How To Reduce Pump Pain by Changing How You Drive

The way you drive directly impacts the amount of gas your vehicle requires. Find out how to spend less.

Want to get a great deal on gas – like less than $2.80 a gallon? Well, you’d have to drive to Laredo, Texas, to cash in, as prices there recently hit a national low of just $2.79. Otherwise, you’re paying closer to the national average of about $3.20, according to

The good news? You can dramatically reduce fuel costs without constantly hunting for lower rates online by driving smarter. Here’s how:

Gentle on the pedal. If you’re an aggressive driver, you risk getting hit with stiff fines and insurance premiums. But did you know that you’re also wasting gas? Sudden, rapid acceleration and braking can lower highway gas mileage by 33% and city mileage by 5%, research shows. “A smoother-driving, less aggressive style will often pay dividends, even in a high-performance car,” says Bernie Candelaria, education manager at Universal Technical Institute-Avondale, an automotive training school. “Accelerating slowly can save much more fuel than a jack-rabbit start.”

Smooth surface. Wind drag can drain mileage performance. Think of it as air resistance that is actively attempting to push your vehicle in the opposite direction of where it wants to go. Don’t make matters worse by riding with the windows down. Roll them up to allow air particles to seamlessly move over and around the surface of the car. Use the air conditioner, or better yet, the venting system, to stay cool.

Cruising to savings. Cruise control keeps your ride humming along the highway at a comparatively gas-sipping, steady rate of speed. “Maintain speed at 60 mph on the highway, assuming conditions and the posted speed limit allow,” Candelaria says. “Every 5 mph you go over 60 is the equivalent of paying 30 cents more per gallon, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.”

Shut it down. Leaving an engine running while you’re parked is high on the list of unnecessary gas-guzzling habits. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing so “only for a couple minutes while a friend runs into the store.” You’re still wasting fuel – and more of it than you may think. “You may not realize it, but your engine will generally use more fuel idling than in normal driving situations,” Candelaria says.

Less trunk junk. Does your trunk resemble a miniature version of a storage shed, with tons of “stuff” weighing it down? Then unload it. “Any unnecessary weight will require more gas,” Candelaria says.

Under pressure. Proper tire inflation translates to money in the bank – accounting for as much as a 3% improvement in mileage performance, according to the Department of Energy. “The more pressure in the tire, the easier it is to roll, which results in less friction,” Candelaria explains. “However, you should never over-inflate tires, which is considered unsafe.”

Protect yourself. Personal injury protection can help defray the costs of medical bills, lost wages and other expenses after an accident.