Postcards & Passports

How to Stretch Your Fuel Dollars

Road trips are on the rise this summer. We’re all anxious to take a family vacation or just get out and explore. But with inflation at nearly 9% or more, our budgets are being taxed at every turn. Is it possible to stretch your fuel dollars enough so you can afford to take a road trip?

Here’s a list of 15 ideas for increasing mileage efficiency to stretch your fuel dollars. You don’t need to use them all to make a difference. Find the ones that work best for you and enjoy your gas savings!

1. Never let your gas tank get close to empty

Most gas pumps require gas in the tank to cool them. If you let your gas tank drop all the way to empty before refilling, you increase the chance of overheating. Plus, sediment at the bottom of the tank could be drawn into the pump or clog your fuel filter. You also increase the risk of air being drawn into the pump and causing misfires, decreasing your gas efficiency. Yes, gas is getting expensive, but don’t play that game where you try to see how far you can go on empty!

2. Pay less for your gasoline
  • Buy your gas at warehouse prices. I try to buy most of my gas at Costco Gas stations because the prices are significantly cheaper. Today regular gasoline is $5.99/gallon at the Costco closest to me. The next cheapest gas I can find is $6.19/gallon, so I save .20 per gallon with every fill-up. If I use the Costco card to pay for it, I’ll also get a 4% rebate back at the end of the year.
  • Use Gas Buddy or similar apps. Just put in your zip code and you’ll get a list of gas stations near you and the current price. This is also helpful when traveling.
  • Gas is often cheaper if you pay with cash rather than a credit card.
3. Be more patient and keep your speed down

The difference between driving 55 mph and 65 mph is 36% extra drag on your car. I once drove all the way from San Diego to Las Vegas at exactly 60 mph. Kept my car on cruise control and endured the longer drive to see if it really saved gas. It definitely did! Use this tip to easily stretch your fuel dollars. It’s a three-part gas savings: Driving slower, driving at a consistent speed, and not accelerating quickly — they all help.

4. Plan your trips, combine errands, and carpool

It only requires a little more organization to combine errands so you don’t drive more than necessary. For example, pick up your groceries just before picking up children from school, instead of going out twice. Or use a map to create a circuitous route for all of your errands, so you don’t do any back-tracking. You can even coordinate with friends or neighbors: you pick up everyone’s dry-cleaning, one friend picks up children at school, and another makes a stop to top off groceries. You can create carpools if you have extra seats in your car.  And be sure to take advantage of any free grocery or take-out delivery deals.

5. Use the cruise control

Cruise control is one of the keys to using Tip #3. Set your cruise control at the speed you want to travel. It is the most efficient way to drive so you don’t waste gas with constant accelerating and decelerating  to maintain your speed.

6. Put your car on a diet

Cut down on the weight your vehicle is hauling around. The more it weighs, the more gas is needed to propel it down the road! Remove unneeded items from your trunk and leave luggage racks at home if you can. Pack light!

You can purchase lighter tires, change out glass windows for polycarbonite, and go without a spare tire if you want to take this to the extreme. Driving around town with a less than full tank will also help cut down weight. Just remember Tip #1!

7. Don’t idle any more than necessary

If you’re like me, you might pull into a parking lot and then stop to check text messages or make a phone call before turning off the engine and getting out of the car. But there goes your gas, idling away as you sit there. Remember to turn off your engine as soon as you park, and avoid driving at times of the day when you’ll be sitting in slow traffic or waiting at long lights.

8. Ever heard of hypermiling?

Definition of hypermiling: the practice of making adjustments to a vehicle or using driving techniques that will maximize the vehicle’s fuel economy. “Hypermiling” is a mindset that has you thinking about every little aspect of driving to see if you can save gas.

  1. First of all, you determine if you need to drive at all. Could you walk or ride a bike instead?
  2. Can you put off your errand until a better time when traffic is lighter?
  3. Can you avoid stoplights?
  4. Will you keep a greater distance between your car and others so you don’t have to brake suddenly and re-accelerate again?
  5. Can you coast until a light turns to green, to avoid stopping and losing momentum?
  6. Can you park in the shade so you won’t need to use as much AC to cool the car?
9. Run your AC in moderation

Anything you can do to reduce the amount of time you use your AC will help save fuel. And if you do run your air conditioning, keeping the fan at a lower speed will also help.

10. Keep your tires filled

Properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage by up to 3%—the equivalent of saving up to $0.18 per gallon of gasoline. It also improves safety, makes your tires last longer, and improves vehicle performance. Underinflated tires wear faster, and if you’re trying to save money, you don’t want to be replacing tires sooner!

11. Turn off your engine at lights

This might seem rather inconvenient, because you’ll need to start your engine again when the light turns green. Some people think that idling uses less gas than stopping and starting the engine. However, for stops as short as 10 seconds, you will save fuel. Just something else to consider!

12. Replace your spark plugs early

According to AAA, replacing your spark plugs early can save hundreds a year in wasted fuel. It’s during the last 20% of a spark plug’s life that misfires and incomplete combustion occurs most frequently, so changing them before you hit that last stretch can save you money, time and frustration.

13. Replace your air filter often

A clogged cabin air filter can damage your car’s blower motor and cause your AC to run longer and harder in the summer. Dirty filters eat up your car’s fuel efficiency by up to 10 percent.

14. Keep your car aligned

Misalignment can decrease gas mileage by up to 10%, according to Investopedia. Instead of rolling freely, misaligned tires drag, so if your tires aren’t adjusted properly, you could be spending more money on gas. A wheel alignment could help you conserve fuel and fill up less often.

15. Pay attention to your warning lights

If your check engine comes on, your car may still be able to operate just fine for awhile longer, but not efficiently. While the cause may not be a big issue, it can wreak havoc on how the vehicle performs. For example, a loose or broken gas cap allows fuel vapors to leak from the tank. A sealed fuel system requires a working gas cap seal, so your engine emissions can increase and fuel mileage will decrease. It’s definitely worth checking out the cause of your warning lights.


These tips for learning to stretch your fuel dollars will help at home as well as on a road trip. I do hope you are able to enjoy a getaway, despite the climbing gas prices. Taking a vacation is good for the soul and also for strengthening the relationships in your life – both family and friends. Can you hear the road calling you? If you have any other ideas for saving on fuel costs, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Other articles you might be interested in:

Should You Fly or Drive?

How to Plan a Weekend Escape

How to Plan a Trip (the easy way!)

stretch your fuel dollars

How to stretch your fuel dollars


13 thoughts on “How to Stretch Your Fuel Dollars

  1. noelmorata

    That’s a lot of great information to using a car for summer road trips and nice tips on how to stretch out every gallon. I tend to also gang up errands and things to do when I get to town and now with gas over 5.50 per gallon in my area , it is even more crucial to decide if I need to really go somewhere.

  2. Linda (LD Holland)

    We love to road trip. But we were sure glad we changed our summer plans and are flying and not driving across the country again. Where we live in Toronto we are sure that prices are fixed and it is hard to find a bargain. But we loved using GasBuddy when we road tripped in the U.S. to find good gas bargains. I do love to drive fast and understand that gas consumption goes up. We will see if the high gas prices slow me down. And we are sure happy that our new car shuts itself down when in idle. Some great tips for people to consider to reduce fuel costs.

  3. Maria Veloso

    This post is timely in my life right now. It provided me with a great deal of knowledge. My family and I can focus on enjoying our road trip rather than just having to worry about running out of gas, though, naturally, fuel costs can sometimes dampen one’s hopes in enjoying time on the road. Thank you for the great advice!

  4. Bhushavali

    Great tips for a perfect road trip. Good to know apps like Gas Buddy help in figuring out the cheapest prices in the locality. Carpooling is definitely an excellent choice both economically & ecologically. Replacing spark plugs & air filters is something we forget to do often!

  5. Agnes

    It’s a great and beneficial article. You touch on an important topic because I think everyone is worried about rising prices that make traveling difficult. I love your list of 15 ideas for increasing mileage efficiency to stretch fuel dollars. I also use the Gus Buddy app. It’s constructive during a road trip. But I haven’t heard about hypermiling before! I love this idea. Cutting down the vehicle’s weight is pretty challenging but worth an effort for sure. I agree that tires filled can improve gas mileage.

  6. Subhashish Roy

    Yes certainly the inflation all around the world seems to be eating into our budgets. Although we haven’t done too many road trips abroad we love to drive around when we holiday in India. While with fixed fuel rates in every state here there are no chances of getting bargains. But your other tips are invaluable. Especially not driving too fast, switching off the car engine at traffic light, not allowing the fuel tank to near being empty, changing spark plugs and keeping tires filled. Great tips!

  7. pamela

    This is a much needed post for all the travelers who love to go on road trips in their own vehicles. Filling gas or check on tires are really important as on highways they are barely available. Forwarding to all my friends who love to drive.

  8. shreyasaha1987

    Wow, I am amazed reading so many pointers that I never considered that could take up more fuel for my car. I would be more careful in future, especially about carrying less weight in the car, keeping the tire filed, and never never let the fuel meter to drop below E. This is a much needed article, thanks.

  9. Saurabh

    These are very practical and useful tips for road trips. Very well explained as these are very well thought out points. Keeping speed in check and Never letting your gas tank get close to empty are such simple things we often neglect but as mentioned they can come in really handy to save on your fuel.

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