If higher prices stick, drivers may have to take more drastic steps. Using public transportation is one option to consider. Making the long-term investment to buy a high-mileage hybrid car is another.
“People can cut their gasoline bills by a lot by moving to fuel-efficient vehicles,” says Brian Castelli, executive vice president of the Alliance to Save Energy, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that promotes energy efficiency. “When you’ve got $4 gasoline, you can save a lot of money by going to the gas station once every two or three weeks instead of once every week.
The average U.S. household is on track to spend more than $3,300 this year on gasoline for its vehicles, according to the alliance. That could jump significantly depending on how much pump prices rise.
Short of buying a new vehicle, here are some tips on ways to shave your costs regardless of how high prices climb:
1. Drive slower and smarter.
Easing your foot off the accelerator is a guaranteed way to reduce expenses. Every 5 mph you drive over 60 costs you an additional 24 cents per gallon, the Department of Energy estimates. That’s because the faster you go, the more work your engine has to do to propel your vehicle.
The sweet spot for fuel efficiency on the highway is about 55 mph. But slowing from 70 to 60 can help a lot. Doing so on an average 20-mile highway commute saves about 1.3 gallons of gas in a five-day work week, according to the American Automobile Association.
Drive more smoothly around town, too – avoid fast acceleration and quick stops. Aggressive driving can lower a car’s fuel economy significantly.
2. Reduce idling.
Warming up a car engine in cold weather is one thing. Letting it idle needlessly outside stores, in front of a friend’s house or at railroad crossings is another. That wastes fuel, costs money and pollutes the air. Cut the engine if you will be at a standstill for more than a minute.
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