Instant Ways To Save Money On Gas For The Commute

SUMMARY POINTS

> Don’t drive like an ass, be smooth-n-easy
> Lighten the load on your vehicle
> Find and buy cheaper fuel easily with an app

Ahh...a fresh full tank of gas at the start of the week. And ugh, there goes another sizable chunk of hard-earn money.

The good news is that it’s one less annoying thing to have to deal with now that you’ve taken care of it. You’re covered for the entire week.

It’s off your mind for several days as you go about your daily drudgery of driving to and from work and hopping around here and there.

Then, the weekend rolls around and then, you see it.

The fuel level is rapidly edging closer and closer to empty. And, it almost seems like that last quarter tank runs out much faster than the rest of the tank. Why is that?

Now, you’ve gotta make a run to the gas station again at some point in your hectic schedule. It always seems to happen at the most inconvenient times, right?

Why can’t we have bottomless gas tanks? There are bottomless mimosas and all-you-can-eat buffets. Can’t we have the same with fuel?

Well, that pipe-dream won’t ever come true until some genius comes up with limitless energy. We’re looking at you Elon Musk.

So until then, we’ve got to pay up and part with our money at the pump to be able to drive our cars and get to and from work on a daily basis.

We just need to find ways to make this hurt less.

Money Saving Tips-N-Tactics To Reduce Your Weekly Gas Expense

Having to buy gas is a nearly unavoidable weekly living expense for most of us.

Yes, there are a few of you out there that are lucky enough to not have to drive yourself to work or even own a car. But, for the rest of us in the larger majority, we’ve got to figure out ways to minimize this weekly headache of an expense.

Every time the fuel pump clicks off and we glance at the final tally on the display, it makes us cringe. And when gas prices jump, it makes the punch in the gut that much worse.

So, what we’ve done is compiled several simple-n-easy ways to soften the blow and make your spending go further for you.

1) Don’t Be A Racer, Take It Easy

This is by far the best way to save money on gas. The idea is simple - use less fuel and you’ll travel further on a tank of gas and won’t have to go to the gas station as much.

A lot of fuel is used up by the car when it needs to get going and/or accelerate.

It’s a matter of physics.

When something is at rest and not moving, it requires a lot of energy to overcome that static state.

A really good analogy is riding a bicycle.

When you’re at a stop and want to get going really fast, you have to pedal really hard to get moving quickly and that uses up a lot of your energy.

However, if you’re not in a rush, you can pedal normally and you’ll eventually get up to speed. This method requires less intense energy.

This same principle applies to how you’re accelerating in your car.

Fast and rapid acceleration burns up fuel at a much faster rate than normal or easier acceleration.

So, ease up on the accelerator pedal.

We don’t mean that you have to drive like a grandma. Just don’t be a Formula 1 race car driver and smash the gas all the time.

Be smoooooth - accelerate moderately and coast to red lights instead of zooming up to them and braking hard.

2) Keep Your Tires Pumped Up

We’re going to use the bicycle analogy again here.

Think back to when you were riding a bicycle as a kid. You probably experienced a flat tire or at least a tire with very little air.

Remember how much harder it was to pedal with a flat tire?

That’s because a tire with low to no air pressure has a lot of rolling resistance. The flat spot doesn’t want to roll. It pushes back or “resists” movement.

To overcome this resistance, you need more energy to push harder on the pedals to get going and stay moving.

This is the same with your car.

When your car’s tires fall below the recommended tire pressure, your engine has to work harder to get the car moving and keep it at speed.

Here in the US, tire pressures are measured in pounds per square inch or PSI.

According to the US Department of Energy, for every one PSI drop in your tire’s air pressure, you lose about a half percent in fuel economy. And, a lot of us have tire pressures that are several PSIs too low - wasting fuel and money.

So, by keeping your tires pumped up to the correct PSI, it’ll optimize your car’s fuel economy.

To find out what the recommended PSI is for your tires on your car, check in the inside of your driver’s door jam. There, you’ll see a sticker that shows what the recommended PSI is for the front and rear tires.

If there’s no sticker in your driver side door jam, check in your owner’s manual. And, if that’s nowhere to be found, you can use the general standard range of 30 - 35 PSI.

Check your tire pressure when the car has been sitting for a few hours inside and out of the sun or overnight the next morning.

This will ensure that you’re taking the measurement with “cold” tires because if the car was recently driven or has been sitting in the sun, the tires will be warm which naturally increases the PSI due to heat.

If you’re not familiar with how to check and inflate your car tires, bring your car to your local auto service center and have them checked.

Or, if you’re even the slightest bit handy - like you know how to use scissors, you can check and inflate your own car tires.

Check out this short 2 minute video on how to do this.

VIDEO: How To Check Tire Pressure and Inflate Tires
YOUTUBE: Geobeats
LENGTH: 2:36

Summary points:
> Don’t use the tire pressure on the tire itself
> Refer to tire pressure from vehicle manufacturer label
> Inflate to recommended pressures

Now, if you’re thinking that over-inflating your tires is a good way to get even more fuel economy, it doesn’t work that way.

The gains are marginal once you go beyond the recommended tire pressure. And furthermore, it negatively impacts your vehicle handling and makes the tire’s footprint with the ground smaller, which can impact braking distances...not good.

Just stick to the recommended tire pressures and you’ll be good to go.

3) Get Rid Of Junk In The Trunk

There are all sorts of stuff in our car’s trunk. The kids’ stuff, an extra pair of shoes, the giant Costco pack of water bottles, the golf bag, yoga mat etc.

It’s the catch-all spot for all the “just in case” items or for the things that are needed every so often but your too lazy to take it in and out every time.

All of that extra stuff adds up and is just more weight that your car’s engine needs to work harder to move around.

It’s like this. You know those giant food shopping days where your cart is just packed with items?

It’s much harder to move the cart around, right?

Turning the cart left, right, pushing or pulling takes a lot more effort on your part.

It’s the same with your car and all the shit that’s in the back of your car or SUV. Just because you have the space there doesn’t mean that you should have it loaded with stuff.

Your vehicle isn’t a mobile storage unit.

So, aside from the spare tire and some emergency roadside stuff, you should keep your trunk free of junk.

4) Don’t Warm Up & Idle Less

If you remember years ago, back when we were all kids, our parents often turned on the engine for a few minutes to let it warm up before driving off.

Back then, you had to warm up the engine. We’re not gonna get into the nitty-gritty engineering details here. Just know that back then, engine technology was more rudimentary and basic. Warming up the engine was a necessary pre-driving task.

Today, with all the advancements in engine technology, we no longer need to sit in our car and let the engine warm up before driving.

In fact, it’s recommended that we turn on the car and just drive off moderately (don’t race off). This will warm up the engine much faster.

Next, if you’re ever just sitting in your car waiting for someone. Turn off the engine.

Sitting in your parked car with the engine running means you’re getting zero miles per gallon. You’re just burning gasoline into the atmosphere.

We do have a couple of exceptions to this.

On those bone-chilling sub-zero winter mornings, where the car is parked outside, turning on the car in the morning to let it heat up the inside is totally understandable. God bless remote engine start technology.

The same goes for those same snot-freezing winter days sitting in a parked car. Who wants to sit inside an icebox? We’d run the engine so that we can use the heater and keep warm.

Just be careful - there are more and more laws being passed that do not allow for engine idling. Be sure to check around or else you might be in for a ticket.

At the other end of the weather spectrum, on those hot, hazy and humid summer days, we need to have the engine on so that we can run the A/C and not melt. We get it.

Other than those two weather extremes, try not to idle the engine while parked and waiting. Instead, turn off the engine and turn on some YouTube. 

5) Use A/C Above 40 mph

Talking about using A/C, there is an ideal range for using it while driving.

When you’re driving at speeds of about 40 mph or faster, it’s more fuel efficient to use your A/C than to keep your windows rolled down.

This is because at those higher speeds, having rolled down windows catches more wind into the car kinda like a sail. This makes the engine work harder and thus, uses more fuel.

When the windows are rolled up at higher speeds, the wind doesn’t get caught up and pulled inside the car. And, because the engine is running at a higher range, it can operate your A/C without much effort.

At speeds below 40 mph, your engine isn’t running at higher ranges and thus, operating the A/C saps more power from the engine and uses more fuel.

And, at those lower speeds, the wind speeds are a lot lower. So, there isn’t as much wind drag into the car. So, it’s better to drive with the windows down and not run the A/C.

Here’s a simple way to look at it:

In-town/City driving = A/C off and roll windows down
Highway driving = A/C on and roll windows up

Easy-peasy.

6) Cruise At 60-70 mph

Nobody really observes posted speed limits much. The highway herd always runs at least 10 mph faster than what the speed limit says.

In some cases, you’ll be driving at 80 mph or more just to stay with the flow of traffic. After all, you don’t want to be “that guy” that is driving slow as fuck in the fast lane.

However, the faster you drive, the more your car has to fight oncoming wind.

If you’ve ever biked into a head-wind, you’ll know this immediately. As you increase your speed or if the wind increases, you have to pedal much harder to maintain a constant speed.

It’s no different for the car you drive.

At higher speeds, the amount of wind resistance grows exponentially. Meaning, the amount of wind resistance gets stronger with each mph increase.

In fact, according to the US Department of Energy, “every 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying an additional $0.17 per gallon for gas.” Ouch.

This doesn’t mean that you need to lower your speed to slug-like lows. All we’re saying is that you don’t need to be Speed-Racer and bomb down the highway at 90+ mph.

Instead, dial it down to a more reasonable 70 mph or even 60 mph if you can stomach it. You’ll be saving some serious cash.

So, why not move over to the slower lane and enjoy the drive with a fun podcast, fav tunes, suspenseful audiobook, etc.

If you want more ideas on how you can make your drive more enjoyable and even turn it into some “me-time,” then read this article for more details.

7) Remove Roof Racks

We mentioned the whole thing about wind resistance above. This is in that same category.

If you’ve got a roof rack storage container or bike/ski/snowboard carrier, take it off the roof when you’re not using it.

When it’s up there and you’re driving at highway speeds, the wind has more areas push against. It creates more wind resistance for your car and your engine has to work that much harder to maintain its speed.

Don’t believe us?

Trying sticking your hand out the car window at highway speeds with your palm facing forward. The wind push back force is really strong.

Now, imagine that multiple times stronger and that’s what your car’s engine is fighting against when there’s shit on your roof.

According to this study from UC Berkeley, having a roof rack on your vehicle can knock down your fuel economy by up to 25% - that’s a *huge* amount.

To put in more relatable terms, instead of having to fill up once a week or 4 times a month, you’d have to fill up two extra times or 6 times a month. That’s two extra tanks of fuel that you didn’t need to buy.

8) Use Regular Fuel If Possible

You’ve seen it millions of times at the pump.

There’s typically three grades of fuel: regular, mid-grade plus and premium. The main distinction between these three is this thing called octane.

Octane is a standardized unit of measurement. It measures the performance of a fuel.

Premium has the highest level of octane, usually at around 91 or higher while regular is usually around 87.

Premium fuel provides the highest performance and output and is typically for high-performance engines found in sports cars and premium luxury vehicles. The combination of a high-performance engine and high-octane fuel yields high power.

However, a lot of us don’t need this extra power during our commute.

Who really needs an extra 10 horsepower when everyone is only crawling along at 20 mph in bumper-to-bumper traffic?

If your car doesn’t require premium fuel, don’t use it. You’ve got a standard normal engine. Buying premium fuel is only wasting your money and isn’t bringing you any positive gains.

Using regular vs premium saves you money

If your car’s fuel sticker says, “Premium Fuel Recommended then it’s totally okay to put in regular fuel. They’re only recommending premium not requiring it.

The manufacturer only says recommended so that you have the choice to either save some money at the pump and use regular fuel or buy the expensive stuff to get more performance.

There’s no harm to the engine if you use regular fuel in these cases.

If your fuel sticker says, “Premium Required, then you’re up shit’s creek.

You have no choice but to buy and use premium gas. It sucks, but hey, that’s what you get when you buy a fancy-shmancy car.

9) Use Eco-Mode If You Got It

Some of today’s newer cars have driveability options where you can select the type of performance of the engine.

Usually, there’s a choice of normal, sport and eco. For those of you that have the option for “eco” or economical, use that option for your commute to save some fuel.

You’ll notice that in eco-mode the engine response and power is a bit more tame and there’s a little less oomph.

But who cares? When you’re stuck in traffic, you can’t blast off anywhere anyway. Why not use eco-mode and save a bit of money on fuel? And, since you’re in the right mindset, do some in-car meditations too.

Or, just relax behind the wheel knowing that eco-mode is squeaking out every little drop of gas as far as it can so that your next gas station visit is that much later.

10) Minimize Rush Hour Exposure

Every car has two fuel economy ratings: city and highway.

The highway fuel economy is always higher/better because the vehicle isn’t having to stop and accelerate over and over like in city traffic, which kills fuel economy.

But, as we all know, rush hour traffic makes all roads and highways an absolute misery. There’s no smooth flow of traffic. It’s all city-like stop-n-go traffic no matter where you are.

Your fuel economy tanks in rush hour traffic.

So, if it’s possible, ask your boss if you can have a revised workday schedule that allows you to minimize your exposure to rush hour traffic.

This could be getting to work by 7am and leaving at 4pm or getting there later, maybe like 10am and leaving at 7pm.

This does two things: reduces your commute time because of the reduced traffic and improves your fuel economy because you’re driving at a consistent speed.

11) Use Waze or Google Maps Navigation

Okay, you’ve done the drive to and from work countless times without much thought. In fact, we’re sure that there are days that you don’t even remember any specifics of your drive.

You were mentally on auto-pilot commuting.

You don’t need the help of an app to get you to work and home. You know the route and could probably do it in your sleep.

But, what we’re proposing is that you use your mapping and navigation apps on your smartphone not to help you get to work but to avoid the big traffic snarls.

Apps like Waze and Google Maps have built-in options for re-routing around heavily congested areas.

Just program in your office and home addresses as preset destination points and when you’re commuting, select the preset and let the app guide you around traffic.

And, this does help a tiny bit with fuel economy. When you’re sitting in traffic and not moving, you’re getting zero mpg. If you get re-routed, at least you’re moving.

Now, we know that sometimes the rerouting may add mileage to the trip and negate any small gains in fuel economy, but at least you’re moving and getting to work a bit quicker.

12) Use “Gas Buddy” To Find Cheap Fuel

This is a very useful utility app that’s available for iOS and Android. It’s the top free app of its kind on the Apple App Store and Google Play with hundreds of thousands of downloads and ratings that exceed 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Essentially, the app provides you with near real-time prices of gas in your local area or wherever you may be.

It’s easy to search for the cheapest price of the specific grade of gas near you, whether that’s at home, work or anywhere else for that matter.

Now, it doesn’t make sense to drive really far out of your way to save a fifty cents on a fill-up. But, if there are a few stations all within a few minutes of where you are at the moment, then compare and go to the cheapest name-brand one that you’re comfortable with.

Just an FYI - all fuels sold in the US must meet federal government standards for minimum quality. So, no matter which brand of fuel you purchase, they all meet or exceed these quality minimums.

So, if you’re considering an independent off-brand gasoline, don’t fret, it’ll be fine. Just use the correct grade your vehicle requires. You’ll be getting more fuel for your money.

13) Find A Buddy To Carpool With

(Credit: Kyle Taylor via Flickr)

We all enjoy our personal time and space. When the chaos of our personal and working lives gets to be too much, we actually look forward to our commute sometimes.

It’s odd and seems counterintuitive but even when your commute is long, we sometimes look forward to the solitude.

But, in most cases, the commute is an annoying daily task that we all have to bear twice a day, five days a week. And, it consumes the majority of our gasoline budget.

Using gas to go somewhere fun is one thing. Using it to get to and from work is entirely another.

One way to cut this expense really fast is to share the cost through carpooling.

By alternating weeks with another coworker, you can essentially reduce your commuting costs by 50%. This includes gasoline expense and all the other routine maintenance for your car.

14) Take Public Transit To Work

With a few exceptions like New York City, Boston, Chicago and San Francisco, most of the other major cities and towns across the US don’t have a really good mass transit set-up.

Yes, there are bus lines and maybe the odd train line serving your local downtown business district, but for the most part, they aren’t convenient.

Try using Google Maps and entering your home and work destinations and choosing the mass transit option. You might be surprised. It could work for you.

If you can plan your commute carefully using mass transit, you can really save some big bucks on your commuting costs.

One tank’s worth of gas can be the equivalent of a monthly bus or train pass easily. And, some employers will even foot the bill too.

Yes, it will probably take you longer to get to and from work, but if you reframe it as more time to decompress and mentally relax, it can be just the thing you need.

Taking the bus to work is not as uncool as you think. This isn't high school. And besides, with all the money you’d save, you could justifiably treat yourself to a day at the spa every month.

Spend Less On Gas & More On Life

For a large majority of us, driving is an unavoidable part of our lives. We’ve gotta get to and from work Monday through Friday plus get around during the weekend to take care of everything else.

There’s absolutely no sensible reason why you should be spending any more on fuel than what is minimally necessary.

Here’s what it boils down to:

​1) Don’t drive like an ass - take it easy and be smooth
2) Make it easy on your car - lighten the load & inflate tires
3) Buy less expensive fuel - use the Gas Buddy app & buy regular not premium
4) Try other commuting options - carpool or mass transit

So, with a few small, cost-free changes and some adjustments in your driving and purchasing behavior, you can really cut back on unnecessary spending.

Once you do this, you’ll be spending less on gas and more on the other things in life that count - like bottomless mimosas and all-you-can-eat buffets.

Feel Better,
[Cubicle|Therapy]