested people check their tire pressure to save gas. This is actually a scientifically proven point - if your tires are under-pressurized, your mileage will suffer, sometimes as much as 10%!
Proper Tire Inflation Actually Saves
    If you've had a "check engine" light going off but the car is running fine, it is still worth a check. Many sensors are used to ensure optimal performance, and an oxygen or airflow sensor going bad may trigger the "dummy light" and signal decreased performance.
    Regular tune-ups (varies by car, but often it is every 50,000 or 60,000 miles) can be helpful. New spark plugs and clean air filters can improve your mileage.

Bonus Tip - Check out Frugal Dad for a few additional tips to save money on gas.

If You Are In The Market for a New Car

If you are in the market for a new car, it is wise to consider fuel efficiency as a primary decision point, especially if you have to commute for work.

There are more and more efficient choices out there, including hybrid cars and SUVs, electric cars like the Chevy Volt, Ford Focus Electric, and Nissan Leaf, and diesel cars. Yes, diesel.

I purchased a Volkswagen Jetta SportWagon TDI last summer, and as mentioned above, get 45 mpg on my commute. Diesel cars are VERY efficient, the engines last longer, and they have a lot of low-end torque which is good for city driving.

New diesels don't smell or sound like the old ones, and current filtration and formulation means they don't pollute like they used to. And when comparing diesel to electric and and hybrid cars, there is no need to worry about a several thousand dollar battery replacement after 5-7 years. Diesels are worth a look!



  1. John Hofmeister, the executive you mentioned in the first paragraph, is a lobbyist, and his 'prediction' is self-serving.

    That said, I agree that prices will be going up more. Demand from China, a lack of new refineries in the USA, and a slowly improving economy will surely result in a $4 nationwide average.

  2. Anonymous - I agree on all points. Thanks for taking the time to point out the lobbyist angle.