Save money on gas + free ebook

By Paul Michael on 18 February 2007 (Updated 10 June 2007) 23 comments

gas prices reach new heights

When I moved to America in the spring of 2001, I was paying around $1.40/gallon. Not so long ago, the price of mid-grade was double that, although now I'm paying around $2.20/gallon for my fuel. So, I decided to reduce my costs and look into ways to spend less at the pump. I found a lot of tips, plus a link to a 96-page ebook that I'll share with you at the end of this article.

Now, as I soon discovered, there are literally hundreds of ways to chop a penny or two here and there. Way too many to list here. But I'm a big fan of Top 10 lists, so here's mine. Once again, no particular order here folks.

1: Fill up in the evenings
Believe it or not, the pumps deliver a little more gas per dollar when the temperatures are lower. If you follow that logic, right now in Colorado I should be getting more bang for my buck than you folks in sunny L.A.

2: Topping-off short-changes you
It's something a lot of us do, because we don't want to be driving anywhere without a decent amount in the tank. But, when you only put a small amount of gas in your car, the pump doesn't get a chance to fully activate. In the long run, topping off can add several cents to the cost of a gallon of gas.

3: Follow the crowd - find busy gas stations
It seems an odd statement, right? Normally, I'm all against waiting any longer than I have to. But, the busy stations have fresher fuel, because their tanks are constantly being refilled. And that gives you more power from your gas than the fuel you'd find at those slow stations, which has been gradually contaminated by sitting for months and months in the pit.

4: Shopping around can save you mucho buckeroos
On one street in my neighborhood, the cost of regular differed by 20 cents between three different stations. For a 20 gallon tank, that's a $4 difference. Multiply that by 24 (that's how many times I have to fill up per year...I'm lucky I live close to work) and that's almost $100 saved per year, just by driving an extra 2 minutes. It all adds up. To find gas savings nearby, try GasPriceWatch or GasBuddy .

5: Always keep your tires at the correct pressure
It's a pain to keep checking them, but under-inflated tires take more power to roll. More power = more gas = more cost. The correct tire pressure is printed on the tire itself, it's usually around 32psi but check your own tires to make sure. And you could always try replacing your current tires with Low Rolling Resistance tires (LLR...a lot of Hybrids have them now) to further improve gas mileage.

6: Only buy the grade you need
I put mid-grade in my car because the manual recommends it. I drive an import. But my wife's car is a Chrysler and the manual says that 85 is perfectly fine. And you only really need that premium gas if you're driving some kind of super-machine ( a Porsche is not in my future any time soon). So, unless you want that extra cost for some kind of status symbol, keep it real.

7: Turn that gas cap
You're not going to break it by turning it a few clicks. A tight gas cap prevents fuel from evaporating, and that could save you a lot of money over the year. Another way to prevent evaporation is to park in the shade.

8: Use A/C when you need it
Air-conditioning and climate-control puts a big strain on your gas consumption. If it's cooler outside, roll down a window. Alternate between the A/C and the fan in the summer months. The cool air circulating in your car will take a while to heat up. I know, I know, it's an annoying way to save money. But it does work.

9: Never take the car to empty
It's good advice for many reasons. After all, who wants to run out of gas on the side of some creepy highway at midnight? (I've seen way to many horror movies). But, when it comes to gas consumption, you use more gas when the tank is almost empty. Your vehicle runs less efficiently as it tries to speed up and slow down in the mornal fashion. Ideally, fill your tank when it's around 1/4 full.

10: Weekends are pricier than weekdays
Not all the time, but most of the time. Due to increased leisure driving over the weekends, the gas prices rise to meet demand. The best times to get your gas are Tuesday evenings and Wednesday mornings.

I could go on and on, but these are my top 10 and they're easy enough to remember. If you really want to take this gas-saving business to the next level, I can highly recommend an ebook I recently read called "How To Save At The Pump: 62 Ways" by Fred Greenwald. It's usually around $7 in paperback, but I found a link to a free ebook version here. You'll have to give them the usual name and email address info, but skip the part about the credit card and hit the back button. You'll get to the link that lets you download the complete book for free.

 

 

 

 

 

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Guest's picture

Even at $2.20 per gallon the USA has some of the cheapest gas prices in the world. Europe is almost 2-3 times that price.

One missing tip is to consider fuel consumption when you buy your next vehicle.

Do you really need that 4x4 SUV gas guzzler?

[)amien

Guest's picture
Guest

Skipping the AC in the car and rolling the windows down is just as bad--having the windows open creates a lot of drag, causing your car to get worse mileage. Unless you're willing to turn off the AC AND keep the windows up, it's not really worth it.

Paul Michael's picture

I checked that out before I wrote the article. A/C is definitely the worse of two evils, as far as gas mileage goes anyway.

Guest's picture

I know someone else just said it and you refuted it. But on another blog, just like this one, I also read the exact opposite of what you claim - that aerodynamic drag burns a lot more fuel than the compressor and fan in the A/C. I wish I had the link. I'm not claiming that I am right and you are wrong. After all, that could have been mere speculation, but I think there is some debate on this issue and readers should take note. Just a caveat.

Guest's picture
Guest

Just a note: You should use the tire pressure printed on the jamb of the driver's door. The number on the tire sidewall is the maximum safe pressure for the tire.

Putting in a few PSI more than the driver door jamb says is fine, but you should be aware that it will degrade the car's ride and may affect handling and tire wear.

Paul Michael's picture

Ok, it seems we have a debate going on. Which is great. I like to know all the angles. I am putting links to the articles I found my 'facts' from. You can do with them as you wish. The first actually put the A/C - Windows down side-by-side comparison to the test.

http://www.punny.org/money/grand-financial-experiment-3-saving-gas-windows-down-or-ac-on-part-1/ 

 

Mythbusters - the TV guys

They did a side-by-side test. A/C was less efficient than windows down under 50mph. A/C was more efficient over 50mph. That was on computers. BUT, when they did a side-by-side with two SUVs, driving continuously, the car with the windows DOWN went for an extra 30 miles. 

 http://ask.metafilter.com/42167/Hot-window-breeze-or-cool-car-breeze

Lifehacker also has a mention of the episode here.

http://lifehacker.com/software/gas/gas-saving-tips-and-myths-172215.php 

 

Edmunds says - no difference!

http://www.edmunds.com/advice/fueleconomy/articles/106842/article.html 

 

So, in conclusion, out of all the articles I read, windows-down trumped A/C, especially as most of the time I'm personally driving at 50mph or below, when drag is not such a concerm. Make of it what you will folks. 

Paul Michael's picture

I asked a mechanic about that one. He agrees in principle, but mentioned that many people put different size and model tires on their cars due to price concerns, weather etc. So, that one's up for debate too.

Lynn Truong's picture

i've heard from two sources (one from a science mag and one from a science podcast) that over 50 A/C is more efficient. yes the debate surely continues.

costco claims that their nitrogen air gives better fuel efficiency.

webmaster's picture

I didn't know half of the stuff on that list. Thank you very much.

Guest's picture
Shannon

I followed link for free ebook because a. I wanted to see what it ws about and b. I love free stuff.

After signing up and selecting free ebook this company asks for a credit card. Why do they need the CC when the book is free.

So, I did not get the free book :(

webmaster's picture
webmaster

Hi Shannon.  Here's how to bypass the credit card page.

1. I went to the link Paul provided.

2. I selected "free download" and clicked "add to cart."

3. At the shopping cart page I clicked "save and continue."

4. I entered an email address (one I wouldn't mind getting spam at) and created a password.

5. At the payment method page (which I guess is where you're at), I click "back to cart" on the bottom right hand corner of the screen.

6. You will see a listing of the book.  On the right side you'll see a icon called download.  Click on that icon.

I hope this works! 

 

 

Guest's picture
Matt

I disagree with the contention that running your tank low on gas uses more fuel. Modern fuel injection systems use a fuel pressure regulator to maintain a set pressure at the fuel injectors at all times, no matter how much gas is in the tank. The amount of fuel consumed is only determined by how much power the engine is producing. Running the tank low on gas should actually reduce the engine's power output since you're carrying less weight around in the car, therefore reducing fuel consumption. I'd say, as long as you trust the fuel gauge in your car and you're disciplined enough to fuel up at the right times so as not to run out of gas, it would be smarter to let the gauge run down to E (assuming there's still a little left when the gauge gets that low), then fill up to a quarter or half tank.

Guest's picture

Regarding filling up in the evening vs. during the daytime: The difference between 86 degree F gas and 50 degree gas is something like 1-2%, but the gas is stored underground where temperature should be more or less constant. I wouldn't worry about it.

And because aerodynamic properties of all cars are different, there's no way to say exactly how fast you're going when you transition from using more power to cool via A/C than by window opening. However, for any car that transition DOES happen. At 100mph, A/C will be more efficient every time. At 10mph the windows will be better every time.

If you really want to know for sure, I'd take my car up to 70mph, roll down the windows, time how long it takes the car to coast down to 40mph (in gear). Then do the same thing with the A/C on. I'd think that whichever takes the longest is the most efficient.

Andrea Karim's picture

Because I've noticed that my car gets 200 miles on the first half a tank of gas, but only 100 miles on the second half. It's a newer car, so I thought I could trust the instruments to tell me accurately how much gas I was using. I assumed I would do better with less fuel, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

I disagree on the fuel type, though. I find that I get better mileage with higher-grade gas, enough to justify the added expense.

Guest's picture
Anthony Storment

IF you had any common sense at all you would realize that running your ac pump does not cost no more then it does to not run it because that serpintine belt that runs past that pully all of the time is used energy so why dont you put it to use. before you post sh** on the internet i think that you should do all of your homework first because it is very ovious that you dont know a god damn thing about cars you jack ass

Guest's picture
Adam

Well, your terrible English aside, you're completely wrong. Yes, the belt does spin pulley even when the compressor isn't on, however, the pulley isn't actually CONNECTED to anything inside the compressor when the compressor is off. When your turn on the AC, the pulley engages and spins the mechanism in the compressor. Think of the pulley with the compressor off as the pedals of a bike with no chain. Spinning the pedals is easy because you're not actually doing any work. Hook the chain up (turn the compressor on) and things become significantly more difficult.

Paul Michael's picture

I can’t fault your superior knowledge of automobiles, although your use of English certainly does leave a lot to be desired. Then again upon re-reading your post, I’m a tiny bit confused. If it “does not cost no more” then your use of a double negative would imply that it does indeed cost more. Correct me if I lose you on this one, it must be difficult for you to follow I know.

Plus, I’ve looked everywhere for the “serpintine’ belt and “pully” on my car but, alas, could not find either. I have a Serpentine Belt that snakes around various pulleys, but as I know nothing about cars, I couldn’t tell you what that’s for. Maybe it’s “ovious” to our other Wisebread readers?

I’ll make you this deal though. If you go and tell all the good folks that I referenced, including those dumb-old Mythbusters boys with their engineering backgrounds, that you know way more than they do, then I’ll tell my father-in-law (a seasoned mechanic by the way) that I need to stop writing and take another automotive class. I guess stripping the entire engine out of a ’95 Civic and replacing the timing belt doesn’t count as very much experience.

Perhaps when I’ve finished that, you can pop down to your local college and sign up for an English class? Just a thought. In the meantime, feel free to ask one of your friends (if indeed you have any…difficult to tell from what little I know of you) to buy you a dictionary. And maybe a new personality.

 

Will Chen's picture
Will Chen

We welcome new facts and ideas from our readers. We love getting dissenting opinions because they not only help us learn but they also give our readers a broader range of opinions to choose from.

But is there really a need to be so abusive? Look at all the other dissenting opinions on this thread. The other commenters (as well as Paul) have demonstrated that it is possible to have a civilized discussion about an interesting topic without resorting to name calling.

You sound like you know a lot about cars. We welcome your to the discussion. But please do not abuse our writers!

By the way, from those jackasses at the EPA :

"Additionally, vehicle air conditioners consume more energy than any other auxiliary vehicle equipment. In the United States alone, vehicle air conditioners consume 7 billion gallons of gasoline every year."

P.S. Classy response Paul.

 

Guest's picture
James E Watson

Here in sunny earthquake country, part of the advice we get to prepare for an emergency is to keep the gas tank one quarter to one half full all the time. So, if the big one hits, and the power at the local gas station goes out, we at least have gas to get us out of town to safety, if needed.

Guest's picture
Elaine

How about... drive less? If you buy less, you spend less money. Crazy but true.

Also when it comes to time of day, it's not just cooler evening temperatures. When I worked at a gas station, we and all the other stations in the area would have three price brackets per day. The highest price of the day would be graveyard shift and most of the morning, then it would drop late morning or so, and again mid-afternoon. Price goes back up again around 10 pm.

Guest's picture
Guest

Just as Adam said, you are wrong. The serpentine belt IS constantly turning the pulley on the compressor, but unless the A/C is on, the compressor itself is not running. And it's not titled a compressor for nothing- it (as the name implies) compresses the refrigerant as part of the process of cooling the air in the cabin. As Physics 101 will show you, compressing any substance requires some amount of energy, which, in this case, the car's engine will have to create, resulting in increased fuel consumption. Try shoving the garbage in your trash can down and you will see.

Guest's picture
Guest

The correct tire pressue is in the manual or [erhaps on a sticker on the driver's side door end panel. The pressure printed on the tire is usually a maximum. I believe using the maximum may be dangerous in hot months due to expansion from the heat of the road and friction, driving the pressure significantly over the maximum. The effect would be lessened in cooler months, but on wet or icy roads, you don't want to risk loss of traction.

There is alo the issue of tread wear. Improperly inflated tires (over- or under-inflated) cause uneven tread wear, causing parts of the tire to wear more quickly.

Not suggesting that anyone not properly inflate tires, just be sure you know what proper inflation is.

Guest's picture

THE TWO MAIN WAYS that I've found to increase mpg is #1. add a GOOD hho generator (use a hydroxide like NaOH for an electrolyte), & #2. use gas vapor-you won't need fuel injectors or fuel pump. Ask google how to make both! I'm an inventor- Wendell Ferrell