So we’re coming into the summer of 2022 and, let’s face it, lots of people are hurting right now. We’ve come out of a multi-year pandemic that caused a bunch of economic turmoil and shut large parts of the economy down. That was always going to cause ripple effects in economic things like the supply chain because, whether we realize it or not, our economy is both huge and incredibly complicated, with lots of parts relying on other parts to fire and work at just the right time and in the right amounts in order for everything to keep firing out best results.
The pandemic, and then this war in Ukraine - the ripple effects from those are being felt both with inflation and with the gas prices at the pump. And it’s not a Democrat or Republican problem-free market forces have much more to do with how expensive gas prices are than what the President (Democrat), House of Representatives (Democrat), or Senate (essentially Republican, since the filibuster rules essentially give the Republican minority de-facto control over whether anything gets passed) do.
So it is what it is. Our question is if you can’t do anything about gas prices, can you do anything about how much you use? This is a really popular blog topic whenever gas prices go up. Yet it’s not like you can run out and trade in your SUV for a hybrid. What can you do to save money by stretching your MPGs so you save money by using less?
Nobody wants to hear this but the single biggest factor influencing how often you have to fill up (besides how much you drive, of course) is how you drive. Everybody thinks they drive great - 85% of people think they are above average drivers, amiright?
Also, nobody wants to hear that there are things they could be doing better, so take this for what it’s worth and apply it to how you know you really drive if you’re being completely honest about things.
Watch Your Speed
The faster you go….sure, you get there faster, but it can really wreck your gas mileage. The biggest effect it has is when you’re on the highway. Every 5 miles per hour you go above 50 mph lowers your MPG by 7%. That doesn’t seem like a lot….except if gas is $4.75 a gallon, that’s 33 cents a gallon just by going 55 instead of 50. If you cruise at 70 mph on the interstate and you have a 17-gallon fuel tank, you’ll be paying an extra 22 bucks every time you fill-up. In effect, you’ll be paying $103 a tank instead of $80. Painful either way, but triple digits are REALLY painful.
Use Cruise Control and Watch Your Braking
No, we don’t mean don’t stop if you need to (silly rabbit). The way you accelerate and brake - gradually and gently vs. suddenly - uses the most energy. Which means they use the most fuel. The Department of Energy estimates that you cut to improve your fuel economy by 15-30% on the highway and up to 40% in the city if you do these three things - watch your speed, use cruise control on the highway, and try to accelerate gently. Considering the cost of gas, those kinds of percentage improvements are not chump change.
What About Additional Weight?
Sometimes we talk about doing things like taking unnecessary things out of your trunk while you’re driving. All other things being equal, it’s better not to have it. But weight only makes a limited difference - an extra 100 lbs lowers your gas mileage by about 1%. Not a benefit to the scale of watching your speed, but if you really don’t need it, it’s best to get it out of there.