Road trip tips to save gas and money

With summer on its way and gas prices that are well over $2.00 per gallon, it makes sense that you'll want to save some gas and money on your vacation. Here are some road trip tips that can help.

Source: JD Weiher

  • Tire inflation: Think about how tough it is to ride a bicycle with a low tire. That's because an underinflated tire has heightened rolling resistance, which is just another term for the friction created between tire and pavement. Tires that are underinflated by only a couple of PSIs can cost you in terms of fuel efficiency. Remember to check for the proper air pressure. You should be able to find this label in the driver side door jamb or glove box. And don't go by the PSI numbers on the tire—they're typically max PSI and higher than recommended. Should you find yourself in need of a set of tires before the road trip starts, consider getting low-rolling-resistance tires—they can make a real difference in the long run.
  • Watch your speed: Yes, most people tend to drive 5 to 10 mph over the speed limit. Those few extra miles per hour, though, can really cost you in terms of fuel, especially if you're driving a big vehicle like a truck or SUV. Use cruise control to keep your speed in check and plan your travel time accordingly.
  • Run the A/C: It might seem counterintuitive, since A/C has always meant a drag on the engine. At highway speed, though, driving with the windows down causes heightened wind drag on most vehicles, and using the A/C will result in a more fuel-efficient trip.
  • Watch your right foot: If your car's equipped with a real-time trip computer, watch the gas mileage readings as you accelerate, and you'll see them drop to the single digits if you punch the gas pedal hard. You don't need to do grandma-style acceleration that can get you into trouble as you merge, but accelerating moderately and being just as careful with the brakes can cut your fuel consumption by as much as 35 percent. If you're in a city, try to figure out the right speed to hit all the stoplights when they're green and coast through them. Along the same lines, if you see a light that's turned red far ahead of you, coast and see if you can time it so that it turns green by the time you get to it and you don't have to come to a full stop.
  • Tune your car: Make sure that everything's in good running order before you hit the road, with no illuminated "check engine" light that can cause a hit on fuel economy (and raise your emissions). Check your air filter in particular, as a dirty air filter can cause a drop in gas mileage (and is easy to overlook).
  • Don't fill up constantly: There's no good reason to fill up the gas tank when it's anything more than a quarter-tank full. Filling up less frequently means you have less weight to move down the road and can give you more time to find a good gas price at a station.
  • Watch your weight: Try to keep things aerodynamic and minimize things like roof rack accessories, and make sure you run the recommended oil weight.

Some of these road trip tips might seem like they're incremental and won't make much difference, but every little bit helps and when you get a bump of one or two MPGs, it can make a real difference on a trip that's several hundred miles long!

Last updated April 5, 2019