Rising gasoline prices irritate consumers more than the price of any other purchase. Maybe it's because we're reminded of the prices by gigantic signs as we drive through most every commercial intersection. If the price of milk was posted so prominently, perhaps we'd throw a fit when milk prices jumped a dime.
But there's good reason for consumers to pay attention to gasoline spending. The average household spends about $2,700 a year on gas. And while you have no control over gas prices, you do have control over how much gasoline you use. If you can improve your mileage just 20 percent, you could save hundreds of dollars.
The best way to save money on gas is to buy a higher mileage car, but that's only good advice if you're car shopping right now. Otherwise, here are some do's and don'ts to spend less on gasoline and squeeze more miles out of each gallon.
- Do check for the lowest prices in your area. Online site GasBuddy.com and others allow you to compare gas prices in your area as reported by fellow drivers. But don't go far out of your way to save a few pennies. Any savings will be used up traveling to a distant service station and back.
- Don't bother with gas additives. Advertisements for gasoline additives that supposedly deliver better mileage are exaggerations or outright lies, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which has tested more than 100 of them. Some additives might even harm your vehicle.
- Do get a tune-up. A poorly tuned engine can increase fuel consumption 4 percent, and fixing a faulty oxygen sensor could improve mileage 40 percent.
- Don't be a lead foot. Each 5 miles per hour above 60 you drive is like paying an additional dime or more per gallon. Driving 75 mph, rather than 65 mph, could cut your fuel economy by 15 percent.
- Do replace air and oil filters. Clogged air filters can increase fuel consumption 10 percent.
- Don't drive like a jackrabbit. Anticipate traffic conditions to avoid sudden braking and acceleration. Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent in the city.
- Do keep tires inflated. Underinflated tires can increase fuel consumption more than 3 percent. Find the proper inflation level on the driver's side door jamb or in the manual.
- Don't keep junk in the trunk. Each 100 pounds reduces gas mileage by 2 percent.
- Do use the right oil. Use the recommended grade of motor oil, preferably one with "energy conserving" on the label. Gas mileage could improve 1 percent to 2 percent.
- Don't piggyback. Carrying large items on the roof of the vehicle creates drag that can cut gas mileage 5 percent.
- Do use cruise control. Using your vehicle's overdrive gears and cruise control improves fuel economy.
- Don't overbuy. Buy regular-grade gasoline, unless your owner's manual says otherwise. Costlier high-octane gas does not improve performance and could actually hurt gas mileage.
- Do combine trips. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.
- Don't run air conditioning unnecessarily, but don't lower your windows at high speeds, either. Both create drag on the car.
- Do take the smaller car on errands. If you own more than one vehicle, drive the one that gets better mileage for running around town.
- Don't idle. Sitting still yields 0 miles per gallon. The best way to warm up a vehicle is to drive it. More than 30 seconds of idling on winter days just wastes fuel.
More radical changesalbeit impractical for some peopleinclude changing your work hours to avoid rush-hour traffic, using carpools and ride-sharing programs, taking public transportation, walking to work, and working from home.