Gasoline is once again reaching or surpassing the $4 per gallon mark nationwide. Depending on one’s mode of transportation, the costs can add up and can force families to revamp budgets; reallocating a portion of money once set aside for entertainment or other goods/services over to the fuel tank.
Expensive gasoline is frustrating to everyone, but is there anything we can do to combat higher prices at the pump? We cannot control the actions of OPEC or lower the excise tax on fuel, but there are some simple lifestyle changes and other modifications that can be made to reduce the impact of high gas prices. We all know that quick acceleration, air conditioner usage, excessive weight, and other factors increase gasoline usage and that eliminating these habits/items can improve fuel efficiency, but are there other ways to cut down on gasoline usage? Here is a list of ideas:
Carpool- This is a commonly mentioned means to reduce gasoline costs and it makes the most sense for those who commute long distances. By carpooling with just one other person and trading off the days of driving, gasoline costs can be cut as much as 50%. A few dollars saved each day may not seem like much, but multiply the money saved by five days per week and the cost impact becomes more noticeable.
Properly inflate your tires- When tires are underinflated, more of the tire is touching the road. This leads to more friction, which means more power is needed to propel a vehicle forward. Inflating tires to the proper pressure is one simple way to cut fuel waste.
Close car windows- Open windows cause greater resistance and, like with underinflated tires, that means the engine has to work harder to get a vehicle moving at the desired speed. Fresh air is nice, but try to keep the windows up and use the vents instead.
Add octane booster to your tank- This option will work better for some consumers than others, depending on the vehicle. By adding octane booster to your gasoline, you can increase your miles per gallon, leading to lower fuel costs. How much you save depends on a few factors such as the cost of the octane booster and the miles per gallon improvement it provides. Purchasing higher octane gasoline can also work, but this is generally not recommended because the cost of high octane gasoline adds a few dollars to each full tank purchased- dollars that may or may not be easily recouped from the improvement in miles per gallon. A small bottle of octane booster is less expensive and achieves the same results.
Make a single trip to store to buy everyday goods- Don’t divide your weekly purchases among several trips. Make a single drive to the store and buy everything you need for the next week or two. If you need to make a quick stop at the grocery store and it happens to be on your way home from work, stop by the store before you get home. Don’t drive home first and then go back to the grocery store- you end up wasting gas, not to mention your valuable time.
Consider walking to a nearby convenience store- If your usual grocery store is more than a couple miles away and you need to purchase only an item or two, a walk to the corner convenience store is a viable cost- saving option. It might sound like a stretch at first, but if you do the math, you will see that this idea isn’t far- fetched at all. Say your favorite grocery store is four miles away, making a round trip eight miles in length. Now, let’s say your vehicle gets 20 miles per gallon in the city. This eight- mile trip will therefore consume 0.4 gallons of gas which, at $4 per gallon, will cost you $1.60. If all you need is, say, a gallon of milk, you are actually better off just walking to the corner convenience store to buy it provided the cost difference of the milk (grocery store price vs. convenience store price) is $1.60 or less. Not only will you save money, but you also get the added benefit of exercise, which is something we all need to do more frequently.
Trade your vehicle in for a high miles- per- gallon hybrid- This is the ultimate way to fight back against high gasoline prices. Many hybrids get up to 50 miles per gallon. If your current vehicle gets only 20 miles per gallon and you trade it in for a hybrid vehicle that gets 50 miles per gallon, your monthly gasoline expense will fall by 60 percent! Using the MPG numbers above, an individual who drives 1,000 miles per month using a vehicle that gets 20 miles per gallon would spend $200 on gasoline (50 gallons used, multiplied by $4 per gallon). Switch to a 50 miles per gallon hybrid and the same fuel will now cost only $80 per month (20 gallons used, multiplied by $4 per gallon). Yes, buying a car can be expensive, but the gasoline savings alone will justify at least part of the monthly car payment.
High gasoline prices are a fact of life, at least for the moment, but as the list above confirms, there are many things we can do to reduce gasoline usage. This list is far from exhaustive- there are countless other ways to reduce gasoline expenses, most of which involve cutting back on the actual time spent in the car. Anything that eliminates the need to strap on the seat belt to get from point A to point B is going to reduce gasoline costs and, when practical, should be considered as part of a family’s defensive strategy against high fuel expenses.
Buying a hybrid vehicle is probably the best cost- saver of all, but keep in mind that the money saved won’t be as significant if the hybrid doesn’t get very many miles per gallon. A Chevrolet Tahoe hybrid, for example, is definitely more fuel efficient than the non- hybrid version, but the difference is not that great and the gasoline savings will likely be minimal- certainly not enough to justify the purchase of such an expensive vehicle.
Gasoline prices have been high before and they eventually retreated, so there is always hope that the same thing will happen this time around. But if they don’t retreat, there are still many defensive moves that you and your family can make to combat the high price at the pump. A few simple modifications of driving habits and other things can add up to significant savings each month and help return the gasoline portion of the family budget to a reasonable level.
Copyright 2012, Bryan Carey