Drive Smart, Save Gas

Finance, Home & Family
on January 14, 2007

Your parents were right. Slow and steady is definitely the way to drive—not just for safety reasons—but to conserve fuel and save money.

So in these days of high gasoline prices, switching to a more fuel-efficient vehicle or public transportation aren’t the only ways to reduce pain at the pump, says Philip Reed, consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com, an automotive consumer research website.

Reed was part of an Edmunds research team that put simple habits—such as driving the speed limit—to the test in 2005, and found that small changes in driving techniques can translate into big savings. These include:

  • Drive less aggressively. Moderate driving techniques, such as avoiding rapid acceleration and hard breaking, can reduce fuel consumption up to 37 percent. These techniques also reduce wear on tires and brakes.
  • Slow down. Driving the speed limit can reduce fuel costs by 14 percent.
  • Cruise along. Use cruise control when you’re on the open road, which eliminates frequent accelerating and braking and yields fuel savings of up to 14 percent. However, in mountainous areas, turn it off. A car uses more gas downshifting to lower gears as it tries to maintain the speed the driver set.
  • Avoid idling. Turn off your vehicle when you’re stuck in standstill traffic or waiting in a stagnant drive-through line. It’s common sense. Idling means zero miles per gallon.
  • Maintenance. Keeping a car well maintained also can improve its fuel efficiency. Periodic engine tune-ups and maintaining optimal tire pressure can pay for themselves in the long run.

Reed also recommends avoiding travel during peak traffic times to minimize stop-and-go driving. And check your owner’s manual to see if the manufacturer recommends using high-grade gasoline. Don’t pay for extra octane if your car runs efficiently without it.