Three sensible tips for coping with the gas crisis
by Kaben Nanlohy
America is in a gas crisis, and there are lots of articles on the Internet about saving gas. Unfortunately, while I really appreciate the helpful attitudes of many of these articles, some of the advice they give ignores common sense and basic laws of physics.
For example: trying to fit more gasoline into your tank when the gasoline is cold. Nope. Liquids don't compress well. I understand the confusion, because in high school Physics and Chemistry we all learned the ideal gas law, one of whose components, Charles' law, roughly states that gas volume decreases when it's cold. But when we speak of the gasoline in your gas tank, we speak of a liquid, not a gas. Even though gasoline is called "gas". The confusion is understandable, but the advice is wrong.
Which is why I think everyone should read this article from CNNMoney.com, debunking gas-saving myths.
Today I'm going to give you three tips that will actually help.
Tip one: track local gas prices
Find the lowest prices in your area using a web site like GasBuddy.com, and refuel on Wednesdays. This doesn't work in every city, but in many parts of the country, fuel prices increase on Thursday and Friday, and then fall for the rest of the week, reaching their lowest on Wednesday. For example, here are recent gas prices in Lansing, Michigan (where I live):
If you own a truck or SUV with a 40 gallon tank, refueling on Wednesday instead of Friday can save you $4 or $5.
Tip two: slow down
When you're on the highway, whenever you can, drive in the right-hand lane at or below the speed limit. Here's my recent experience with driving slower on a 70 mile trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan: a 2008 Nissan Rogue crossover SUV at 75 miles per hour gave me 27.7 miles per gallon. On the return trip, at 65 miles per hour, it got 32.1 miles per gallon. Those are nice numbers, better than EPA ratings (of 22 in the city, 27 on the highway). At that rate, driving the Rogue at 65 instead of 75 mph extends the range of its 15 gallon tank by about 65 miles. This is like getting eight to ten dollars worth of gas for free. Acceleration consumes excess gas, so use cruise control to maintain a consistent speed. In the city, avoid flooring the accelerator from stops. Take advantage of upcoming stops to save fuel by coasting.
Tip three: drive less
Consolidate your errands. If you usually drive to the grocery store every day, you can save quite a bit of fuel by planning ahead and buying groceries for one or two weeks at a time instead. If you usually go the bank in person every week, switch to online banking, and if you haven't already, ask your employer to direct-deposit your paychecks. Carpool. Take the train or the bus. Ride a bike. Walk.
For additional sensible gas mileage tips from a good source, see http://www.fueleconomy.gov.
Here's a final aside: When it's time to buy a new car, consider one of those tempting high-mileage hybrid-electric cars. However, if your gas-guzzler is mechanically sound, you're probably better off keeping it than replacing it. The high cost of a new car, even if you sell your old car for a good price, may not be justified by the savings in gas.