May 6, 2011 @ 8:00 am

Google search “how to increase gas mileage” and you’ll receive over three million hits in less than one second. Every summer, as gas prices increase, new articles are added to the collection. Recycling the same tired hints. Reduce speed! Don’t use AC! Keep your windows closed! Use cruise control! All great tips, in theory. In actuality, not running the AC is not a viable option on days when temperatures are in the 100′s.

But they forget the most important way to reduce gas costs: keep your overall mileage down. The less you drive, the less you pay in gas. How do you do that? It depends on where you live, how many people live in your house and how much you’re willing to sacrifice. Here are a few key questions to ask yourself.

What is my current mileage?

Just like creating a budget for your household or business, the first step is to track your current usage. Keep a list of every place you drive to for a week or two. Get a good idea of typical trips.

How can I make my current car use more efficient?

After tracking data, focus on making each trip as efficient as possible. Take the shortest route, even if it uses a few extra minutes. Combine trips and errands. Use businesses like grocery stores and dry cleaners that are on the route to and home from work. Plan ahead and you’ll see a dramatic decrease in wasted mileage.

Do we need multiple cars?

Fewer cars means fewer miles driven. I know American tradition says that we need a car, or more, for each driver in our household, but the rest of the world doesn’t live this way. Do you really need to have a car for each driver? Is this something you can sacrifice to make more room for vacations or other extras?

Does using a car share program make more sense?

Most residents of metropolitan areas now have the advantage of car share programs. Use them! They’re way more efficient and cost much less than maintaining and driving your own car.

Can I use public transportation?

If you’re a city dweller, consider parking your car and using public transportation. An unlimited monthly pass that includes all busses, cable cars and rapid transit in San Francisco is $70. The current cost (as of April 2011) of one tank of gas in the average sedan. The same pass is $86 in Chicago, $104 in New York, $68 in Atlanta and $44 in Birmingham. And you can use the commute time by reading or planning out your day.

I hope these tips help! What’s your favorite tip for saving on gas? Comment below.


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