Frugal Road Trip: Savings on Gas

Saving on gas will definitely help make your road trip more frugal – but how? Of course, everything depends on how expensive gas is when you go on vacation, but there are tricks to lower the cost of gas for your trip, no matter the current cost of the stuff. A little planning will make all the difference!


Gas Savings

Step One:
The very first thing to do is get your car serviced and make sure you have the following items taken care of before you go:

  • Tire pressure at optimum level.
  • Gas tank cap is in great shape to prevent evaporation – replace if not.
  • Fresh oil change (and make sure it’s the correct grade of oil for your car).
  • Replace air filter (unless new).
  • Have your oxygen sensor(s) checked.
All of these will add up to savings on gas – each item can influence how much gas your car wastes. Also, check your car’s manual and make sure all routine repairs have been made. Doing this will not only head off problems on the road; malfunctioning parts can cause your car to use more gas than it should.

Step Two:
Once you’ve mapped your route (if you haven’t had a chance, check out my article Map It! for tips on how to plan your trip) check around online for gas stations with lower prices along the way and plan to fill up there. There are lots of resources out there that will help you with this – one of note is GasBuddy.com (opens in new window).

Whatever you do, don’t go out of your way to fill up cheaply – if you drive too far you’ll lose any savings or even make your trip more expensive! Don’t forget to fill your tank before you go at the least expensive gas station in town. You probably already know just the station.

Also, unless your car has a turbo/high performance engine, all you need is regular unleaded gas. You don’t need super or ultra or any other kind - it’s a complete waste of money.

Step Three:
On the road? There are many ways to save gas while driving. One – stop hitting that accelerator and brake so often! Try to maintain a steady moderate speed whether you’re on highways or back roads. Racing up to a stop light means that you’re wasting gas as soon as you hit the brakes.

If you’re on the highway and it’s legal to drive 60 mph, do so. This is the best speed for fuel efficiency. Five miles per hour over or more and you’re racking up a higher gas bill. In general, drive as slowly as possible (within reason) during your entire trip as speeding always makes your car guzzle gas.

Next, whenever you park along your route, park in the first spot you see and walk from there. The more you drive around, the more it will cost you. Park in a shady spot if possible to prevent fuel evaporation from your gas tank getting hot. Also, if you keep your car cool in the shade, you won’t have to run the air-conditioner if it’s a warm day, saving you even more on gas.

Refill your tank at ¼ tank (but don’t wait for the tank to go much lower) so that your car carries less gas for a good portion of your trip and, therefore, less added weight. In the same vein, consider packing lightly for your trip – the more weight your car has to carry, the faster it will drink up that tank of gas.

Check your air tire pressure every time you fill up – you want to keep those babies properly inflated for your entire trip. Under-inflated tires increase drag, making your car work harder and use more gas to roll forward. Find out the exact pressure they require and keep them there. Just be careful not to over-inflate!

Heat and AC eat up your gas, too. Pick a temperature you can live with but isn’t too low or high. Also, whatever you do, don’t run the AC or heat while the windows are open. Would you do that at home? If the wind feels good in your hair, just cut the heat/AC altogether and enjoy the breeze. Just remember that when traveling at high speed, the drag created by an open window will also reduce your fuel efficiency.

Taking the time to use these tips can really make a difference in the cost of your road trip. If you want to take a lot of road trips and save money in the future, consider purchasing a manual stick shift car. They use far less gas and they require less maintenance in general.

Also, if you have an SUV or another large car, consider purchasing a smaller fuel-efficient car to replace your large car/truck on road trips. As you know, larger cars/trucks guzzle gas and there’s really no benefit gained from driving one on your road trip unless you’re packing a large group or family into the car and you need the space.

All these savings add up to more money in your pocket to use for anything you want – may it be dining at a fine restaurant on your trip or just being able to go on more road trips! Want more ways to save money? Check out these frugal road trip tips.


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