How to Save Money at the Gas Pump

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How to Save Hundreds of Dollars at the Pump

Little tricks that can save you big bucks when you fill up your vehicle at the gas pump…
Get that “Check Engine” light checked promptly. When this dashboard warning light comes on, it often means that the vehicle’s oxygen sensor has failed — and that could reduce the engine’s fuel efficiency by as much as 40%.

Replace your air filter regularly. A clogged air filter can reduce fuel efficiency by up to 10%. Filters typically last about 12 months or 12,000 miles, but inspect yours every three months. If you see significant amounts of grime on the filter, replace it. Check your air filter every one to two months if you do a lot of driving on dirt roads. Replacing an air filter is a simple job — the vehicle’s owner’s manual explains how. Replacement air filters typically cost less than $15.

Check your tire pressure at least once every three months. Keeping tires inflated to the recommended pressure could improve your fuel efficiency by 10%. It also could extend the life of your tires and reduce the odds of a dangerous blowout. The proper tire pressure should be listed in the owner’s manual, inside the driver’s door of the vehicle or inside the glove compartment on a sticker.

Use cruise control when driving on open roads. Cruise control keeps the vehicle’s speed much steadier than you could on your own. Even slight surges in speed result in noticeably lower fuel efficiency.

Exception: Turn off the cruise control when driving on mountainous terrain. Trying to hold to a specific speed on steep inclines and declines tends to use more gas, not less.

Stick to the speed limit. One recent study found that driving 65 miles per hour (mph) instead of 75 mph resulted in an average fuel savings of 12%. Vehicles with poor aerodynamics, such as vans, RVs and SUVs, are likely to save even more by slowing down.

Avoid sudden starts and stops. Coast gently to stoplights and stop signs. Accelerate conservatively. Braking hard and accelerating rapidly reduce fuel efficiency by anywhere from 5% to more than 30%. If there is more than one way to reach a destination, select the shortest route that has the fewest stop signs and stoplights.

Go easy on the air conditioner (A/C). Modern cars have efficient A/C systems, so running the A/C won’t decrease your fuel efficiency by much, but you still can save as much as 5%. Best: Try to use the A/C when driving on highways — the drag created by open windows reduces fuel efficiency at high speeds — but open the windows when driving slowly.

Lighten up. Take stuff out of the trunk, and remove rarely used roof racks.

Source:  Rick Doble, founder of, based in Smyrna, North Carolina. He is coauthor of Cheaper: Insiders’ Tips for Saving on Everything.

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