For those who drive a lot, or have a relatively thirsty vehicle, and tend to live paycheck to paycheck, the 40-cent jump in gas prices over the past month could be a pretty big deal.
But it doesn't have to be. Just by more following just a few easy-to-remember pieces of advice, it's likely that you could see a substantial improvement in fuel economy and ease any financial strain that higher gas prices might be causing.
So before you go rushing to the showroom for a smaller, more fuel-efficient car—a trend that's also fueling a price spike on used hybrids and small cars as of late, and possibly negating any cost savings—give it some more thought, and in the meantime consider taking several less-radical steps in your daily routine.
The video down below, from General Motors, has some very useful tips and sums up those small changes very well. Take a look at these tips, then watch the clip:
Make your driving style smooth. Accelerate gently and brake gently. Just by smoothing out your responses and looking farther ahead, you might be able to improve fuel economy by ten percent or more, covering the same ground in nearly the same time.
Lower your cruising speed. Most cars will get surprisingly good fuel economy at a steady 55 mph. At today's fuel prices, for every 5 mph above 60 mph, it's like adding 25 to 30 cents per gallon in costs, according to the AAA.
Be smart about using your A/C. Running your A/C might save fuel; but it might also add to your fuel bill if you use it at the wrong time. While shutting off the air conditioning and opening your windows on a hot day might save fuel if you're driving around town, above 40 mph you lose more energy to aerodynamic drag than to the A/C compressor. At high speed on a hot day, you're simply better off raising the windows and switching it on.
Maintain your vehicle regularly. Engine oil affects fuel economy more than you might think. Make sure you change it regularly, and that your mechanic uses the correct grade and viscosity.
Check tire pressures. Get in the habit of visually checking your tires whenever you get into the vehicle, but at least once a month check your tire pressures and make sure they're at the manufacturer's recommended pressure.
Avoid traveling during peak traffic times. Stop-and-go, idling, and creeping along wastes fuel, and the times you go into work or get out and do errands could affect your fuel budget.