The actions you can take to reduce fuel consumption and overall driving costs fall into two broad categories: driving and gas-buying habits and activities directly related to your vehicle.
Modifying Your Driving and Gas-Buying Habits
Surprisingly simple changes to your driving habits can significantly impact your overall fuel bill. To trim your fuel costs and use less gas, adopt these gas-saving practices.
1. Use a Gas-Finding App That Helps You Save Money
Gas prices can vary quite a bit over short distances, especially in border regions. Every driver — particularly those who regularly cross county and state lines — needs a fuel-finder app that surfaces the best gas deals in real time.
The best gas-finding app of the bunch is GasBuddy. It features accurate, near-real-time pricing information for tens of thousands of U.S. gas stations and boasts a handy internal payment platform that can save the Standard plan’s users up to $0.20 per gallon.
Heavy drivers can opt into GasBuddy Premium, a $99 annual membership that promises up to $0.40 per gallon in savings. Read our GasBuddy review for more information.
2. Always Pay With a Gas Credit Card
If you don’t already have one, apply for a gas credit card (a rewards credit card that earns cash or points on every purchase at the gas pump) and make a habit of using it every time you fill up.
Perennial favorites available to consumers with good to excellent credit include:
- The Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which earns 3% cash back on all eligible U.S. gas station purchases
- The Wells Fargo Propel American Express® Card, which also earns a 3% effective rate of return on eligible gas station purchases
- The Citi Premier® Card, yet another card that earns a 3% effective return on eligible gas purchases
3. Modify Your Commute to Reduce Driving
Driving alone to work is tougher on your wallet and the environment than any other commuting method. That’s especially true if you work in a congested business district where parking is scarce and expensive.
Look into more cost-effective commuting options. Depending on where you live, how much time you have in the morning, and your physical fitness, there are several common options.
4. Plot the Most Efficient Route to Your Destination
Cars burn more fuel during acceleration than while coasting or cruising. That means the most fuel-efficient route to your destination isn’t necessarily the shortest. It’s the route that requires the least acceleration and deceleration — the one with fewer stoplights, less congestion, lower traffic volumes, or better traffic flow overall.
5. Start and Stop Gradually
Even the most efficient route involves some stops and starts. To minimize these maneuvers’ impact on your fuel economy and cost, execute them as gently as possible.
Accelerate slowly and coast gradually to a braking stop. Don’t try to test your car’s zero-to-60 rating at every light change, and don’t make a habit of flooring it until you absolutely have to hit the brakes.
FuelEconomy.gov reports that these basic defensive driving practices can reduce fuel consumption by up to 40% in stop-and-go traffic and up to 30% on the highway.
6. Observe the Speed Limit
Vehicles optimize fuel consumption at different speeds, but fuel efficiency tends to decline rapidly above 50 mph, according to .
Assume that each increase of 5 mph over that threshold works out to a surcharge of $0.17 to $0.33 per gallon burned (assuming a per-gallon price of $2.38).
Driving 50 mph isn’t practical or safe on the highway, of course. The best you can hope to do is drive at the speed of traffic in the slowest lane. That typically means observing the posted speed limit in a 75- or 80-mph zone.
In any case, don’t waste fuel by exceeding the limit. And use cruise control to help maintain a constant, law-abiding speed. Cruise control is often gentler than human driving anyway, helping to reduce excess fuel consumption through more gradual acceleration and braking.
7. Minimize Idling Time
An idling vehicle’s fuel mileage is zero. Avoid running your car’s gas motor whenever possible while parked or waiting.
That said, idling is unavoidable in certain situations, like warming up and deicing a car on a frosty morning. But you don’t need to let your car run for 30 minutes before hopping in.
In fact, you don’t need to warm up fuel-injected cars (those built since the mid-1990s) at all, at least not for the sake of the engine, according to Cars.com.
Leave your car idling in the morning only as long as absolutely necessary to reach a comfortable interior temperature. Or keep your coat on in the car and drive off as soon as you start the engine.
8. Park Farther Away From Your Destination
One way to reduce parking-related fuel waste is to settle for parking spaces farther from your destination. That isn’t always possible in business, shopping, and entertainment districts with fewer parking spaces than cars, but it’s a good rule to live by.
Rather than drive around the block yet again in search of the perfect spot, head to a less crowded area a few blocks away and put on your walking shoes.
9. Make Longer, Less Frequent Errand Runs
Reduce your total mileage driven on errands around town by consolidating those excursions whenever possible.
Instead of hitting the grocery store today, the home improvement store tomorrow, and the post office the following day, set aside a weekend afternoon (or weekday if your work schedule allows) to get them all done at once.
10. Don’t Wait Until Your Tank Is Almost Empty to Fill Up
Waiting to fill up until you’re nearly out of gas increases the risk you’ll have to settle for a higher per-gallon price at the first station you see. For example, once my tank is three-quarters empty, I plan to fill up at the first low-cost station I encounter.
In my case, that’s usually the closest Costco gas station, where prices are reliably $0.10 to $0.15 lower per gallon than elsewhere nearby. When my travels take me in a different direction, I use GasBuddy.
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