College Central®

Ask around. The Network works.®

Personal Finance
Tips For Saving Gas

Matt Mason -- No matter how good your cash flow plan is, uncontrollable gas prices can hit you when you least expect it. Here's how you can make your gas dollar go further.

When I was young, I used to always be so fascinated by gas prices and how they would jump up and down. I always wondered... why is that? I realize that crude oil prices fluctuate and since gas is made from crude oil, then the price of gas must fluctuate also. But what is interesting, is that there are a lot of different things besides gas that are made from or with crude oil. Some of those things are plastics (which leach into our foods and the filtered water in bottled water), mineral oils (found in most lotions), petroleum (Chapstick, Carmex, etc., etc.), gasoline... oops, I mean Vaseline, table salt (that's why it ain't "Sea Salt" and causes high blood pressure), and more. So I wonder why the price of these things don't fluctuate hardly at all (especially when the price of crude oil soars).

Anyway, whatever the reason, it really doesn't matter. Gas prices are something that we can't control, but we can definitely control ourselves. So without further adieu, let's get into some of the ways that you can save money on gas. I will this newsletter down into three categories (Pumping Gas, On Road and Off Road).

Pumping gas

Fill it up -- If possible, fill your tank up all the way. Try to avoid $10 here and $10 there because with each trip you make to the gas station you are wasting gas, even if you are doing it on the way to somewhere else!

Find the right place -- If you are traveling, try not to fill up at service stations that are visible from the main highways. Their prices tend to be higher. They know that most people who stop in won't be in a position to compare prices and in some cases are desperate. A better thing to do would be to take a city exit and look somewhere within the city. There is normally a lot more competition there and you will, in most cases, get lower prices.

Find the right time -- The time of day that you fill up your gas tank does make a difference. It is best to fill up your tank early in the morning or late at night (preferably in the morning). This is because the ground is cooler. Gas station's storage tanks are below ground. Cooler ground = dense gas. Hotter ground = expanded (more vaporized) gas. You get more gas for your gas in the morning.

Also, if you see a gas truck pumping gas into the storage tanks when you stop to buy gas, don't buy any gas. The gas is probably being stirred up as it is being pumped in and you may pick up some dirt that will eventually settle to the bottom.

Be patient -- Speaking of vapors, when you pump your gas, always make sure you use the lowest setting. The faster you pump, the more of the gas becomes vapor and goes right back into the hose. For this same reason, you will always want to fill up your tank when it is no lower than half full. The more air that is occupying the gas tank, the more room for the gas to evaporate.

On road

Warm up quickly -- Stay away from long warm ups. Your car, even in cold weather, doesn't need to warm up 5-10 minutes. A couple of minutes is plenty time to get the circulation going in your car. After that you are wasting gas.

Turn off your car -- Keep your car off as much as possible. When you idle you get zero miles per gallon. Yes, it takes gas to turn on a car but only about 20-30 seconds worth of idling. If you are at a railroad track or waiting in line at the emissions, then you can turn your car off and save money. Another way that you can save money is to go inside restaurants rather than going through the drive throughs (where you have to idle a lot). The more you idle, especially with the A/C on, the more gas you waste.

Drive steady -- Try not to slow down and speed up. Driving at a consistent speed saves you money. If you can, use cruise control. Every time you accelerate, you use gas. Stay a safe distance behind the car in front of you while driving so that you won't have to slow down and speed up as much. If you do have to stop (such as for a light), take off slowly. That fast acceleration will burn more gas.

Never rest your left foot on the brake. That extra pressure can cause drag that will waste gas and will wear down your brakes faster.

Stay away from heavy traffic -- Because of the things I just mentioned, a traffic jam is the enemy. If you are normally stuck in a traffic jam after work, then maybe you can find something to do in the area until the traffic dies down, if feasible. You won't lose as much time as you may think (even though you may leave 30 minutes later), and you may cut 15-20 minutes off your travel time.

Use A/C efficiently -- Use your A/C when you are driving at higher speeds. Open your windows when driving at lower speeds. When you open your windows, it increases drag and lowers your fuel efficiency, but not that much at lower speeds (35-40 mph). At lower speeds your A/C will burn more fuel, but at higher speeds the drag will burn more.

Off road

Stay cool -- Always try to park in the shade. If you can't, then park your car so the gas tank is pointing away from direct sunlight. When your car heats up, so does your gas tank. Gasoline will evaporate right out of your tank regardless of the weather. You will also need less A/C to cool off once you get back in the car, if you do this.

Keep your cap tight -- Keep that gas cap tight. Make sure that it has a seal in it and that it is keeping those gas vapors in while keeping the air out. Get another gas cap if the one you have doesn't fit tightly.

Pack light -- If you have ever had a car packed full of people and luggage, then you know that it makes a big difference when trying to accelerate! The less weight you have in your car the less fuel you use. You want your car to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee. Get as much junk out of your trunk (and back seat) as possible. Only carry what you need. But... Don't throw your kids out!

Pump it up -- Keep your tires inflated! Inflate them to the specified level. This will reduce the contact area of your tire on the road and keep friction down. You can lose up to 6% in gas mileage for every pound of under inflation, so check your tires regularly.

Use the right tires -- If you use snow tires, take them off in the summer. Deeper treads cause more friction and cuts down on fuel efficiency.

Keep your car tuned up -- A sluggish engine wastes gas. Replace your air filter when needed. You can look in your owners manual to find out how often you should do this. It's not expensive at all and in most cases is very easy to do yourself. This saves more gas than you know.

For more personal finance information, visit Matt's site at

© 2011 Matt Mason

Return to top

The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal, financial, or medical professional.