8 Bad Driving Habits That Cost You at the Gas Pump

The price of gas has been rising, and recent geopolitical events only threaten to make a bad situation worse.

The cost of gas consumption has a ton of variables: where you live, what you drive, traffic congestion, weather, geography, you name it. More often than not, you can’t control how much gas you need to use on a daily basis. After all, you need to drive to certain places every day.

What you can control, however, are your best practices. Humans are creatures of habit — sometimes costly bad habits that can affect gas usage. Make tweaks and changes here and there, and you could save hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the years.

Here are bad habits you can change to save more on gas:

1. Buying premium gas

If you really want to know the difference between premium, plus and regular gas, read this Massachusetts Institute of Technology article. Basically, it says the same thing that Money Talks News reports: Unless your car specifically requires premium gas, don’t use it. It’s a lot of money you don’t need to spend.

AAA estimates that drivers waste $2.1 billion annually buying premium gas when they don’t need it.

2. Driving aggressively

Impatience doesn’t pay off on the road. Fast acceleration after traffic lights, from stop signs or on the freeway burns more gas. So do speeding and hard braking. Keep calm, save gas and lower your blood pressure.

Fast accelerations and stops also are tough on drivetrain components and more quickly wear out brake pads and rotors, all of which cost several hundred dollars to fix.

Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage by 10% to 40%, depending on driving conditions.

3. Using your car’s roof rack

One of our “11 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Slash Your Expenses” is to stop using a roof rack. Or, at least don’t leave it attached when you are done using it.

Roof racks create air resistance, forcing the engine to work a little harder and reducing your gas mileage.

Carrying things on a roof rack — bicycles, skis, storage pods, etc. — can decrease your miles-per-gallon by as much as 8% in the city and 25% on the freeway.

4. Ignoring gas rewards programs

You saunter up to the pump, see the rewards program prompt on the little screen and ignore it. Big mistake.

Several big grocery and gas station chains offer discounts if you utilize their rewards programs, usually based on how much money you spend with them. If you are a regular shopper at these stores and you aren’t signed up, you’re wasting money.

Examples include:

5. Buying gas on weekends

Avoid the pumps on Thursdays and Wednesdays, the days when fuel merchants jack up fuel prices the most, Money Talks News reports. Mondays are the cheapest days to buy gas in 17 states.

6. Failing to shop around

Most of us have our favorite filling stations, usually ones that are near our homes and jobs. But with a little planning and some internet research, you can save a lot of money.

Apps and websites like GasBuddy, Waze and Gas Guru can show you where the cheapest fuel is in any given city.

7. Idling

Idling for more than 10 seconds — probably the norm at most red lights and school buses unloading kids — uses more gas than stopping your engine and then restarting it, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says. Today’s more-durable vehicles are so advanced technologically that there is no wear and tear on them from constant restarting.

According to the DOE, we waste about 6 billion gallons of gas every year by idling. Half of that is from personal vehicles. Research also indicates that annual idling adds 30 million tons of CO2 every year to the atmosphere.

8. Weak maintenance

Tune-ups, proper motor oil, the correct tire pressure and clean air filters all contribute to maximum vehicle performance, and less gas used, the DOE says.

Goodyear, Discount Tire, Big O and Les Schwab all offer free tire pressure checks, with online reservations available.

The DOE shows the “fuel economy benefit” you’ll get by properly maintaining your vehicles:

  • Tune-ups: Improves fuel economy by 4%
  • Correct tire pressure: 0.6%
  • Correct motor oil: 1%-2%

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