Save Money on Gas II

Still more you can do to pump less often

Alyssa Martino
4-minute read

Hey there, welcome to Make it Green Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for an Earth Friendly Life. In episode 4, I gave you folks a few tips to improve your gas mileage, decrease your consumption, and save money at the pump. This week, I've got even more ideas for how you can save money, as well as a way for you to track your progress becoming a green driver.

Remember that a bike rider is the power behind his vehicle, just like your car engine is the power behind your car. This is one of my favorite analogies, because it helps us as drivers sympathize with what our car engines are going through. Hopefully you remember riding a bike, but if not, go do all of these experiments at home, like hauling around lots of junk and not pumping up your tires.

In today's episode, just remember; car engine is to biker as car chassis is to bike.

Don't Carry Junk in Your Trunk

I have two bicycles--a mountain bike and a road bike. Mountain bikes are built like SUVs, with tons of steel-reinforced frame and big, fat, grippy tires. OK, maybe pounds of steel frame and grippy tires. You get the point. Why do I have two bikes when I can only ride one at a time?

Simply put, road bikes are built much lighter, and the tires are much thinner, so the same effort on the part of the rider will propel the whole assembly much faster. Ask any serious racing cyclist if the weight they carry is important, and they'll tell you about all the ways they shaved weight off their mounts. Just be sure to set aside a few hours for this conversation.

The moral of this story is if carrying around a whole bunch of extra weight makes bikers work harder, it makes your car work harder too. The bigger the car, the heavier the frame, and the more forgotten groceries in the trunk, the more work you car engine does. Working harder for bikers means eating more spaghetti and meatballs when they get home. Working harder for you car means more drinking gasoline, even if the distance is the same.

Do you really need four pairs of gym shoes in the trunk? Would one liter of water be enough for emergencies instead of fifteen? Is there a reason you're putting off donating those hideous pants to charity? Just get rid of it! You'll thank yourself in the end.

Drive Smoothly

Perhaps you've been stuck behind a biker at a stoplight. As the light turns green, you're ready to step on the gas and zoom out of the intersection. The poor biker, however, is desperately trying to match speed with traffic, wobbling on her bike like she's going to crash into you. Does she just suck at biking?

No, she doesn't suck, but bikers have to put a lot of effort into starting up their vehicles... and so does your car. You can measurably drop your fuel efficiency by driving like a maniac. Floor the gas at every intersection when the light turns; keep pressing the gas approaching red lights until you are absolutely positive the light won't turn green; then slam on your breaks at the last minute. It's a great way to waste gas! It is called the gas pedal, after all.

If you don't believe me, try to jackrabbit out of intersections on your little Schwinn. Or pedal as fast as you can towards the red light, then slam on your poor little breaks. It's a lot of effort for very little gain, besides an increased heart-rate. For better gas mileage, drive smooth. Think swan, not jackrabbit.

Monitor Your Car's Gas Mileage

The most serious and dedicated of bikers monitors his diet, his daily mileage, and even has a little bike computer to measure his peak and average speeds while on his ride. If you truly want to improve your gas mileage by changing your driving habits, it's a good idea to track your progress.

You can easily find out you car's fuel efficiency under a variety of driving conditions by keeping a driving diary. Keep a little notepad and pen in your car. Write down the number on your odometer when your tank is one hundred percent full, like right when you leave the gas station. Then, when the little needle is at the one half point, write down the miles you drove on that half tank. Divide the number of miles you drove by half of your tank capacity, and presto! Miles per gallon.

For example, I reset my odometer after my first fuel up. If I'm doing mostly highway driving, or if I was stuck in traffic a lot, or if I went on a long road trip, I'll write that down in my driving diary, too. Then, when the needle says one-half, I'll read the miles. If it says I drove 140 miles, and my tank is a 14 gallon tank, then I got 20 miles to the gallon. Wow, that sucks.

Don't Be Discouraged

If you think this is a lot to take in all at once, you'd be right. After our society developed for more than half a century around the automobile, it's very difficult to change our collective consciousness about driving. Just don't be overwhelmed by all of these ideas--make them work for you. Start with one change--maybe cleaning out your trunk--and then start being a little more conscious of your driving habits. When you have a good opportunity, like a long road trip or a time when you're the only driver on the tank of gas, test your miles per gallon. Soon enough, you will find your whole mindset has changed, and new changes are even easier to implement.

Thanks for sticking around for even more tips to save money on gas. You can find a transcript of this show, and all the Quick and Dirty Podcasts at quickanddirtytips.com.