Cut Your Gas Costs
In the Garage
Inflate those tires. Soft tires slow you down and can cut gas mileage by 10 percent or more, according to the tire-sales and research website tirerack.com. Follow the inflation instructions in your owner's manual or on the decal at the inside edge of the driver's door. Ignore the numbers on the tire sidewall, as they are more general and not specific to your make of car. Aim to check your tire pressure once a week―at least once a month is crucial. Keeping tires properly inflated will also help you avoid rollover and other tire-related accidents.
Maintain the engine. A reduced air supply or a sluggish ignition can cut into mileage. Change the air filter twice a year and the spark plugs every 50,000 miles. When you change the oil every 6,000 to 7,500 miles, have the mechanic check your cooling system, too. Even cars with computer-controlled engines, which need fewer tune-ups, require these chores.
Take a load off. Extra weight in the car can hurt mileage. Reduce the clutter in your trunk by removing tools, golf clubs, and other weighty and hardly used items.
On the Road
Drive the thriftier car. If your family owns both a sport utility and a sedan, get into the habit of taking the smaller vehicle whenever you can. By driving the Toyota Camry instead of the Ford Expedition to the mall, you are saving about nine miles per gallon in suburban driving. After 20 10-mile trips, you'll have saved about $11.
Steer away from rush hours. Idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic uses precious gas unnecessarily, and it pollutes more, too. Don't waste time in lines at the fast-food drive-through; go inside for your Extra Value Meal―and get extra value from your gas.
Before a Road Trip
Time Your Purchases
Consider a Hybrid
For a real gas saver, consider the Toyota Prius, a hybrid gas-and-electric sedan that gets about 50 miles a gallon, and feels like a car, not a golf cart. The competing Honda Civic gets about 44 miles per gallon. "I wave at the people lined up for gas," says Dan Becker, energy and global-warming director of the Sierra Club who drives a Prius, and keep right on going."