Fuel: The Road Trip Money Pit

by Jessica Sommerfield · 1 comment

So you’ve decided to save money on airplane, bus, or train travel and settle in for a long family road trip. You may think you’re saving money, but if you don’t consider the following tips, you could end up paying more for fuel than you expected. In turn, spending too much money on fuel will probably translate to more limited spending on the fun aspects of your vacation. Missing out on key vacation goals because you under-budget for fuel would be disappointing, so if you plan ahead, you shouldn’t have to.

Perform a pre-trip maintenance routine on your car. Did you know that simply maintaining the proper air pressure in your tires could save you more than 3% in fuel costs? Also be sure to check and replace the oil if it’s getting close to time for a change, and replace the air filter if necessary. You can get all of this checked at once during a routine full-service oil change at most tire and lube establishments. Fuel-injection cleaners are also not a bad idea to maximize your car’s gas mileage.

Clean out your car. Excess weight in a car decreases gas mileage, so rid your vehicle of anything not needed during the trip. If you have a choice, pick lighter-weight coolers, backpacks, luggage, and other necessities, as well.

Shop for fuel. It may seem odd to think of shipping for fuel, but gas prices can vary greatly from one station or chain to another, as well as from one state to another. A good site to check before heading out is gasbuddy.com. Some gas stations offer 1-2 cents off per gallon if you use their gift cards, so check to see if the chain will be available on the route you are taking. If you have a smart phone, use a GPS app to locate the nearest gas stations when you’re on the freeway so you don’t have to waste fuel looking for a station. Then check one of the above sites for the lowest price, and you’re good to go.

Watch how you drive. Many drivers have the bad habit of accelerating and decelerating quickly, which can lower gas mileage up to 33%. Try to accelerate while going downhill, as well as coast to a stop sign or light. When you’re on the highway or freeway where you won’t need to stop frequently, use cruise control if you have it. Not only will you optimize your gas mileage, you’ll also save on potential speeding tickets if you tend to have a lead foot.

Avoid traffic jams. Consider leaving earlier or later than peak traffic hours, especially on the weekends when everyone and their boat is heading the same direction. A lot of fuel is wasted idling and in stop-and-go traffic. Check googlemaps.com or traffic.com and listen to local radio stations for frequently updated road conditions so you can take a less congested route if necessary. As always, it’s a good idea to avoid construction zones when possible.

Taking a little time to prepare your vehicle, shop for gas prices, plan your route and refueling stops, and drive efficiently while on your road trip will go a long way toward increasing your gas mileage and, in turn, the spending-capacity of your vacation budget.

There’s always those trusty travel coupons you can use to save for your trip, but what other tips do you have for road trips? Share them with us below.

Bonus Tip:

Another way to save on your monthly Internet and TV costs is to find a current ATT U-Verse coupon code or at least a promotion to knock down your home service bill.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Nick August 24, 2012 at 6:53 am

Using cruise control to save gas is BAD advice. Yes you won’t get a speeding ticket but NO you will not be getting the maximum fuel economy for the condition. Cruise will go out of it’s way (by using gas) to maintain a certain speed. Uphill it will punch the throttle to maintain speed, down hill it will release but not completely. The best driving technics for fuel economy is exactly the opposite. Let your car slow down going up hill, slowly regain speed on flat grounds or downhills. On downhills let go of the throttle completely, depending on the car it will shut off your injectors and let you ride for “free”. Putting your car in neutral will let you gain some speed downhill but the best is too keep it in gear and let it coast. Oh and drive a manual, automatics use more gas in every situation. The only time a auto will be more efficient is when the OEM messes with the numbers on purpose or the manual transmission has gearing aimed at higher performance instead of fuel economy.

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