By Markus Allen
Founder of TruthIn7Minutes.com
A day before 9/11/2001, the price for a gallon of gasoline in my neck of the woods was $1.16 a gallon.
Ah, the good ol' days, right?
With gas prices zooming higher and higher, it's more important than ever to drive smarter to lessen the pain of high gas prices. And since gas hardly ever goes on sale, we need to be crafty to keep its cost in line.
Here are my observations on how to save on gas prices:
Turn on the air conditioning
The windows up vs. air conditioning debate will never end...
... But here are the facts:
When your car is traveling fast, having your windows down is less aerodynamic. As a result, air conditioning uses less gas to cool your vehicle.
On the flip side, it pays to turn off the air conditioning when driving slow.
Of course, this varies vehicle to vehicle. A typical break even point is 45 m.p.h.
Don't top up
You're literally pouring gas down the tubes.
When the gas pump "clicks", stop filling your vehicle. Topped off gas goes back into the gas station's vapor recovery system and back into their underground gas storage tanks (and not yours).
Even worse, topping up could cause your vehicle to run poorly. When the gas in your tank expands on hot days, extra gas might evaporate into your vehicle's vapor collection system - not good.
Keep tires at proper inflation
When your tires aren't inflated to the manufacturer's recommended PSI (i.e. pounds per square inch), they're less "round" and need more energy to keep moving and maintain speed. Warning: the PSI listed on each tire is for maximum inflation. The recommended PSI is on your vehicle's door jamb.
Find your vehicle's "sweet spot"
The power to push a vehicle down the road varies with the speed the car is traveling...
And while each vehicle is different, the bottom line is doubling your speed requires more than double the amount of needed gas.
If your vehicle is equipped with an instant-display MPG readout (most modern cars are), see what speed gives you the highest number of miles per gallon driven. And then aim to keep this speed to make the most out of each sip of gas.
I exploit my cruise control to maintain my vehicle's sweet spot...
... The exceptions are when I pass a vehicle or approach a hill. To maximize fuel economy, we need to accelerate into a hill - and that's something (most) cruise control systems aren't smart enough to do.
Cruise control also keeps me aware of the speed limit (and as a result, it's been decades since I've had a speeding ticket).
Turn off the vehicle when idling
For every hour your vehicle sits idle, you're burning through a gallon of gasoline.
If I know I'm going to sit idle for more than a few moments, I turn off my vehicle.
The exception is a diesel-powered engine - it uses VERY little gas while idling.
The average person needs to fill their gas tank an extra five times per year because of traffic lights alone.
Most cities use timed lights. So it might pay to go a little slower so you can catch most green lights through the town.
Of course, avoiding cities is the best way to avoid stops. It might pay off to circle around a city than going straight through one - even if it's longer to drive.
Gas up at a neighboring state
If you're near a state's border, it might pay to cross it.
Each state has their own gas tax. For example here in Pennsylvania, it's currently 51 cents per gallon. Yet across the border in New Jersey, it's 33 cents per gallon - that's a 36% savings.
Get rid of the dead weight
Removing excess weight from your car helps save gas.
The Department of Energy estimates drivers save at least 5 cents a gallon (at today's prices) just by removing those golf clubs and other unnecessary weight from the trunk and roof rack.
Avoid the lead foot
Rapid starts and stops is a surefire way to put a big dent your pocketbook.
Plan your route ahead of time
Take the route with the fewest stops, turns and least traffic.
And skip rush-hour traffic.
Try to consolidate all of your errands into one trip.
Park in the shade
Gasoline actually evaporates right out of your tank, and it does so faster when you park directly in the sun (winter or summer).
Parking in the shade also keeps it cooler inside your vehicle. As a result, you need less air conditioning to cool off when you get back in.
Seal your fuel system
Since gas evaporates, it pays to tighten your gas cap after each fillup to keep fumes in (and outside air out).
Drive on the right-hand side
After years of observation, UPS (United Parcel Service) found right turns involve less idling time for vehicles and (in general) don't require rapid-acceleration starts to take advantage of the scant gap in traffic.
Its creed is to "drive right and never idle."
When planning a travel route, see if you can avoid left-hand turns - it's a surefire way to save gas.
Always drive forward
Believe it or not, driving in reverse actually drinks more gas.
Test premium gas
Higher octane gas often delivers higher fuel economy. The problem is the difference in price might not pay off...
... Experiment one month with regular unleaded fill ups and compare it to filling with premium gas the next month.
You might find expensive gas is actually cheaper in the long run.
Switch to manual shift mode
In the year 1908, the Ford Model T averaged 25 miles per gallon.
Yet according to a recent study by a University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) study, the average car in 2013 averages 24.5 miles per gallon.
Some are convinced that the auto industry is in cahoots with the gas industry to suppress fuel economy...
... That's why others are testing all sorts of drive settings to fight the system.
In one experiment, Infiniti JX owners found switching to manual shift mode and upshifting to 6th gear during highway driving significantly boosted fuel economy.
Infiniti actually put out a video about this:
Keep the sunroof closed
Having it open creates drag... and that uses more gas.
It’s during the last 20% of a spark plug’s life that misfires and incomplete combustion occurs most frequently. Changing them before you hit that last stretch can save you money, time and frustration.
Gas saving myths (revealed)
The myth of joining private clubs
More and more supermarkets and buying clubs offer the lowest price on gas in town...
... But sometimes there's a catch - you have to pay to join their club.
For example, Costco's least-expensive membership is $55.00 per year. Typically, they have the lowest price for gas in the area. And that savings is (at most) 5 cents a gallon cheaper than the rest. The average person drives 15,000 miles a year. And this year, the average fuel economy of cars is 24.5 miles per gallon - that's 612 gallons of gas used each year. By saving 5 cents a gallon, the yearly extra savings on gas is just $30.61.
Bottom line: if you're joining a private shopping club only to pay the lowest price for gas, it might not be worth the cost of joining.
Don't wait until Wednesday
It's a myth to think gas is cheapest midweek.
When it comes to supply and demand, the oil companies have a monopoly... so it's impossible to time a purchase to get the lowest price.
Sometimes gas is priced lower on weekends and holidays. Other times it's the opposite.
Some states have limits to the number of price changes in a set time period. Every state has it's own set of laws the seller has to obey. For example, New Jersey has a state law that forbids changing the price more than once every 24 hours.
The bottom line is it's better to keep an eye on the top 10 lowest prices for gas on an hour-by-hour basis than to wait for the best day of the week to buy cheaper gas.
The myth of filling up when the air is cool gets you more gas
A common tip is to buy gasoline in the morning, when the air is cool, rather than in the heat of the day.
The theory is that the cooler gasoline will be denser, so you will get more for your money. But most stations store the gasoline underground, so its temperature changes very little (if at all) during a 24-hour stretch. Any extra gas you get is negligible.
Driving in neutral to save gas
When coasting in neutral, the engine is idling and consuming just as much gasoline as when it's idling at a traffic light or warming up in your driveway...
... Because in most modern vehicles, there's virtually no fuel injected into the engine while coasting in gear. (And it doesn't matter if you have automatic or manual transmission).
Bottom line: Don't coast in neutral. It's dangerous, illegal in some states and won't save fuel. Plus, we need to be able to use the accelerator to avoid an unexpected road hazard. And cars don't handle well in neutral during sharp cornering maneuvers when the engine isn't connected to the drivetrain.
Warming up before driving is necessary (myth)
Back in the days of carburetors and chokes, it was necessary to warm up our vehicles...
... But with today's modern fuel-injected, electronically-controlled drivetrains, engines are most efficient when they’re at regular operating temperature - and the fastest way to reach that point is to drive right after starting the car.
The myth of a dirty air filter and poor gas mileage (revealed)
Tests demonstrate that driving with a dirty air filter no longer has an impact on fuel economy (as it did with older engines).
That's because modern engines use computers to precisely control the air/fuel ratios. Our vehicle's on-board computers instantly adjust the amount of fuel use based on airflow changes.
(With that said, a dirty air filter does indeed slow down our vehicle's acceleration.)
And there's no need to change oil every 3,000 miles anymore.
Skip fuel saving additives
As the price of gas skyrockets, the demand for a product that boosts fuel economy grows, too.
Adding these liquids seems like a cheap way to stretch out a gallon of gas, but when we run the math, these products often cost more than the fuel savings we gain.
Keep the truck tailgate up
It's a myth that driving a pickup truck with its tailgate down saves gas.
A raised tailgate is more aerodynamic than when it's down as air circles the cab and gets sucked into the truck bed - forming an air pocket which causes more drag.
Even worse, riding with your truck's tailgate down causes more wear and tear on your vehicle - impacting on the gate hinges, mounts, and cables that support it.
Speaking of a "tailgate"...
It's true. Driving super close to the vehicle in front of you does save gas - but's it's negligible... just an average of .08 gallons per mile...
... But tailgating is super dangerous. And in most states, it's illegal and could get you a reckless driving ticket.
Rule of thumb: keep a distance between you and the vehicle in front of you of AT LEAST one car length per every 10 mph that you're driving. For example if you're driving 40 mph, make sure there is at least four car lengths between your car and the one in front of you.
P.S. Have a look at my other investigations, videos and podcasts and get the real truth about life...