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Save Over $500/yr in Gas!

July 27th, 2011 at 06:16 pm



Today is as good a day as any to talk about how to save a few extra bucks. And today, the method for saving is by way of driving economically. Did you know that driving poorly could lower your vehicle's fuel economy by around 33%? While this is the general consensus, I know from personal experience that driving economically can raise your fuel economy by around 70% and more!

Take, for instance, my wife's and my personal vehicle - a 2007 Ford Focus w/ 5-speed manual that is rated at 27 mpg combined EPA (23 city/33 hwy). Now, if that sounds good to you, I feel sorry for you. Frankly, I am just not satisfied with these numbers. My dissatisfaction with these numbers has helped me to achieve 35 mpg on average over all fill-ups. My last tank was 38 mpg. So how do I do this?

There is a combination of 'tricks' that every driver can learn and execute in order to achieve 120% more than EPA estimates, and HIGHER

No idling
Idling has quite the negative impact on your fuel economy. So, eliminate it! Stopped at a red light? Key-off your engine. It's as easy as that. I am good enough now that I can follow the pattern of lights in order to know when my light will turn green again, or even turn red, so that I may start my engine or begin deceleration respectively. 

If you were unaware, hybrids utilize a technology that turns off the vehicle's engine at idle.

Don't use your brakes
Obviously, you cannot avoid using your brakes entirely. However, you can in controlled situation. Most people only look as far as the next car ahead of them, or even only as far as a few feet ahead, looking at the road directly. If you remember driver's education, this is a big no-no! I try to look at least a full two city blocks down the road. And I do not look at the road. Instead, look at the traffic lights. This will also improve your peripheral vision to aide you in better responding to situations. 

If you see a light turning red that you are approaching, what do you do? I'll tell you - you continue going the same speed until about 100 ft from the light. It's true. What do I do? About a city block or more, I pop into Neutral, then begin downshifting in order to slow my vehicle without using my brakes. What does this do? This 'trick' keeps some of your vehicle's forward momentum in store for when you start back up again when the light changes back. Now, it may not be possible to keep moving, such as when a light is long, the light changed before you had a city block to slow down, or what-have-you. So key-off to avoid idling

But how does downshifting help fuel economy? Most vehicles these days have what is called Deceleration Fuel Cutoff. What this does, is cutoff the fuel when the vehicle is under negative acceleration. Yes, it works when you break as well. However, the further/longer it takes you to decelerate, the higher your fuel economy. 

Accelerate like a granny
Yep. You know all those grannies driving around their Cadillacs, while you zoom past because you're running late for work? Chances are, their V8 engines are getting as good of mileage as the typical V6. 

A good rule of thumb - accelerate at the rate of 1 mph per second. It should take you five seconds to accelerate by 5 mph. While this may not sound like a long time, it is! So, practice! 


If you do indeed decide to utilize these methods and attempt to exceed your vehicle's EPA, keep in mind a few things:
1) Patience is a Virtue. Driving slowly will most definitely result in your commute time becoming longer. But not as much as you would think! My commute is about 8 miles one-way in the city, and it only takes me 25 minutes. 
2) Other drivers will hate you. It's just a hard fact. People will swerve around you. People will flip you the bird. They will possibly even endanger yours and the lives around them. This is nothing new. This is just more noticeable when you are driving consciously, and not like a maniac. 

In fact, one person took off my driver-side mirror because he decided to use a middle turn lane to pass me...

Often, people will pass me, only for me to catch up to and even pass them at lights. It is quite rewarding! 

Fuel Brands
It has been shown that no one fuel brand is more fuel efficient than the other. This is mostly due to the fact that they all come from the same refineries. However, I prefer Chevron/Texaco for the additives. That is what you need to look at. Additives. Chevron/Texaco additives help to preserve your engine by cutting down on wear. 

The Savings
If you were wondering what kind of savings you should expect from this, keep reading. 

Our Ford Focus was getting about 24mpg before we started hypermiling (the term for exceeding the EPA). And now we are getting 35, currently (and going up as I get better at hypermiling). What kind of savings is this?

At 24 mpg, we would get about 264 miles per tank before fill-up. 
At 35 mpg, we get about 385. 
We fill up about four times a month (if that). 
We drive about 1,000 miles per month (12,000 annually). 
12,000 / 24 mpg = 500 gallons consumed
12,000 / 35 mpg = 342 gallons consumed

Look at the difference there! 158 gallons of fuel is saved! Not only saving us money, but keeping our impact on the environment lower as well! Quick note: driving economically also reduces your CO2 emissions! Go green!

Let's see how much money we are saving:
Let's say a gallon of gas averages out to be $3.68 for the entire year. So...
158 ga X $3.68 = $581.44!

That is an annual savings of $581.44! Talk about a good chunk of change! 

So you're not only lowering your economic footprint, but you're saving loads of cash as well! Why everyone does not do this, is beyond me. And, frankly, I cannot respect those people as much as I can someone who actually puts effort into 'going green'. Sure, people buy hybrids. But are they maximizing that vehicle's potential. more often than not, the answer to that is 'no'. And it gets to me. Why do people have to be so lazy? Why does everyone want to be able to BUY something that will fix their problems? And then go around bragging about how much they spent on something that is 'saving our planet'. Ugh... Sickening.

Anyways, I hope you all enjoyed this topic. Please, PLEASE check out CleanMPG.com. there is loads of information on there. There is also a tool to track your mpg. However, I prefer:

GasCubby - Record and manage your vehicle's fill-ups, track your mpg, keep records of maintenance done, etc. 
Click here to go to App Store

6 Responses to “Save Over $500/yr in Gas! ”

  1. LuckyRobin Says:

    Unfortunately Chevron gas costs .40 more per gallon than any other gas station save one in town. Texaco runs at .35 a gallon higher. (Only Shell costs more than those) So while we might pay $3.58 at Costco or Arco, we'd pay $3.98 at Chevron and $3.93 at Texaco. You are getting better fuel economy, but are you saving money when you have to buy more expensive gas to get it? (Too lazy to run the numbers myself, and maybe those stations are cheaper where you are living).

  2. Miz Pat Says:

    Can I actually turn off my poor old Honda Civic at lights and then start her right up?

  3. patientsaver Says:

    I keep wondering how high the cost of gas has to get before the majority of drivers slow down for better fuel economy. I like to do 55 or 60 on the highway if I can get away with it, but i won't do it if there's heavy traffic. It can be downright dangerous with such impatient drivers, even in the slow lane.

    My 12 yr old honda is rated 28/35 but i average about 38 due to my driving habits and the best i've done is 42 mpg.

    What really drives me nuts is my next door neighbor's kid (20-something), who routinely lets his pick-up idle in the driveway while he goes inside. This is not just a winter-time habit to keep the truck warm. HE DOES THIS YEAR-ROUND. DRIVES ME NUTS THINKING ABOUT IT. Apparently he doesn't care that he's throwing his money away. Actually, I think I care more than he does!

  4. uRabbit Says:

    @LuckyRobin - Like I said, different brands of gas WILL NOT increase or decrease your fuel economy. The additives are what you need to look at. I use Chevron/Texaco for their additives and their positive effects on the longevity of my vehicle.

    Also, the difference is not that big in my area. 5-10 cents. At 40 cents, I would be looking at $211/yr difference between the brands. I would still rather run better gasoline. Smile And, I would still be saving ~$300/yr in gas, so it's still a win. Smile
    @Miz Pat - Why not? If it is a manual, and you have issues starting it, try pushing the key all the way forward (ON) before pushing the clutch in, for about 3-5 seconds. Works for me. Also, check your battery! Batteries are a big player in start-up time. Mine needs a new one!

    @patientsaver - All too true! And good job with your Honda! Most of the cars on CleanMPG are older Civics. One guy has a '94 (iirc) Accord that gets 45 mpg average! Nuts!

    This works with larger engines too!

    A few more tips:

    Shoes off Driving w/o your shoes on will help you maintain better control of your throttle/brake pedals, and will keep you cooler, eliminating the need for A/C! It has gotten up to 102 so far this year (not as hot as usual!) and I have not run the A/C in the city once. Smile

    Don't run the A/C Running your A/C in the city will have a large negative impact on your fuel economy. However, running the A/C at speeds above 45 mph is MORE fuel efficient than having the windows down! This is due to wind resistance.

    P.S. I am not sure why question marks are displaying all over my blog post. Frown

  5. LuckyRobin Says:

    Ah, I missed that part. Although, and I know this from my husband who works in oil, all companies put in additives. Chevron and Texaco just advertise theirs quite heavily. I've never had a problem with Costco gas. We used Chevron quite heavily when we were younger, back when gas was around $1.50 a gallon. Personally I never noticed a difference when we switched to ARCO (which doesn't actually exist anymore) and then Costco gas, but back then we had a less than stellar car so that may have been why. You are fortunate to not have such a big price gap. I am glad that you can make such a big impact on your mileage. I think I'd be afraid to shut my car off in traffic, but I will definitely start doing it at the bank drive-thru and any other drive-thrus I may go to, since sitting at the window does take quite a while these days. Do you think your tricks would work with an automatic, too, or just a stick shift? I know stick shifts get better mileage all around anyway.

  6. Jerry Says:

    I am living in SE Europe, where the cost of gas is even higher than in the States. A VERY high portion of the population here convert their cars to run on both gasoline and propane, because propane is about half the cost. (Some even convert to methane tanks, which is even cheaper, but leads to a bit of a drop-off in performance). Even with a very slight dip in fuel efficiency, propane saves people a ton of money. Almost every cab in this city runs on propane, in fact. My good friend from the States converted his Ford Explorer to run on both fuels when he moved here for work, and he drives almost exclusively on propane now. The conversion paid for itself within a few months. It also offers some insurance for the environment, in that propane burns far cleaner than gasoline, as well. Almost every gas station here offers propane refills. It's not hard technology to implement, but we won't be seeing it advertised broadly in the US very soon, I'm quite sure.
    Jerry

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