Now that summer is officially here it seems like we're spending most of our time in the car chauffeuring the kids around to all their various activities. The kids are having a blast and they're looking forward to all our summer travels, but the price of gas is already having a big impact on our budget so I think it's a great time to talk about tips for saving money at the gas pump!
1) Avoid Idling
This one can be pretty hard to do in the summer heat, but the rule of thumb is that if you have to wait for more than one minute then it will cost less to stop and re-start the car than it will to sit and idle. Try to find a shady parking spot and open the windows instead, or better yet get out of the car and stretch your legs for a minute if you can.
2) Shift to Neutral
If you'll be waiting a minute at the drive through or bank teller then go ahead and shift into neutral with your foot on the brake because it takes less gas than it does to sit and idle.
3) Fill Up Early
I was actually kind of shocked when I learned that oil companies and distributors account for the temperature when they sell to each other, but they don't when consumers buy it at the gas station. Reportedly, at higher temperatures when gas is pumped more of it is lost as vapor so when its warm out you get just a little bit less for your money. In 2007 it was estimated that filling up in the morning when it is cooler instead would save $31 a year for the average motorist.
4) Don't Round Up
I really like nice round numbers so I used to always round-up at least a few cents to the next nearest round number each time I bought gas. The problem with that is the extra gas ends up in an overflow tube where it will eventually drain or evaporate and be lost, so literally money down the drain.
5) Clean Out Your Car
For some reason my husband likes to use the car as storage instead of carrying big bulky items inside right away like my sewing machine or the portable pool we just bought the kids. The extra weight from carrying around those things or unused sports equipment and the like increases the drag on your car, which decreases its fuel efficiency.
6) Maintain Your Car
Keeping your car properly maintained with scheduled tune ups, filter changes and at the recommended tire pressure will help to keep your vehicle running as efficiently as possible.
7) Fill Up Your Rental
If you're planning to use a rental car for any trips this summer be sure to fill it up yourself before you return the vehicle. If you turn the car in with less than a full tank of gas the rental agency will charge you a much higher price per gallon than the going rate (currently around $9 a gallon!), and in many cases you'll be charged for a full tank even if you turn it in half full.