With gas prices more than double what they were a decade ago, carmakers are actively working to make their cars more efficient. From electric cars to hybrids, there are a lot of new eco-friendly options on the market that are sure to save you some green.
But even if you don't drive the latest model energy-saver, there are a number of things you can do to improve your fuel efficiency and save money at the pump. In fact, according the U.S. Department of Energy, only 14 to 16 percent of the fuel in your gas tank is used to move the car down the road - the majority is used to power accessories or lost to engine inefficiencies. The potential to increase fuel economy is huge. With a few simple changes to your driving style, you could drive a greener car.
- Avoid aggressive driving
Your pedal habits play a significant role in your car's fuel economy. If you are prone to speeding or rapid breaking and acceleration, you are wasting fuel. According the DOE, aggressive driving can decrease fuel efficiency by 33 percent. Changing the habit could save you up to $1.19 per gallon. So accelerate slowly, brake gently and follow speed limit signs to get the most out of your car with the least out of your pocket.
- Keep your car in tip-top shape
Ensuring your car gets the proper maintenance is a great way to achieve optimal fuel efficiency. An inefficient engine is the number one waster of gasoline, so getting it tuned could save you a nice chunk of change at the pump. Also, remember to perform regular oil changes and inflate your tires to manufacturer's specifications.
- Don't idle
When you idle in your car, you get precisely zero miles per gallon. It's a big waste of gasoline and very inefficient. In fact, the DOE reports that idling can use up to half a gallon of fuel per hour depending on your vehicle and air conditioner use. Instead, turn your car off completely. Restarting the engine when you're ready to drive will only cost a fraction of the gasoline used to keep your vehicle running. In the winter, don't warm up your car by leaving it idling. Your car will warm up faster when it's moving. Waiting to pick up your children after school? Shut off the engine. However, in some cases, it's better to idle. You should never turn off your engine while you're waiting at a traffic light—it's dangerous!
- Lose the baggage
Get rid of anything unnecessary that might be weighing down your car. Extra items only decrease fuel efficiency and cost you when you fill up. Empty the trunk and clear out the junk. For every 100 pounds you remove from the vehicle, you gain up to 2 percent fuel efficiency. While that only translates to about 7 cents per gallon, every little bit helps. If you have to carry something with your car, make sure it is inside the vehicle. Strapping things to the roof causes a drag and decreases fuel economy even more.
- Turn off the AC
One of the car accessories that uses the most energy is the air conditioner. Avoid turning it on whenever possible to rack up the savings in fuel costs. Most cars come with an economy button that circulates air without chilling it or a recirculation setting that only chills the air in the vehicle instead of the hot air outside. Either option will reduce the AC's load and improve fuel economy.
You don’t have to drive a hybrid to get great gas mileage and reduce your impact on the planet. An older car can be made more efficient with just a few of these easy changes. All you have to do is follow these simple steps to keep your car running smoothly and you could potentially save hundreds on gasoline costs in the next year.