10 Costly Driving Habits

Once upon a time, the only certainties in life were “death and taxes.” Today, it’s safe to say we can add a third — rising gas prices. The price of fuel keeps going up, with nary an end in sight. Need some ways to save on gas? Here are ten driving habits that cost big bucks, and how to change them.

“A Couple of Gallons” by B Tal.

10. Going Solo – While carpools to work take some time and organization, how often do you take your own car to a family or social event – or even when you grab lunch with a coworker?

Maybe you want to run an errand afterwards or simply crave the freedom to leave on your own schedule, but that flexibility costs you!

9. Speeding – Driving fast won’t just get you a speeding ticket; it can also cost you at the pump. For every 5 mph over 60 you drive, expect to pay $0.20 per gallon more. If you like to whiz along at 80 mph, that’s $12 extra per 15 gallon fill up! Taking it easy isn’t just the safer way to drive, it’s cheaper too.

8. Sudden Stopping
– Do you speed up to a red light, hoping it will change in time? If it doesn’t and you slam on the brakes, you just wasted a bunch of gas. Every time you apply your brakes you are wasting energy and burning more gas, so give yourself plenty of time to coast to a stop.

7. Unnecessary Acceleration
– Sure, punching the gas and going from 0 to 75 can be fun, but unless you need to get out of the way of a Mack truck, quick acceleration is hardly necessary, and it uses a ton of gas. Accelerate gradually!

6. Heavy Loads – The heavier your car is, the more gas it uses, so get rid of those textbooks or other heavy items cluttering your back seat!

5. Low Tire Pressure – Properly inflated tires maximize fuel economy, and tires that are low will deflate your MPG. Make it a habit of checking your tire pressure every one or two fill-ups.

4. Idling – Letting your engine idle for even just a minute uses more fuel that shutting down and restarting your car. Shut off your engine the next time you’re waiting for a friend, chopping on a burger, or

3. AC – Air conditioning can decrease your fuel economy by 5 MPG or more. Unless you’re in the South in July, try opening the windows instead.

2. Ignoring Your Air Filter
– If you aren’t careful about regular car maintenance, you may be neglecting you engine’s air filter. As your air filter gets dirty, less clean air is allowed into your engine, reducing fuel efficiency. Swap it out isn’t just good for engine life, it can boost your MPGs by up to10%.

1. Not Using Cruise Control
– If you’re driving on the highway for more than a few minutes, using cruise control can save you bundles. During highway driving we frequently accelerate and decelerate unnecessarily, using gas each time. Cruise control keeps our engine going at a steady tick, ideal for conserving fuel.

Need more fuel-saving tips? Many of these tips and others can be found at the U.S. Department of Energy’s fuel economy site.

Do you have any experience with changing these habits? Know of any other driving habits that can cost you?

Published or updated on March 21, 2008

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About David Weliver

David Weliver is the founding editor of Money Under 30. He's a cited authority on personal finance and the unique money issues we face during our first two decades as adults. He lives in Maine with his wife and two children.

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