— Memorial Day is fast approaching, and that means it’s time for millions of Americans to hit the road.
The American Automobile Association estimates that about 35 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday weekend, and the vast majority will do so by car.
Americans love to drive, but thought of a road trip, or even a commute to work, may not seem so appealing these days, with gas hovering around $4 a gallon in some states. AAA found that 4 in 10 drivers are altering their plans in some way because of high gas prices.
We can’t all just go out and buy a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle, and there are no silver bullets when it comes to saving on gas. Still, experts say there are some ways you can get the most mileage out of the car you have.
Here are some tips.
No junk in the trunk: It’s one thing to toss a few grocery bags and your gym stuff in the back of your car, but quite another to haul around a cooler, a tool chest and a year’s supply of water. An extra 100 pounds can reduce your miles per gallon by up to 2 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That roof rack isn’t going to help your fuel efficiency, either.
Skip the drive-through: If you routinely get a pick-me-up on the way to work, experts recommend that you park your car and walk into the coffee shop instead of waiting in the drive-through line. Chevrolet tested the theory using its Chevy Cruze and found that the person who waited 15 minutes in the drive-through line for a cup of coffee used an extra quarter gallon of gas, adding as much as $1 to the cost of that coffee splurge.
Keep your cool: Yes, we know you’re in a hurry to get home, or to the next stop on your family vacation. Experts say that driving aggressively by accelerating fast, then hitting the brakes, is a drag on fuel economy, especially on the highway. The Department of Energy says driving sensibly can reduce your gas bill by a modest 5 percent around town, but up to 33 percent on the highway.
Use cruise control: Just as aggressive driving can reduce your gas mileage, so can constant fluctuations in your speed. Experts recommend trying to maintain the same speed for maximum efficiency.
Follow the speed limit: Yes, we all have a need for speed sometimes, but driving over 60 miles per hour will cost you. If you are paying $3.96 per gallon, the Department of Energy estimates that every five miles per hour over 60 will cost you 24 cents per gallon in gas.
Plan your driving: Whether it’s bundling a few errands into one or finding the quickest way across the state on vacation, you can save a lot by just planning better. Chevrolet notes that cold engines are less efficient than ones running at operational temperature, so it’s not just the reduction in miles that makes it worthwhile to combine a few trips into one
Shop around: Saving on gas starts at the pump. AAA has a free mobile app, TripTik, that shows you where the nearest gas stations are and what they are charging for gas. That’s one way to make sure you’re getting the most gas for your dollar.
Check the tires: Make sure your tires have the proper pressure. The Department of Energy says proper tire inflation can improve fuel efficiency by as much as 3 percent. You can also get better gas mileage if your car is properly tuned and you use the correct grade of oil.
Don’t drive, or at least share the car you do drive: The guys at Car Talk note that a great way to save on gas is to walk or bike short distances, take public transportation when you can or work at home when possible. If you have to drive, try to carpool.