How to Save Money on the Gas Bill for Your Commute

Even with the recent drop in fuel prices, it's nice to know how you can reduce your fuel costs. We’ve put together a simple guide to help you achieve this goal.
Tips on how to save money on your gas bill 1 photo
Before we get started with our guide, the easiest way to reduce your fuel use is to drive less. However, we’ve designed this guide for those who cannot give up on their vehicles for whatever reason. So if driving is a must for your commute, this guide still applies.

Furthermore, we write this guide on the presumption that your vehicle is in perfect operating condition. Otherwise, no guide can ensure your personal means of transportation provides the best fuel economy possible.

After all, how can you expect your vehicle to run in an economical way if it is not running properly in the first place? So if you are not sure if your car is running properly, fix it before attempting to get the best fuel economy out of it. We must say that this is not a hypermiling guide, as this article tackles common mistakes on a day-to-day driving scenario. So, let’s get on with it.

Plan ahead and think of your stops before you start the engine

Before you get into your vehicle and drive off, think what interruptions you may have. From bathroom breaks and coffee stops, each unplanned interruption of your route will increase your fuel consumption. Figure out which way you are going and what are the first directions you need to follow before you start your engine.

Buckle up your seatbelt, make sure your passengers do the same, and then prepare yourself for the trip. From a morning/evening commute to a long distance trip, have everything prepared before you start the engine and set off. The goal of this is to avoid stationary idling to fix your seatbelt, configure the navigation system, send a text message, or figure out directions.

Park smart and refuel before you have to

Do you have any idea where you are going to park when you arrive at your destination? If you do not, use Google on your phone/tablet or computer to find if there are any parking spots near your destination. Excepting medical situations and unplanned emergencies, there’s no need to park right in front of the place you need to go. Using a computer is best to figure this out, as you can use services like Google Street View to determine if there are any parking spots in the area or any organized parking facilities.

When you get to the parking space, back up into the space, so you leave driving forward. The trick with this is that you eliminate some maneuvers from your drive while the engine is still warming up (i.e. right after it is started). Furthermore, this idea gets you going faster than when you'd have to reverse out of a parking space. It is already understood that this planning also involves leaving early from wherever you are to make sure you do not rush while driving and you do not miss your appointments.

Forget drive-throughs and short trips

While convenient through the fact that you do not have to leave your car, drive-throughs are a huge waste of fuel. They involve unnecessary idling while waiting in line, driving slowly with frequent stops, and most drive-throughs serve fast-food, so it is not good for your health either.

This advice is also valid for any shopping trips. Try to figure out whether there’s a store nearby and walk to it instead of driving there. This way, you have the potential of eliminating an additional drive to a nearby facility.

You can shop near your workplace, if there aren’t too many shops near your house. Unless you have to carry more groceries than you can hold, this is a very good idea. Even then, you can adjust your shopping habits to ditch the use of your car as a shopping cart.

Use Apps for better routes

You already know the way from your job to your house, along with other common destinations. However, are you using the best path possible? Try to see if there are any alternatives. Maybe there’s a faster route available, or a shorter one. Seek a way with fewer traffic lights or stop signs (if possible) to ensure that you have as few full-stops on the route as possible.

You can use Google Maps or similar services to find information for this. Some apps even provide ways depending on the time of departure, and they make a huge difference in your daily drive. Apps like Waze are great if you have a decent data plan on your smartphone, as they can change the route on the roll to ensure you get to your destination faster.

Driving fast for some portions of the road and frequently stopping may trick your brain that you are going someplace faster, but a slow and steady alternate route could get you in the same place cheaper and with less fuel used.

Tire pressure and alignment

While we did mention that your vehicle must be in proper technical condition before attempting to use our smart driving tips to ensure you save money on fuel, we must enforce the idea that you should check your tire pressures every other week.

If you drive many miles/kilometers per week, consider checking them weekly. If you happen to drive rarely, you still need to check your tires, as they might lose pressure when the vehicle is parked for longer periods of time.

If your tires are inflated to the manufacturer recommended values, check your wheel alignment once or twice a year. If you often drive into potholes and severe irregularities on the road, your car might appear to drive straight, but its wheel alignment might be off.

An improper wheel alignment will increase your fuel consumption and generate premature tire wear. It is not likely you’ll notice bad wheel alignment by only driving your vehicle, so have it checked out by professionals at least once a year.

Drive smart

You can have poor fuel economy even if you are the only resident of your city. Why? Because of the way you are driving your car. Avoid sudden stops and hard braking unless it is necessary and become a smooth driver. Imagine your car is a huge bathtub, filled with water up to the edge. Drive as if you would not want to spill any water. Don’t upset the natural balance of the vehicle with sudden movements.

Don’t forget to look ahead and try to imagine (with your eyes open) what other road users will do. If you see a traffic light ahead turn red, stop accelerating. Don’t coast (that means driving without being in gear) because coasting means idling, while driving in gear towards a stop and gently touching the brake will cut the fuel injection on your car (if it is a modern fuel-injected vehicle) and save you some fuel. If the engine begins to lug (car is vibrating as if it is stalling), you’ve overdone it, and you are not saving gas anymore.

Ditch roof racks and other useless weight from vehicle

All the planning and thought put into reducing your fuel bills could go to waste if you have the habit of carrying a roof rack of any kind. Try to minimize the usage of any roof-mounted devices for your drives.

The second thing that drops your vehicle’s fuel economy is carrying unnecessary weight on board. Don’t transport items that are out of season in the trunk just because you can (i.e., shovel in the summer) and take out your luggage as soon as you get to a destination so you will not drive them everywhere with you.

On the other hand, you should not go to extremes and ditch any safety equipment and emergency tools, like a jack, spare tire, or the first aid kit. However, you do not have to carry the paperback manual of your vehicle in the glovebox.

Avoid useless idling and refuel in a smart way

The fuel tank can make you lose mileage. While it is smarter to refuel your vehicle as rarely as possible, if you fill it to the full capacity, you will carry the extra weight of fuel along for every ride. If you have a big tank, the weight adds up. Instead, wait until you have a quarter tank of fuel left and check online for the lowest fuel prices in your area.

Don’t drive with less that a quarter tank regularly, as you’ll be forced to refuel from a more expensive station once you notice you are on reserve, and this habit could also damage electric fuel pumps that rely on fuel for cooling.

Driving on empty/reserve is a bad idea, just as regular topping up on fuel. Find a compromise between how often you need to refuel and how far you can go on half a tank of fuel. For longer trips and winter situations, filling up to full capacity is the right thing to do.

Whenever you fuel up, figure out the best times to refuel (early in the morning or late at night) so there isn’t a queue of cars idling in front of the pumps, waiting to refuel. That is just wasting gas while sitting on a chair.

Don’t forget to shut off your engine while waiting for another passenger. Make sure you get out of the way of moving traffic, so you do not have to start your engine again just to move your car.

Analyze each trip and figure out what you are doing wrong

Not getting any results or improvements? You are doing something wrong. Find out whether you have smoothened out your driving style and use the vehicle’s built-in trip meter to calculate your daily mileage. Get an app that analyzes you driving style based on your smartphone’s accelerometer, or ask a friend who’s good at economy driving to check out what you are doing wrong.

Find a ride partner

Last but not least, carpooling. If you do not live in a dangerous neighborhood, make friends with your neighbors and figure out whether you share the same commute times and destinations. If there’s no potential candidate for a "ride buddy," ask around at work to find out if there’s somebody on your daily route you can pick up and drop off at work.

If your schedules match, subtly propose a deal in which your ride partner chips in for fuel. Avoid filling your car up with too many co-workers, though, as the extra weight might bring a penalty on fuel economy. It might be worth it if they all chip in for gas money, so run the math thrice before making any promises.

How to check your car's tire pressure


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