As the nation’s economic woes mount, many Americans plan to stay close to home this summer. Six in 10 Americans say they will spend less on vacations this summer or not take one at all, according to a new report by TrueCredit.com.
Among those rethinking travel plans, 72 percent cited fuel costs as their primary concern. Indeed, a family planning a 1,000-mile road trip, for example, can expect to pay at least $600 more than they did last year.
With just a few minor changes, motorists don’t have to buy a hybrid to increase fuel economy by up to 50 percent. So before hitting the road, check out these 10 tips to lower your gasoline bill:
1. Feed the Michelin Man!
One out of every 3 cars on the road in the U.S. has at least one underinflated tire. Properly inflated tires could save up to $2 every time you fill up. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that Americans will waste more than $1.5 billion in gasoline this summer because of low tire pressure.
2. Your car is not a moving closet.
If you like to keep golf clubs in the trunk just in case you get the urge to play 18 holes, consider that every 100 pounds you add reduces fuel efficiency by 1 to 2 percent. That’s 4 to 7 cents a gallon, or up to a $1.05 every time you fill up a 15-gallon tank.
3. Don’t move the junk in your trunk to the roof.
A roof-mounted luggage carrier, roof racks, or anything else on top of your car creates wind resistance and can decrease fuel economy by up to 5 percent. Pickup truck owners, however, can make their vehicles more aerodynamic and improve fuel economy by adding a shell the same height as the cab over the truck bed. If you don’t want to buy a shell, keep the tailgate closed.
4. You’re not a race car driver.
You’ve heard it before, but hear it again: Don’t go over 60 miles per hour, and avoid quick starts and stops. Doing so can reduce your outlay for gasoline by as much as 33 percent. Remember this simple equation: For every 5 mph you drive over 60, you’ll pay the equivalent of an extra 20 cents per gallon.
5. Make peace with the A/C.
Times – and cars – have changed, so dads can loosen their grip on the air-conditioning controls. In fact, driving with the windows down on the highway creates enough wind resistance to make a noticeable difference as the engine chugs to overcome the excess drag. In the city, however, you’ll get better mileage by shutting off the A/C and letting in fresh air, but the difference will be slight, about an extra mile per gallon.
6. Get to know your mechanic.
If money is tight, ignoring the “check engine” light won’t protect the piggy bank. Routine maintenance ensures that your car will get maximum gas mileage and avert potential mechanical problems down the road.
7. Forget the drive-through.
When grabbing lunch on the go, save yourself from needless idling by parking, turning off the car, going inside the restaurant, and getting your order to go.
8. Map it twice, drive there once.
Before shopping for a weekend barbecue or running everyday errands, think about your route. The average American makes up to a dozen trips a day. Planning what you need and where to go will save you from backtracking or, worse, second and third trips.
9. Say no to premium gas.
Unless your car requires it, don’t buy premium gas. It will not increase your gas mileage, only your bill.
10. Play the market.
No official rules exist dictating when gas stations raise or lower prices. But if fuel prices are trending up, most stations post new rates just before the weekend. When prices are heading down, stations often wait until after the weekend to drop prices.