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6 ways to use less gas and save money — even while driving

Bring Me The News logo Bring Me The News 3/4/2022 BringMeTheNews
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Believe it or not, driving the speed limit will help.

There's been much handwringing of late over gas prices, particularly in light of rising inflation and the uncertain future of gasoline supplies due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The average price for a gallon of unleaded gas in Minnesota is $3.61, according to AAA, up about 94 cents compared to one year ago, and there are reports that the national average could breach $4 in the coming months.

So if you're concerned about how much you're paying at the pump, here are six ways to use less gas — and save a bit of money.

1. Bike, take the bus, walk, etc.

It's a bit obvious, but you can use less fuel just by driving less often. With warm weather just around the corner, it'll be easy to bike, walk or — if possible, depending on where you live — use public transportation.

Similarly, if you do need to use your car, combine multiple trips into one. (This can be especially useful when it's cold out, the Department of Energy says.)

2. Stop speeding

Speeding is costing you more money. While each vehicle's optimal fuel economy speed varies slightly, here's a good rule of thumb: Once you get over 50 mph, your gas mileage begins to (rapidly) worsen. Air resistance and tire rolling resistance are to blame here.

For every 5 mph over 50 mph you go, you're tacking an extra 22 cents on to every gallon of gas in your car, on average. FuelEconomy.gov has a tool that tells you exactly how much money speeding can cost you, based on your specific vehicle model. 

3. Don't drive so aggressively

One of the most egregious gas wasters is aggressive driving. Constantly hitting the brakes then rapidly accelerating will burn through gas more quickly than steady, consistent driving. 

Coast rather than coming to a sudden stop, CarsDirect says, and on long journeys use cruise control to help maintain a regular speed.

4. Be thoughtful about weight and cargo

More weight means worse mileage. An extra 100 pounds in your car means a 1% reduction in fuel economy. So don't unnecessarily lug around heavy items you've stored in your trunk — it's costing you more money.

Putting cargo on your roof hurts too, as it makes the car less aerodynamic. A bulky box, even if it's empty, can reduce fuel economy by 2-8% in city driving, 6-17% on the highway, and 10-25% at interstate speeds of 65 mph and up.

5. Don't idle

Idling wastes gas. The Alternative Fuels Data Center says that every year, U.S. vehicles burn 6 billion gallons of gas and diesel fuel while not moving. About half of that comes from people idling passenger vehicles. So if you can avoid it, don't idle.

(For reference, you use one-quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour while idling, depending on your engine size and whether you're using the air conditioner.) 

6. Buy a hybrid or electric vehicle

Ok so not immediately practical as hybrid and electric vehicles can have a higher initial price tag (though in many cases, it's only $2,000-$3,000 more). If you add in typical fuels costs and maintenance, however, these types of vehicles generally end up saving you money, Consumer Reports found. One example from the site:

"[A] Chevrolet Bolt costs $8,000 more to purchase than a Hyundai Elantra GT, but the Bolt costs $15,000 less to operate over a 200,000-mile lifetime, for a savings of $7,000, our study found."

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