Four Gas Saving Tips You’ll Ignore, Five You Won’t

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Fuel GaugeThe one thing I don’t really like about typical gas saving tip posts is that they give you great tips that you’ll absolutely never use. There. I said it. Those are great tips that you will absolutely, without a doubt, 100%, take no prisoners, ignore until you’re blue in the face. You ignore them because you basically don’t like the tips. Let me get into the four tips you’ll ignore, tell you why I think you (and I) ignore them, then I’ll follow that up with some tips I think you won’t ignore (and that I don’t, mostly because they’re easy).

Drive 55 MPH

This tip is by far the one that you’ll probably ignore the most because we all like to get where we’re going as quickly as possible. In fact, despite all the studies showing that driving slowly will increase fuel efficiency, the bottom line is that when the Feds forced the 55 MPH speed limit because of the 1973 oil crisis, oil consumption dropped only 1%. You are most likely to ignore this rule because after the max speed law was repealed, most highways use 65 MPH as their limit and most highways generally operate around anywhere between 70 MPH and 80 MPH; going any slower actually puts you at risk as aggressive drivers start weaving around you.


Carpooling obviously saves on gasoline because you use less of it. Carpool exactly one work day a week and, like magic, you’ll reduce your gas consumption! It’s absolutely brilliant in its simplicity until you actually try to carpool and find out no one lives near you and has the same schedule as you. I lived with a roommate for two years, we carpooled fewer than five times; it’s not that we hate the Earth (I recycle, I try to conserve gas like everyone else) but we had different schedules and coordination was a pain. Sometimes I had to work late, sometimes he had to work late, sometimes I had to come in early, etc. At under $3/gallon for gasoline, carpooling’s PITA factor outweighs the cost savings. I still try to carpool when its convenient, trading beers for rides into Baltimore, but the day to day thing simply doesn’t work well.

Reduce Weight In Trunk

I’ve heard this tip over and over again and some people even advise that you take the spare out of your trunk to save on fuel! Again, a great tip if you have cinder blocks in your trunk but generally I don’t think I have more than 10 pounds of “stuff” in my trunk (not counting the spare, which is staying in there no matter what). This tip is great in principle but fails in practice because I think most people have a reason for the stuff in their car’s trunk. Even the people with tons of junk in their trunk have a good reason for it and often won’t have it filled with stuff that’s both unnecessary and unbelievably heavy.

Buy A Smaller Car

Great tip… except you already have a car. It’s a great tip on paper, buy a smaller car and you will use less gasoline both today and in the future. It ignores one important fact though: it’s hard to sell a car and then buy a new one. In fact, buying a car is regarded as one of the more stressful decision processes a human being can enter into (second to probably buying a house and getting married, this is of course a statistic I made up but you’ll probably agree with me) and it’s not something that happens trivially. If you could swap your gas guzzler for a svelte gas sipper I’m sure you would, but it’s not as simple as that. This is like suggesting you trade in your wife or husband to someone more attentive or more attractive. Seems good on paper until you try to do it. This is probably the most ridiculous tip.

Tips You’ll Use

Now that you’ve heard the four tips that I think are good but most often ignored, here are five tips that are simple and something you’ll actually do:

  1. Scan GasBuddy Before Fillup: You can probably get to a computer before you hop into your car to fill up the tank on your way to or from work, so jump onto GasBuddy (or your gas station search of choice) and find the one along your route that has the cheapest gas.
  2. Use the correct octane: If your car says that you should use premium, use premium. If your car says regular and you’re using premium, you’re wasting your money.
  3. Ensure your tires are properly inflated: The statistics vary but it’s estimated you can lose ~6% fuel efficiency if your tires are under inflated plus they have a reduced life because of uneven wear. Keep your tires inflated and drive 155 MPH and you’ll still come out on top.
  4. Change your oil regularly: This is an easy step that keeps your engine operating at peak performance, keeping all part lubricated and all the junk out of your oil. Only do so at the schedule in your manual, ignore that 3,000 mile garbage (unless your manual says so).
  5. Change your air filter: This is another one of those simple maintenance tasks that will save you up to ~10% fuel efficiency. If your engine is starving for air because your filter looks like Snoop Dogg’s lungs then you’re wasting a lot of money for no good reason.

(Photo: chego101)

{ 13 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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13 Responses to “Four Gas Saving Tips You’ll Ignore, Five You Won’t”

  1. Patrick says:

    Yes, I ignore rule number for sure, but only because the speed limits are higher than that. 😉

    For your air filter, you can also consider purchasing a performance air filter (such as K&N) which not only provides a better source of cold air (which can increase horsepower), you can also reuse the filters. All you have to do is clean them at regular intervals. The upfront cost is a little more than a regular filter, but if you keep your car long enough, you should more than break even and may even get better performance.

    Great tips.

  2. Curtis says:

    You forgot my method of saving gas! I take the bus to work and sold one of our 2 cars. Dropped our gas expense almost in half (the remaining car isn’t as fuel efficient and it gets extra miles from doing a few more trips than normal).

  3. Foobarista says:

    Some others in the “tips you won’t use” category:

    1. Move closer to work. Sounds nice, but relocating costs a minimum of $100s for renters and $1000s and up for homeowners. May work over a long period of time, but few people have the resources to make this worthwhile in the short run. Also, many work areas are in the high-cost “business” parts of the city, where apartments and houses are small and expensive…

    2. Ride the Bus! Sounds great until you have a homeless person with odor issues sitting next to you. Bonus points if they have mental issues as well. That, together with the too-loud teenagers chattering for 47 stops will quickly drive you back into the personal cocoon provided by your car…

    3. Ride the Train! Better than the bus, but often has a “last mile” problem: it always seems to stop about a mile too far from where I need to go. I ride it when I’m feeling ambitious exercise-wise. It actually is the most promising option, especially if I ever work somewhere where there’s a shuttle.

    Some I do use:

    1. Work from home. My job allows me to telecommute 2-3 days per week, so I do. Saves about $7/day and I get more work done than at the office.

    2. Combine errands and walk to places nearby. We do lots of neighborhood walks for exercise, and if we can get some errands done while we’re at it, why not?

    3. If you have two drivers in your household, the person with the longest drive should use the car with the best mileage. My wife does a lot of driving in her business, so she drives our Toyota that gets about 30MPG. I just drive to work and back, so I use our 23MPG small SUV.

  4. Andrew says:

    Foobarista, Totally agreed with your point 3, I have a similar situation here, and that’s why my wife gets to drive our Prius, and I take the Maserati. I have got to show her your post, cuz she never understands this simple money-saving logic.

  5. Foobarista says:

    And your wife gets to show off her Smug Cloud, while you enjoy the full glory of hardcore CO2 emissions – Vroooom….

  6. Great post. Far too often people throw out ideas for frugality that make little to no common sense, so it was great to read a straightforward approach to saving gas mileage.

  7. MoneyNing says:

    I think all the new car manuals says 3000 miles now. It doesn’t hurt the dealership and it gives them another chance to sell you other stuff!!

  8. Lazy Man says:

    I do occasionally drive 55, but I tend to do it only when I’m really low on gas and know that I’m not likely to stop for gas anytime soon, just because it’s not convenient from where I am.

    You are right that the coordination makes carpooling really difficult.

  9. Anything but the Bus says:

    We could probably set up a system for carpoolers, sign-up a service perhaps to share/ride with people….to think about it… maybe not, too much of a hassle, security issues, privacy concerns, soon enough, it would be like riding the bus (yikes). Ohh….the things I’d do to not ride a bus. That could be a list all by itself.

  10. uncle B says:

    Sad as it seems for the people, and as good as it is for the environment, soon enough, Americans won’t have jobs, and will not be able to pay for gasoline, their drug of choice, at all! The (GRD) great republican depression, “revolution” is at hand! Soon, food supplies will shrink, to fit falling demands, after all, the suppliers and shippers of food in America are corporations, not charities, and keep supply and demand in check to maximize profits and prices! As this happens, huge factory farms will cut back, lessening green-house gases as they do, and waistlines will shrink, making for a healthier more vegetarian population! This will prepare the American physique for the new smaller eco-box cars from China, now waiting for export on the docks of Shanghai! Next, these smaller more energetic people will want realistic houses with payable mortgages! The birth of the “Zero upkeep, Zero running cost” high tech, GRD survival shelter will be heralded in as a modern Obama-Miracle, greenhouse, Swedish dry toilet, composter, solar cells, super hi-tech insulation, windmills and all! The greatest achievement will be the plug-in, bio-diesel assisted, commuter car, a tandem seat, carbon fiber and advanced polymer composite affair, ultra-light, 100 mpg+, made in China, but to American specs, cheap and long lasting, durable enough to make car payments and mortgage payments, work in part-time service industries and still have money for food on the table and still drive to work daily, instead of using buses. What stupendous changes are upon us! How greatly the American Dream will be altered! When will all this happen? It is happening now! and it is happening because we are BROKE! and cannot demand more! Our dollar is losing value as we speak, the former “economy” cannot be restored because the world simply does not have the resources left to support our former lifestyle! The days of cheap oil are OVER! The OPEC countries and the Saudis are running out! at any price! and the Iraqis and Iran will sell what is left in their fields, at premium prices to the Chinese, and anyone else crazy enough to tool up to use a dwindling resource.

  11. Matthew says:

    Of the tips you’ll actually use:
    1, 3, and 5 are all pretty good ideas and will work however, I have to disagree on 2 and 4.

    In most cases, my understanding is that using a higher octane is bunk.

    And, concerning the changing of your oil, it actually depends primarily on the type of oil that you are using. For instance, most of my driving is highway miles due to my sales position. As a result, I use a high mileage synthetic oil everytime (which costs much more than a basic cheapo oil). Since I do this, I can go 10k miles between changes and could probably stretch it even more than that.

    My point here is just that it depends. The greater moral to the story is that you should learn how to check the status and quality of your car’s oil and check it regularly if you know that your car burns through it quickly. This will keep your car running more efficiently.

  12. Nobodyknowsnothing says:

    Uncle B
    You should write a science fiction novel so we can all see what our futures look like. Why are humans so araid of change.

  13. echidnina says:

    Haha! I love this. I think a lot of advice articles, on any sort of topic, offer a lot of tips that people just plain won’t use – people only listen to what they want to hear, and if a piece of advice isn’t worth the effort, it’s as if it’s not even there. So good on you for moving past the obvious tips that everyone hears but doesn’t listen to.

    I agree with some earlier commenters though, the best gas-saving tip is to reduce driving at all. I know it’s difficult in a lot of places, but if you’re lucky enough to live in a city that’s walkable, cycle-friendly or has good public transportation, definitely take advantage of it. If you don’t need to carry anything big, it’s really not that much of an inconvenience. In fact, I prefer the bus or train to driving, because I can take out my book and zone out until I get to my destination. No more road rage!

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