Tamara E. Holmes
Summer drivers got a bit of good news in May 2013 when the U.S. Energy Information Administration announced that gas prices this summer will likely be less than they were a year ago. Not only that, but the average gas prices for 2013 are projected to be 13 cents per gallon lower than they were in 2012.
Yet, with a gallon of gas still costing upwards of $4 in some locations, an active driving season can put a damper on your wallet. Luckily there are simple things you can do to lower your driving costs. Here are five ways to keep your costs down without hampering your summer plans.
5 easy ways to cut driving costs
1. Drive smarter, not longer.
One of the easiest things you can do is simply plan before you go. Rather than making five small trips to locations in the same general vicinity, combine those trips into one, which will conserve gas – and time – in the process. If possible, run your errands when there are few people on the road so you won’t waste gas idling in traffic. Also make sure you’re not overpaying for a tank of gas by using apps such as GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas around you.
2. Adopt safe driving habits.
Safe driving should be a priority on all occasions, but when you adopt certain driving habits you save money as well. Speeding may get you to your destination faster, but it may cost you. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you pay an extra $0.25 per gallon every five miles per hour (mph) that you drive over 50 mph. If you’re speeding in stop-and-go traffic, having to constantly accelerate then slow down, you can be making matters even worse.
The Department of Energy estimates that constant acceleration and braking can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent when you’re driving around town. That means the time you gained by speeding will be offset by the time it takes to stop and fill up your tank more frequently.
3. Work your body instead.
When your car is idling, you can waste a quarter to a half gallon of gas per hour, according to the Department of Energy. Think about that the next time you’re tempted to go to the drive-through teller rather than walk into the bank. If you want to experience substantial savings and health benefits, walk or ride a bike to nearby locations, giving your car a rest and your exercise routine a boost.
4. Empty the car’s load.
Ever notice that you have more energy after losing a couple of pounds? The same holds true for your car. The more stuff you have crammed in your trunk, the harder your car has to work and the more gas you’re going to use. According to the Department of Energy, an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle can cost an extra $0.04 to $0.07 per gallon. Make sure everything you’re carrying around is necessary for the trip.
5. Know how to maintain your car.
The information in your owner’s manual is valuable not only to the longevity of your car, but to your wallet, as well. Check to see what type of gasoline your car manufacturer recommends. If it’s not premium gasoline, you can save 15 to 20 cents per gallon by buying regular gas, the Federal Trade Commission suggests.
Also check the manual to find out how often to service your vehicle. A car that’s not driving efficiently, such as one with a dirty air filter or underinflated tires, will use gas more quickly, causing you to pay more money at the pump.