If you have a car, it’s probably your second-biggest ongoing expense, right behind your rent or mortgage. The convenience of transportation comes at a cost — maintenance, payments, washing, etc. But one expense that has all car owners grinding their teeth is the cost of fuel. You never quite know when it’s going to skyrocket again and completely wreck your carefully-planned budget.
Fortunately, there are a few cheap or free things you can do to cut down on your fuel costs and make your car’s engine more efficient.
This might sound like a driving safety tip, but the truth is that ditching all distractions when you get the behind the wheel can do wonders for your gas mileage. When you focus entirely on the task of driving, you make smoother turns, you avoid slamming on your brakes, and you generally are more attentive to the road.
2) Pump Your Tires
Firm tires means money in your pocket. When you go on your daily commute on less-than-completely-inflated tires, you not only do damage to them, you also force your car’s engine to work harder than it has to. In fact, properly pumped up tires can increase your fuel efficiency by as much as 3.3 percent. The the next time you fill up, ask the cashier to turn on the air pump for you so you can fill your tires up to the ideal PSI. They usually will let you use the air pump for free if you buy gas too.
3) Change Your Oil
You can’t neglect basic maintenance. When the oil in your engine starts to get old and dirty, all its moving parts struggle to do their job. A thirty-dollar oil change can save you a ton of money over the course of the next few months.
4) Clean Out Your Car
Are you lugging around a ton of stuff in your car just because you just forgot to take it out? That’s like tossing money out the window every time you go for a drive. Every additional pound you unnecessarily keep in your car decreases your fuel efficiency and costs you money. So do yourself and your pocketbook a favor and clean out your entire car of stuff you don’t need (and don’t forget to empty the trunk too)!
5) Check Your Speed
Before you start your engine, make sure to take off your lead foot. Driving at very high speeds is a magnet for highway patrolmen, and it also forces your car to fight against heavy wind resistance. Staying the below the speed limit will keep tickets off of your driving record and gas in your tank.
6) Accelerate Smoothly
Just because you can go from 0 to 60 in 5.8 seconds, that doesn’t mean that you should. Your car burns the most gas when you are driving at high RPMs. So the faster you accelerate, the quicker your gas tank drains. Whenever you’re driving on the freeway, creep up to your target speed gradually to get the most out of the fuel you have.
Your car might be one of your biggest expenses, but if you haven’t optimized for efficiency, then it might also be one of your biggest chances to save money every month. By making some small changes to your car and how you drive, you can have a whole lot more money flowing to your savings account.