It goes without saying that the easiest way to reduce your gas use this summer is to limit the amount of time you spend in your car. But with summer smog setting in on the city and the great outdoors waiting, that’s easier said than done.
Here are six tips to make your next trip up to the cottage the most fuel economic yet:
1. Reduce the amount of time spent idling in traffic. Less time spent sitting on the freeway in a traffic jam means more time spent at the cottage. Before you hit the road, download a traffic app to find real-time traffic reports and avoid high-congestion spots. The added bonus is that you may find a secondary route to the cottage, breaking up the tedium of the drive.
Similarly, if you aren’t in a rush to leave town and are happy to arrive in the dark, leaving after rush hour on Friday evenings is your best strategy. But once you hit the open road, avoid putting the pedal to the metal—as any teenager quickly discovers, this is a surefire way to burn through your tank quickly.
2. Shop around for the cheapest gas prices. Gasbuddy.com, along with its Smartphone app, lets users find the average gas price for their area, the current prices of gas stations in their area and, of course, the cheapest gas.
3. Lighten your load. While it may seem more economical to bring your own canoe or kayak up to the cottage, strapping cargo to your roof can have higher than expected costs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, removing loads from your roof can reduce your fuel use by 25 per cent. Instead, split the difference and rent your water sports gear from an outdoor retailer once you arrive at your cottage.
The same principle applies to the stuff inside your car. For each 45 kilograms of weight shed from vehicle, your fuel economy increases by about two per cent. Instead of buying all your groceries in advance, see what you can purchase at a comparable cost closer to your destination. Either that, or finally follow through on your threats of making the kids get out and walk—that’s gotta be at least 45 kgs, right?
4. Make sure everything is in working order. Take your vehicle in for a tune-up; engine problems can rob you of up to 40 percent of your gas. Regular maintenance will also help you save on gas. For example, keeping your tires properly inflated will improve gas mileage up to 3.3 percent, while using the recommended grade of motor oil can save 1.5 percent.
5. Don’t forget about the other gas guzzlers in your life. Regular maintenance doesn’t just apply to cars. Making sure that your boats and lawn mowers are cleaned and in good working order will also help increase fuel economy. Get an annual tune-up on your boat and check to make sure your prop isn’t bent (which can cost you up to 10 percent of your fuel costs). For your mower, keep the blades sharp and make sure that the engine is clean and well lubricated.
6. Store your fuel correctly. Finally, for any fuel that you may have in storage, make sure that it hasn’t gone “stale.” If you do want to stock up on extra gas while prices are low, store it tightly in a cool place with a consistent temperature to avoid evaporation and oxidization.