15 - 2007

Blog Action Day: Save Oil AND Money With Driving Techniques

It’s Blog Action Day – a day for bloggers all over the Net to focus on environmental topics. And with oil hitting a record high of more than $86 per barrel today, let’s talk about saving gas.

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while. In the meantime, I wrote an article on this subject with a client, so I’ll let the article speak for me (and give the client a little publicity!). These are the basic techniques we use to save several miles per gallon, so drive them all the way to the (green) bank.

October is National Car Care Month, and it’s the perfect time to check up on your vehicle before winter conditions set in — and to make some changes that could save you money at the gas pump this month and in the future.

While vehicle mileage varies from 50 miles per gallon and up for the latest hybrids, to the single digits for some super-thirsty SUVs, vehicle owners do have some leeway in determining just how efficient their vehicle is. Consider these suggestions to slake your car’s thirst — and at the same time put some extra money in your pocket.

1. Take it easy. Aggressive driving — accelerating as fast as possible, keeping your foot on the gas at every moment and hitting the brakes hard when you need to stop — burns through gas. In fact, recent tests by the driving experts at Edmunds.com revealed that driving more moderately can improve gas mileage by up to 37 percent. This means taking off from a stop at a moderate pace, driving slower (say, the speed limit or below), and giving yourself a long braking distance so you can slowly come to a stop. You’ll be safer, too, and if you aren’t speeding you eliminate the risk of a ticket — which will save you some more money in the long run.

2. Switch it off. Don’t idle. If the vehicle will be stationary for more than a minute or so, turn off the engine.

3. Lighten the load. Take a look inside your trunk. If you’re carting around your husband’s bowling ball, your son’s hockey gear and your dog’s kennel, clear out the car to reduce your weight and improve mileage.

4. Check it out. Follow the vehicle’s recommended maintenance schedule. A well-maintained car — especially one that has regular oil changes, fuel filter changes and air filter changes — runs more efficiently and safely.

5. Cruise. Do use cruise control to maintain your speed and eliminate unnecessary acceleration. But if you’re driving in hilly terrain, turn if off, as it wastes gas powering up slopes.

6. Pump it up. Inflate tires to the recommended pressure (check your owner’s manual). This makes the ride smoother and smooths out gas mileage. More importantly, it extends the life of the tires and improves control and safety, which will save plenty of money in replacement tires and avoided medical and insurance bills.

7. Fresh air or A/C. Whether you open the windows or turn on the air conditioning, you will lower your gas mileage. But the net effect is about the same, so do whatever makes you comfortable (but not both).

8. Fill it to the brim – but not beyond. Don’t “top off” your gas tank after the automatic gauge stops. Chances are, you’ll spill gas — wasting money and creating a hazard.

9. Park in the shade. In warm weather, parking in the shade decreases gas evaporation and gives you more time between fill-ups.

10. Skip the rush. If possible, avoid driving during rush hour. Stop-and-go driving sucks up gas. If you must drive during rush hour, look into alternate routes that keep you moving at a slow but steady pace.

11. Just say no. Of course, the best way to save on gas is to avoid driving. If your company offers a bus pass or carpool program, take advantage of it. For an even less expensive way to commute, look into bicycling to work — you’ll get your workout and your commute at the same time.

With a few changes, drivers can enhance their mileage — and in many cases, improve their safety on the road at the same time. Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!

— Andrew Housser, Bills.com

Based in San Mateo, Calif., Bills.com is a free one-stop online portal where consumers can educate themselves about complex personal finance issues and comparison shop for products and services including credit cards, debt relief assistance, insurance, mortgages and other loans. The company blogs about consumer finance issues at http://www.bills.com/blog. Since 2002, Bills.com has served more than 30,000 customers nationwide while managing more than $500 million in consumer debt. Bills.com is a division of Freedom Financial Network, LLC, whose co-founders and CEOs, Andrew Housser and Brad Stroh, have been named Northern California finalists in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year Awards.

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