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July 26, 2018 | auto

Fool for Fuel? How to Cut the $1,500 You May Be Spending on Gas


The idea of pouring more money into our gas tanks is enough to make most of us cringe.

Why? While fuel is usually a necessary expenditure, it’s in the category of costs that bring no real enjoyment in return. Further, the average driver in the U.S. uses 656 gallons of gas per year, meaning he spent some $1,500 in 2017 based on the average cost of $2.38/gallon.

“Spending time at the pump filling up the gas tank is a task I will bet few Americans enjoy,” writes Matthew DiLallo on investment advisory site Motley Fool. “While your mileage may vary, it is important to understand how much gasoline you use and what you can do to lighten up, which is not only good for the wallet and the environment but can cut down on the number of times you need to fill up.”

Interested in diverting some of your fuel budget toward more enjoyable expenditures? Think about the following gas-miserly suggestions

  • Consider investing in a more fuel-efficient vehicle, including greener options such as a hybrid or electric vehicle (EV). This online calculator might help you determine how quickly a more fuel-efficient car could pay for itself in gas savings. Consumer Reports notes the cost of buying most hybrids is offset in fuel costs within about eight years, and dealer incentives and tax credits can further increase their attractiveness. Another fun fact: Manual transmissions are more fuel-efficient than automatic transmissions.
  • Acquire one of the many apps that can direct you to the cheapest filling station in your vicinity at any given time. CNN Money advises such methodology can save you up to $4 per fill-up. In general, gas prices rise between Wednesday and Saturday and remain lower the other days. Stations in remote areas tend to be more expensive, while stations across state lines can sometimes be cheaper due to tax differences.
  • Fill up early or late in the day when air temps are cooler, since gas density decreases in warmer temps, giving you less bang for the buck as you pump.
  • Minimize time spent idling or warming up your vehicle. In general, only car engines produced prior to the 1980s need more than a 30-second warm-up, and idling can produce pollutants.
  • Using cruise control, or simply driving at a consistent pace without rapid acceleration or constant braking, reduces drag and thus fuel consumption. Open windows, under-inflated tires and off-season use of snow tires increase drag, as do car racks and carriers.
  • Plan driving routes that minimize constant stopping.
  • Minimize use of car air conditioners when possible, as they tend to be gas guzzlers.
  • Schedule your car for regular tune-ups, use the correct motor oil, and clean air filters regularly, especially if you live in a dusty area.
  • When finished pumping gas, turn off the pump, then let gravity drain the gas remaining in the hose into your tank so it goes to you, not the next customer.
  • If premium fuel is just recommended (not required) for your vehicle, you may get no extra benefit by using premium. Compare your car’s performance against regular-grade gas, looking for a drop-off in fuel economy or indications the car is traveling slower or is hesitant during strong acceleration. Never leave your gas cap off or ajar when you’re not pumping; the Car Care Council estimates we lose some 147 million gallons of gas to evaporation each year.

Rising oil prices could boost average gas costs to $2.87/gallon this year, making conservation even more important throughout 2018.

“It makes sense to work on whittling down your gasoline consumption,” DiLallo advises. “It will help to avoid some of the incoming pain at the pump while reducing the number of fill-ups. That will give you more time and money for the important things in life.”

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