15 Ways to Save Money on Gas and Emit Less Carbon

While burning fossil fuels is doing irreparable damage to our planet, many people have no choice but to continue using gasoline to get to work, collect trash, drive ambulances, and other essential functions. Skyrocketing gas prices, however, have turned many people’s attention to reducing the amount of gasoline they burn, if only for economic reasons.

The following 15 tips not only dramatically cut your gas bill—they also help you help the planet by reducing your carbon footprint.

Tweak Your Lifestyle

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Of course, the most sustainable choice is to avoid buying gas altogether. Take public transport, walk, or bike to your destinations whenever possible.

We also recommend planning for and investing in an electric vehicle. Aside from being better for the environment than gas cars, a new or used EV can save you up to 60% in fuel costs, according to Consumer Reports.

Turn Off the A/C

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Let your windows down instead. Turning off the A/C can decrease your fuel consumption and carbon emissions by up to 20%. Also, before you turn off your car, turn off the A/C. It takes less fuel to start the car the next time if the engine doesn’t have to immediately start the HVAC system.

Use Recirculation

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If you do use your A/C, use the recirculating function, which closes the air vents. The A/C then only cools the air already in the cabin rather than the air coming in from the outside.

Drive a Cool Car

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In the summer, you can start with a cooler car if you park it in the shade. If you need to use the A/C, open the windows for a few minutes to let the hot air escape before you turn on the A/C.

Use the Seat Heater

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In colder weather, once the cabin temperature is comfortable, turn off the heater and use only the seat heater. (A coat or sweater helps, too!) While your car draws heat from the engine to warm the cabin, the motors and fans that move that engine heat to the cabin ultimately use gas—not much, but every bit counts.

Reduce Idling

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Make sure to turn your car off when it is not in use. The Argonne National Laboratory recommends turning off your engine if you’ll be idling for 10 seconds or more. Idling for 12 minutes wastes a tenth of a gallon of gasoline.

Inflate Your Tires

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Inflating your tires to their proper air pressure reduces friction and fuel use, increases the life of your tires, and decreases the amount of particulate matter (i.e., pollution) released into the atmosphere. Proper air pressure can increase your gas mileage on average by up to 3% in some cases. Over the course of the year, this means purchasing 14 fewer gallons of gasoline (the equivalent of 344 fewer miles driven) and emitting 284 fewer pounds of CO2, compared to driving with poorly inflated tires.

Change Your Oil

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Regularly changing the oil increases a car’s efficiency by reducing the amount of friction on the engine. This helps the car run more efficiently and improves your gas mileage by up to 2%.

Over the course of the year, that means purchasing just under 10 fewer gallons of gasoline (the equivalent of 229 fewer miles driven) and emitting 190 fewer pounds of CO2, compared to driving with dirty oil.

Replace Your Air Filter

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A clean air filter can decrease the amount of gasoline burned by roughly 0.6%, which doesn’t sound like much, but that’s the equivalent of driving 60 fewer miles over the course of the year, saving you from having to purchase roughly 3 more gallons of gas, compared to driving with a dirty air filter.

Drive Safely

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It should go without saying: Slow down when approaching a red light and accelerate gradually when the light turns green. Eliminating aggressive driving can improve your gas mileage up to 40% in stop-and-go traffic.

Using the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s assumption that 55% of driving is city driving (or 6,306 miles per year), driving safely in stop-and-go traffic can save you from purchasing up to 104 gallons of gas per year and emitting 3,792 fewer pounds of CO2, compared to driving aggressively.

Use Cruise Control

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On highways, use cruise control to maintain a steady pace at 55 miles per hour. Driving at 55 mph is 8% more efficient than driving at 65 mph, and 23% more efficient than driving at 75.

Again using the DOE’s assumption that 45% of driving is highway driving (or 5,160 miles per year), driving at 55 mph will spare you from buying 38 gallons of gas per year (and from emitting 758 pounds of CO2), compared to driving at 65 mph, and saving 109 gallons (and 2,180 pounds of CO2) compared to driving at 75 mph.

Plan Your Trips

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Saving money on gas is sometimes as simple as getting organized and scheduling productively. You can reduce the number of trips you take by combining them. Also, avoid rush hour and spending more time idling.

Refuel Slowly and Early

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Did you know that as the day warms up, gasoline expands and vaporizes more easily? Pumping gas quickly also increases the amount of vapor that’s created. The more vapor you pump, the less liquid gas goes into your tank and the less you’re getting for your money.

Gas prices tend to rise on Thursday mornings and stay high through the weekend, especially on holiday weekends. This means Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings are the best times to buy gas.

Refuel Frequently

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Seems counterintuitive? You may be surprised to know that less empty space in your gas tank minimizes the evaporation of gasoline. In other words, with more empty space, you may never get to use some of the gas you’ve already paid for because it’s evaporated.

The closer you are to running on fumes, the more likely you are to resort to the nearest gas station rather than the cheapest one.

Use an App

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Use an app like GasBuddy or Waze to help you find the lowest price gasoline around. Just don’t drive further than it’s worth.