Driving all the places your family wants to go can add up in your budget. There’s easy ways your household can cut car costs with some easy steps. Keep reading for how to save on gas while driving and more ways to reduce your family’s transportation costs.
Why Managing Driving Costs is Important
Transportation costs for your family hold an important place in your household finances. This is due to two factors. First, driving-related costs make up a significant portion of most family budgets and spending. How much? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a married couple with at least one child spends an average of $16,126 on transportation every year. Said another way, the average family with kids spends about one out of five dollars every year on getting from one place to another. The second reason managing driving costs is important, is your family can heavily influence just how much you spend on driving each week, month, and year. Your family has control over this important part of your budget.
...the average family with kids spends about one out of five dollars every year on getting from one place to another.
#1: Keep Auto Insurance Costs Under Control
Auto insurance is important, but still has a cost. There’s easy things you can do to balance appropriate coverage with the cost. A safe and clean driving record can yield a discount with many providers. You can also get a discount from organizations you might belong to, workplace-discounts, and more. Even something as simple as parking your car in a garage compared to outside can offer a discount with many insurers. Lastly, make it a point to check competitors every few years to ensure your rate is competitive.
"And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God." Luke 13:29 ESV
#2: Use an app to locate cheaper gas
Gas costs different amounts of money at different locations. The National Association for Convenience and Retailing found that 4 out of 10 consumers don’t pay attention to price when they decide where to buy gas. Free apps, like AAA, allow you to check the current price of fuel to save money when you fill up. This helps at home, but it can be a massive benefit while traveling. If you could save by stopping in 5 miles versus one mile, wouldn’t that be worth it?
#3: Properly Inflate Your Tires
Check your car’s manual and tire specs to see the recommended inflation level for your tires. This is not just for your comfort. Properly inflated tires last longer and get better gas mileage. A study from Edmunds estimated an average driver would save about $112 per year in fuel costs with properly inflated tires. The same study found that a person with severely under-inflated tires could save as much as $800 a year on fuel costs with this easy fix. Extended tire life would add to this. While too little air is usually the problem, take care not to over-inflate either. Go by the manufacturer’s recommendation for safety and optimal savings.
#4: Good Driving habits
The way you drive makes a significant difference in your driving costs. Fast acceleration, braking too much, and other behaviors add up to higher driving costs over time. This includes fuel mileage but also translates to wear and tear on the vehicle. Keep this in mind the next time you get the urge slam the gas when the stop light switches to green. If you car has the "ECO" light on the dashboard to indicate good fuel economy, make a game out of how often you can get the light to come on.
#5: Windows Up on the Highway or Interstate
The feel of the breeze on your face going down the road is great, but it has a cost. When you’re on a highway or the interstate, roll your windows up. Why? Lowered windows cause your vehicle to be less aerodynamic and less fuel efficient. Roll your windows up on the interstate to improve gas mileage.
#6: Use Air Conditioning in Moderation
The arctic blast of air on a hot day can be the best feeling after hopping in the car. It does, however, reduce the efficiency of your car. Use your air conditioning, but after the car cools down cut the fan speed down to a lower level. Avoid long stretches with the fan blowing at the highest speeds.
#7: Brew Coffee at Home
This might seem strange for a driving tip, but stay with me. Yes, you can save money on coffee by skipping Starbucks in lieu of DIY coffee. In addition to the direct savings, think about a daily routine that adds even a mile to your driving for a latte errand. 5 days a week over 52 weeks a year adds up. Small detours over time, coffee-related or not, can increase your driving costs.
#8: Work from home one day a week
A surprising number of jobs can be performed remotely. If you or your spouse’s job offers the option, consider taking advantage of a weekly commute free day. If your workplace isn’t there yet, ask and see. You might be surprised at the answer.
#9: Reduce Car Weight
The lighter your vehicle, the better your gas mileage is likely to be. That bag of old stuff in the trunk you’ve been meaning to donate for a few weeks? It costs more gas to haul the extra pounds around town. Jettison unnecessary cargo and reap the rewards.
#10: Avoid Long Idling
Here’s the scenario: you drive to pick up a kid, park, and wait 30 minutes before you leave while the engine runs the entire time. Allowing the engine to idle is spent fuel you don’t need to waste. It’s OK to idle for a few minutes. If you’re parked for a while, turn off the engine to save gas and dollars for going down the road.
#11: Maintain Your Engine’s Air Filter
Your engine requires air to work. Clean air is better than dirty air for your wallet. A clean air filter can improve fuel mileage up to 10% compared to a dirty filter. Filters, depending on the kind you get, are generally recommended to last between 10,000 and 30,000 miles. Check the instructions to see for sure. This is a maintenance item you can have done at a mechanic, but most families can just do this filter change at home. One most cars, the swap will take less than five minutes to achieve a more efficient engine.
#12: Keep Taxes in Check
Most Americans pay a tax each year on their vehicle. Many states tax based on an assessed vehicle value while some levy a tax based on other factors. You’ll owe some amount of tax for your car, but watch out for mistakes. Every year, many Americans just pay the tax bill without confirming accuracy by the municipality or state that levies the tax. If you find an error, like an incorrect valuation, check with the taxing authority on the appeal process to ensure you don’t pay more than you’re required.
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