How to Cut Your Gas Bill in Half
Gasoline prices have been rising fast following unrest throughout the Mideast. The political instability in Libya, Egypt and other key nations in the oil supply chain highlights one of the clearest reasons for investing in renewable and alternative energy supplies, including electric cars. In the long-term, shrinking supplies, increasing demand and (possibly) new climate change regulations promise, ultimately, to drive oil prices higher.
Here are five* road-tested ways to save money on gas. Of course saving money isn't the only goal: the more gas we save, the less pollution we create, and the less beholden we are to those who control the oil supply.
* Plus one bonus tip (no extra charge).
By one estimate, the public transportation system in the United States saves 3.4 billion gallons of oil a year (and cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 26 million tons).
Get your fair share of the savings by looking up the local bus route or climbing on the subway. (After all, as a taxpayer, you've already invested in the service.)
Sure, it costs money to take the bus or subway. But consider this: The average U.S. commute is 16 miles, and at these prices the average U.S. passenger costs $2.26 to go 16 miles ($2.80 for an SUV), and that's roughly the cost of a typical public transit fare. It's a wash.
Plus, you'll save wear and tear on your car, a hefty hidden cost of driving.
If all else fails, you can at least drive the car you own to greater fuel-efficiency. By one estimate, you can improve fuel economy 20% by reversing bad habits. That's like spending $2.55 per gallon instead of $3.19.
The gravy: Changing bad driving habits and scheduling regular vehicle maintenance lessens the pollution your car produces by burning fossil fuel. That means less smog, less asthma, less acid rain and less of a contribution to global warming. All in all, not a bad outcome from saving a few dimes.
Start by inflating your tires to the recommended level. Visit your mechanic for a tune-up if you're due. Be sure to have your tires aligned, your air filter checked and your oil changed if needed.
When making trips, combine errands so that the trip home from work also includes the trip to the grocery store (and thereby cuts your gas bill in half). When you're on the road, drive smoothly, accelerate slowly and don't speed. The biggest savings are in your right foot.
For more tips, see The Daily Green's 10 Ways to Save 20% on Gas Every Day.
You can cut your gas bills in half, right now. Share your trip to work with one other person and split the bill. That's like paying $1.60 for gas that costs $3.20 at the pump. (It's been a decade sine the actual pump price hovered in the $1.60-per-gallon range.) With a full car of four people, the cost per gallon is just $0.80! Now that sounds like real savings.
If you're looking for help getting started, consult with Divide the Ride, eRideShare, RideCheck, Carpool World or other Web-based tools designed to help like-minded commuters find each other.
If you must drive, replace your gas guzzler with a fuel-efficient model. The most fuel-efficient car, several years running has been the hybrid Toyota Prius, which gets 50 mpg. But new electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt get the equivalent of 100 mpg. The least fuel-efficient 2011 SUVs, the Chevrolet Suburban and the GMC Yukon, get about 12.
If you swapped that gas-guzzler for an electric car, it would be like shaving more than $3,000 from your annual fuel bill. The cost of an average commute in a Prius is about $1 at current gas prices, versus about $4 in one of those SUVs. In other words, you'll go almost four times as far on a tank of gas in the Prius, so the $3.19 you pay to fill your SUV is like paying $0.80 in the Prius.
If you're buying a new car, consult The Daily Green's list of the most fuel-efficient cars and SUVs, or invest in a reliable fuel-efficient used car.
Keep your wallet fat and your pants loose. Whenever possible, walk or bike. If your commute is a little too long to manage, try an electric bike, which provides an electric boost.
Every mile you pedal or stride saves you gas, saves you money and helps you stay in shape. If you trade in a trip in the average car, you'd save about $2 per average commute. (Use the money to buy a new umbrella for rainy days.)
During the hot summer months, though, be sure to check the air quality forecast in your area. Particulates, ozone and other components of smog can make it unhealthy to exercise outdoors on some hot, sunny days, particularly during the evening commute. Those with asthma or other lung or heart ailments are most at risk.
Bonus Tip (no extra charge)
This tip won't save you a dime today. But it's well worth it for what it will save your children and grandchildren.
Gas prices are the most painful for folks in the suburbs, where there's often no viable option but to drive from home to school, to work, to the grocery store, etc. Sprawling development gives each family God's green acre, but it makes them pay in oil.
It doesn't have to be this way. Legions of planners, advocates and a young generation of home buyers are reinvesting in city and village living. New development can be clustered around existing public transportation infrastructure, integrated with employment, schools and shopping, and connected by sidewalk into walkable neighborhoods. Another advantage: This pattern preserves outlying farms, which can supply local food, and nearby forests, where urbanites can take a hike.
Tax money can be used to invest in new public transportation routes. Local laws can be written to counteract sprawl. If you want to see the next generation have an easier time dealing with high oil prices (and there's little reason to expect the price of oil will drop significantly), then start thinking about the bigger picture. Tell your representatives in Congress, the statehouse, at the county commission and town council to plan for the next building boom now, while housing starts are low.