Gas is expensive and shows no sign of returning to my preferred price of, oh, about $1.98. So what can you do?
Carpooling is an option for some people. So is walking, biking, or the bus. But what about those of us who absolutely have to drive and can't exactly afford to trade in our cars for a hybrid right now? How are we supposed to save money on gas? Here's some ideas:
Fill up when your car reaches a quarter tank left.
Driving around with less than half a tank is actually good for your car because you're carrying around less weight. But don't let it drop below a quarter tank--remember, an empty or near-empty tank will force you to steer into the nearest available gas station, no matter the price.
Find the cheapest gas in your area.
Here, the computer is your friend. My favorite website for tracking gas prices is Gasbuddy.com.
Simply enter a zip code to get gas prices sorted from lowest to highest. You can also map those locations which is pretty helpful.
Other good gas price sites include:
If you have a a cell phone that can send and receive text messages, you can get cheap gas prices on the go.
Here's what to do:
A moment later, you'll get a response with a list of gas prices in that area.
- Text the word "gas" followed by a 5-digit zip code
- Send it to 415-676-8397 or email@example.com
Use the lowest recommended octane or mix octanes.
Your owner's manual will tell you what the lowest recommended fuel is for your car, and there is no need to spend more.
Keep your car in good condition.
Check the oil, and make sure the tires are inflated properly. A well-tuned car burns less gas.
Clear out the junk in your trunk.
Although I'm sometimes guilty of driving around with everything from extra clothes to cable boxes in my car, remember: the lighter your load, the less gas you will burn.
Drive safely, slowly, and consistently--and avoid stops when you can.
Sudden stops and starts burn extra fuel and are bad for your engine. Also, the slower you drive--assuming it's safe--the less gas you use. Speeding and driving aggressively aren't just against the law and rude--they also waste your gas.
Use Higher Gears.
Driving fast in low gears is bad for fuel economy so drive in as high a gear as possible (unless you're down-shifting to slow down, of course).
Buy A Fuel-Efficient Car.
This is probably the most important tip on this list. The next time you're shopping for a car, remember that a heavier car wastes more gas. So get a lighter car, especially one with a fuel-efficient engine and design.
Fueleconomy.gov has gas mileage estimates and more information for 1985-2009 model year cars.
Think fuel economy is a bunch of hooey? Think again: The difference between a car that gets 20 MPG and one that gets 30 MPG amounts to $1,020 per year (assuming 15,000 miles of driving annually and a fuel cost of $4.08). That's $5,100 extra in fuel costs over five years!
Have a question for CallCaroline? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CallCaroline can balance a budget, but she's not a professional financier. Please use your best judgment on whether or not to follow her specific advice.