Sunday, October 13, 2013

Fuel Efficiency & Savings

Even if you don't opt to get a cool veggie car (a diesel car that runs on waste vegetable oil), there are still a lot of great ways to save on fuel costs.  Check out these ideas and leave your own tips in the comments below.

Drive Carefully
Instead of speeding up to that red light only to have to slam on your brakes and waste precious (and expensive) fuel to get going again, be cognizant about your driving and stop pressing the gas as soon as you see a stop coming up. The less you have to use your brakes, and thus your fuel, the more money you'll save. This careful driving is called hypermiling and can save you a bundle.  Switching into neutral to coast down a hill, shifting (if you have a manual transmission) as soon as the RPM's are high enough, and slowly accelerating will all help make a significant difference in your fuel consumption over time.

Gas Buddy App
Before you ever top off your tank, check which fuel station has the lowest prices.  There are a number of websites that will give you near instantaneous information on fuel prices or apps, like GasBuddy that will tell you the same.  I like GasBuddy because you can enter in the zip code of where you are going and will need to fill up, or you can have it find the stations nearest you based on your phone's location.  This is a great feature for when you're running on empty and need fuel quickly, but it's best to plan ahead to save the most money.  When I get down to about a quarter or 1/8 of a tank, I search GasBuddy for the least expensive fuel. Then I plan my trips for that week, like I go grocery shopping at the WinCo near the fuel station.  By making only one trip to that end of town to get both my groceries and my fuel, I save a little more money.  Depending upon the fuel efficiency of your vehicle, this could just mean a dollar or two of savings every fill up, but that's still a dollar that you can now save away or spend on something else.  Especially if you have to fill up multiple times a month, this will quickly add up.


Inflate Your Tires
If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you can stop by your friendly, local Les Schwab Tire Center and they will check over your car and inflate your tires for free.  (They are not the least expensive place to get tires, but, in my opinion, they are the best, both because of their amazing customer service and because they give so much back to the community.  This is why we choose to use some of the money we have saved in other areas to buy tires from Les Schwab.  Plus, they have free popcorn!)  By having your tires fully inflated, you reduce the rolling resistance because there is less surface area of your tire touching the ground, wasting precious, expensive fuel on friction instead of transporting you to your next money-saving location!

Buy a Fuel Efficient Car
Did you think that the Toyota Prius was the most fuel efficient car money can buy? Think again.  We had 40+ mpg cars back in the 70's.  Yet, Big Oil wanted a profit, so in the 80's and 90's we conveniently forgot about the fuel crisis of '73 that was the catalyst for the import of the fuel-sipping Asian imports.  But you already knew that, you smart car shopper.  You also knew that we imported German diesels, right?


Yes, the diesel engine is approximately 30% more fuel efficient than it's average gasoline-sucking internal combustion engine counterpart.  So why don't we buy diesels? Unfortunately, in those 80's and 90's of the American car boom, we were counting our chicks before our eggs hatched.  That is to say, we forgot about the possibility of a future fuel fiasco (2008).  Anybody remember fuel prices at $5/gallon?  We do.  That's when we switched to vegetable oil.  But you don't have to go all crazy hippy like us, just take a look at the Volkswagen TDI's.  TDI = Turbo Direct Injection.  VW makes the Jetta, Golf, Passat, Toureg, and other TDI variants.  Bottom line, if it says TDI, chances are you're looking at between 45-50mpg on the highway if you buy one with a manual transmission.  5mpg less with the automatic.  Not bad. This can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your car, especially if you drive frequently or make long trips.

How do you save on auto expenses?  What type of car do you drive?  Have you opted for public transport?  Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to check back frequently for more money-saving tips!

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