These days, it seems like you can’t pass a gas station without feeling sticker shock. The oil industry is using rising tensions in Libya and other oil producing countries to further gouge the average consumer at the pump. Some experts believe the gas prices could top $5 per gallon by 2012. You may be tempted to ditch your current car for a hybrid, electric, or just an all-around more fuel efficient model. The proliferation of highly fuel-efficient models in the automotive sector is a great move forward for our nation’s environment, as well as a step away from our dependence on foreign oil.
However, does a hybrid justify the costs right this moment? Allowing pump panic to influence your choice of a hybrid model might not be the smartest, easiest, or most affordable decision. According to many experts, the best thing you can do is develop a new strategy on how to use your current vehicle.
The first step to take is to accurately determine the mpg of your current vehicle or vehicles. You may be shocked to find that your current model is only getting a few mpg less than a new model. After that, decide if the fuel economy that you will gain from a new car will pay for a higher monthly payment. Be sure to account for the increase in your insurance premium as well. You are going to have to save at least $100 a month to justify changing vehicles to a more fuel-efficient model.
The most important thing that you can do is to evaluate your driving habits. Driving habits have been extensively studied by various companies. Edmunds.com recommends a switch known as ‘calm driving’. Quite a few people spend their commute switching lanes as fast as possible, hitting their brakes at the last second, and accelerating instantly. Experts are now saying that ditching these wasteful habits (as opposed to your existing car or truck) can actually increase fuel efficiency by 35%. That means a car which used to get 20 mpg would not return in the neighborhood of 27 mpg!
Driving habits are not the only way to optimize your fuel economy. Proper maintenance habits can increase your fuel efficiency an additional 5-7%. The largest culprit here is driving on under-inflated tires. Low tire pressure can cost you as much as 3.75% of your vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Tire pressure gauges are cheap to buy, easy to use, and most gas stations offer an air compressor for inflating your tires for about $.75 per use. Changing your air filter and regular tuneups can also boost your car’s performance at the pump.
A new car is not always the best reaction to rising fuel prices. A higher monthly payment may actually make things worse. Evaluating your driving habits and performing proper maintenance can actually save you more miles per gallon than a brand new vehicle.