NWautos: Seattle's local source for new and used autos


March 4, 2012 1:00 AM

Fight rising fuel prices with these money-saving tips


If the surge in gas prices has you hyperventilating, well, you're not alone. And the experts are predicting it won't be over for a while, what with the price speculation over the tense situation in Iran and other factors designed to gouge us at the pump.

Here are ways you can save regularly on your gas bill, even if you don't want to buy a new hybrid or electric car.

More ways to save
  • • Change the oil regularly to increase engine efficiency
  • • Heed warning lights; a bad oxygen sensor can cut efficiency
  • • Use cruise control
  • • Never accelerate hard from a stop; drive gently off the line
  • • Remove roof racks and ornaments
  • • Anticipate and coast into stops; allow five car lengths on the freeway to avoid hitting your brakes often

Cut your speed
This is the easiest way to dramatically reduce your gas bills: Stop driving so fast. Driving 55 mph on the freeway instead of 65 is estimated to burn 15 percent less gas. And, no, people don't hate you when you drive slowly on the freeway. They hate you when you drive slowly in the fast lanes. Just stay to the right and remember the parable of the tortoise and the hare.

Pay cash
Many gas stations will give you a discount if you pay cash instead of using credit cards, so carry some cash in your wallet. ARCO stations are generally cheaper as well, and the 45-cent fee to use a debit card has been lifted at local stations.

Join a warehouse club
Sam's Club and Costco routinely have the lowest gas prices in my neighborhood, and you can get money back too, if you belong to the appropriate membership level. Costco accepts American Express, unlike many other gas stations. Sam's Club will let you use a Mastercard, too (but no Visa).

Stop idling
You waste a lot of gas idling, so cut your engine if you'll be stopped for more than a minute. The air we breathe will thank you, too. Idling wastes a quart of gasoline every 15 minutes. You could even walk into a fast-food joint instead of doing the drive-through, in which case you'd burn off 5 of the 2,000 calories you'd consume.

Empty the trunk
I just did this, after I nearly had a conniption fit at the gas pump. The EZ UP I've been carrying around, and all that other junk in the trunk, just went back in the garage where it belongs. There's no reason to haul around extra stuff; it just sucks up your gas mileage.

Make sure your tires are properly inflated
Underinflated tires require more gas for your engine to push them along.

Use the Internet
Resources such as NWautos.com/cheapgas and seattle gasprices.com show gas prices in real time.

Save 10 cents a gallon with rewards points
You can collect points on your Rewards cards at Kroger (which owns QFC and Fred Meyer) and other grocery stores, and then use them to get discounts at participating gas stations.

Plan your trips
Think about what you need to do this week and organize your trips so you'll drive less. Run errands clustered together geographically so that you do everything in the same neighborhood at once.