Being a broke post grad who commutes an average of ~40 miles per day four times a week, I’ve started to really realize the strain that the increasing gas prices have been putting on my wallet. I didn’t really make a big deal out of it before because back in January, a tank only cost me $30. With gas now well over $4….I’m regularly seeing $45-$50 a tank o___O. And on average, I gas up maybe once every 1.5 weeks.
So with the pressure of seeing the money I saved slowly dwindle despite working more hours than ever, I’ve really tried to make a conscious effort to become more aware about the way I drive and think about driving and strategize ways I can better conserve gas.
I’ve done several trips between LA and the Bay and know that driving at a consistent 85mph with maybe one stop will get me 400 miles on one tank. So I thought it was so puzzling when I began to commute regularly (mostly highway driving) and see I was only getting between 300-310 miles on my tank. I decided to do some research…
I drive a 2006 Acura RSX. The estimated miles per gallon for highway is 31mpg, for city is 24mpg, and combined is 26mpg. The volume of my tank holds 13.2 gallons. My gas light should go on with about 2 gallons left (finally researched this after a near heart attack of driving 40 miles with my light on stupidly daring to push the limits in the interest of time and in search for cheap gas/Costco). I should be seeing the light no sooner than 286 miles and at best 340 miles.
Some changes in my driving habits:
- Using my brakes less and simply lifting my foot off the acceleration to slow down and coast to red lights/stop signs or oncoming traffic (THANKS SISTER! for drilling this into my head all the time lol)
- Driving at a consistent and slower speed and using cruise control when possible (In LA, I’m used to driving 80mph without stopping but found that I can’t really get away with that in the Bay….so I usually try to stick bewteen 70-75mph and have found the change in time marginal)
- Avoid using the air conditioning or opening up windows (can put some drag on your car) and instead open up the vents; but if you must, only use AC on the high way and open your windows on the streets
- Switching my car to neutral whenever I anticipate idling/long stops like when a stop light barely turns red or I’m waiting in a drive thru
- Shifting to higher gears sooner to keep the RPM low (my car is actually an automatic, but I use the sport shift to achieve this…or if you don’t have that, you can even do this by lifting up your pedal and pressing it down again when speeding up - you should feel the gear shifting and seeing the RPM pointer drop and raise again)
- Keeping my car nearly empty/light - besides my board, backpack, an occasional overnight bag…I try to not let any junk accumulate
- Limit my driving/Combine trips - if I have several things to do in one place, I’ll try to get it done all in one trips rather than going back and forth; always jump at opportunities to carpool
- Plan trips at certain times or certain routes to avoid traffic - my current schedule works out nicely so that I almost never encounter any kind of traffic
- COSTCO GAS!!!! - sometimes you’ll get Disneyland long lines, but for the longest time, the Costco next to my current apt resisted $4 and only recently broke it…currently at $4.08 I think
- If I can’t get to a Costco, I pay attention to the location of gas stations - going to gas stations further away from the freeway tend to be cheaper or if taking a long trip like between the Bay and LA, stopping to get gas at rest stops with many gas stations vs. a rest stop with only 1 or 2 makes a difference in the elasticity of competitive pricing (On my last LA trip, gas at Tejon Ranch with only 2 gas stations servicing the area was $4.60 compared to Kettleman with several gas stations at $4.30)
Anyway, probably sounds like common sense, but it really took a conscious effort for me to try and practice these adjustments…and well, it paid off!!
My mileage of my last three tanks upon the gas light lighting up: 343, 352, 365!!!! 365/11 (2 gallons left when gas light lights up/how much I ended up filling my tank) = ~33MPG
YEE!! In reality, it’s not much of a change…maybe earning myself 2 or so more trips and probably saving a total of $8…but $8 saved per tank builds up :], especially for a broke post-grad like myself :X lol. And I’d like to think that challenging myself to enter gas conservation mode and to practice these strategies has actually made me into a better driver :]