Summer is over, and with the annual start of the school year, many parents are now faced with the added transportation costs of ferrying their kids to and from school as well as to their many after-school activities. This can dramatically increase the average daily amount of fuel. In keeping with our focus on finding ways to reduce fuel costs, here are my list of top 6 gas savings tips for parents and anyone wishing to save at the pump:
- BUY THE CHEAPEST UNLEADED FUEL: Use the cheapest unleaded fuel that will allow your car to run well. Only about 6% of cars sold need premium gas, so resists the urge to purchase higher octane fuel. The price difference can often be as much as $0.15 cents/litre, which could mean a savings of $7.5 on a full 50 litre tank. Generally, higher octane will not improve fuel economy. In fact, the difference in composition or heating value of different grades of gasoline plays a small role in fuel economy. Good fuel economy is a result of vehicle design and weight, good vehicle maintenance and driving style.
- TRY TO BUY GAS EARLY IN THE WEEK AND EARLY IN THE MORNING (PRIOR TO 8AM): Gas prices typically rise between Wednesday and Saturday, but stay lower during the early days of the week (eg. Monday and Tuesday). Check the GasBuddy app regularly to find out when prices drop, which sometimes happens in the late evening. Perhaps this price drop is meant to attract customers after the morning commute or in non-rush hour times. Also, watch oil prices, as fluctuations do impact the price of gas a few days after a sudden rise or drop in prices. Additionally, you should purchase gas in the early morning (prior to 7am) as gas station managers and owners often don’t get around to checking out their competition’s prices until after 7am. In times of rising gas prices, if competing gas stations have raised their prices they will too, often between 8am to noon. Also, note that gas prices can rise the closer you get to the weekends – and especially long weekends — as gas station managers raise prices to pick the pockets of leisure travelers. These price hikes often begin on Thursdays, when long weekend trips start, and when many drivers who aren’t leaving until Friday fill up. Prices also do rise during the peak summer driving season when the demand for gasoline is at its highest level.
- MAKE ONE TRIP NOT MULTIPLE ONES USING A WARM ENGINE: Combining errands into one trip saves you time and money. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer multipurpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm. Trip planning ensures that traveling is done when the engine is warmed-up and efficient.
- REDUCE CAR WEIGHT: Don’t weigh your car down with things you don’t need, especially rooftop carriers, which can cut your mileage by as much as 15%. In a test conducted by Consumer Reports, a rooftop carrier lowered the gas mileage of a Toyota Camry traveling at 104 km/h from getting 8.11 km/liter to 6.72 km/liter, that’s a difference of 1.39 km/liter, which means that they were getting roughly 70 km less mileage on a 50 liter tank of gas (or about 17.2% less mileage). Based on current gas prices, this works out to losing roughly $10 worth of gas on a full tank.
- USE MANUFACTURERS RECOMMENDED GRADE OF OIL: You can improve your gas mileage by 1%–2% by using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil. For example, using 10W-30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can lower your gas mileage by 1%–2%. Using 5W-30 in an engine designed for 5W-20 can lower your gas mileage by 1%–1.5%. Also, look for motor oil that says “Energy Conserving” on the API performance symbol to be sure it contains friction-reducing additives.
- REPLACE AIR FILTER OFTEN: Your engine sucks in 14 million gallons of air through the filter every year. On older vehicles (pre-1999) a dirty air filter increases fuel usage by almost 10% (Roughly $350 per year, or 9.24 cents per liter). On newer vehicles, the computer is smart enough to detect the lower airflow, and it cuts back on fuel. So your engine will lack power and pick-up. Check the filter when you change your oil and replace it at least once a year, or more if you drive in dirty, dusty conditions.