By Julie E. Lee, Vice President & National Director, AARP Driver Safety, Education and Outreach
There’s no getting around the price of getting around. According to CNNMoney, the average American family spent $368 per month on gasoline in 2011—that’s almost 10% of the average household income. While personal spending on gasoline varies by a number of factors including the type of car you drive, where you live and the number of miles you travel, it is still a significant, unavoidable spend that can seriously impact your wallet.
You may think you’ve heard all of the ways to save, but AARP Driver Safety has four fuel-saving tips that could surprise you.
1. Improve your aerodynamic efficiency. During the summer months, one of the simplest ways to save on fuel is to roll down the windows, instead of running the gas-eating air conditioner. But at certain speeds, rolled-down windows create an aerodynamic resistance that your car has to work harder to overcome, thereby reducing your fuel efficiency. Once you’ve hit 55 mph or higher, it’s actually more efficient to roll up the windows and turn on the AC. To lighten your load and improve your vehicle’s aerodynamic efficiency even more, remove unnecessary racks for luggage, bikes or other equipment.
2. Alter your route. After a long day, most of us want to get home as quickly as possible. Driving can be stressful, and most of us don’t want to spend more time in the car than necessary. But changing your route could make a drastic difference on your average gas spend. According to Car Talk, the longer route is often the better choice—if it is a flat drive. Accelerating to go up hills can take a toll on fuel efficiency. Taking the longer, flatter route can save you up to 20% in fuel economy.
3. Fill up at the right time. Gas prices fluctuate daily and even hourly as station managers compete to get the most business. Statistically, Wednesday is the best day to fill up your car—and any weekday is better than the weekend, when gas prices are at their highest. It is also best to fill up in the morning, before 10 a.m. Gas station owners are more likely to hike up the prices between 10 a.m. and noon after checking the competition.
4. Calm down. Aggressive driving, in addition to being incredibly dangerous, can cause serious damage to your fuel economy. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that aggressive driving behaviors like accelerating rapidly, weaving between cars and frequent braking can lower your mile-per-gallon by up to 33% on the highway. Try taking deep breaths, keeping a relaxing scent in your car or listening to soothing music to stay safe on the road.
For more tips on how to stay safe (and save money) on the road, consider taking a driver improvement course, such as the AARP Driver Safety course, available in a classroom or online setting. In some states, you may even be eligible for an insurance discount upon completion of the AARP Driver Safety course.** (The insurance premium discount is not available in all states for the online or the classroom versions of the course. Please consult your insurance agent for further details.)**
For more information, visit www.aarp.org/safedriving or call 1-888-AARP-NOW (1-888-227-7669).
Julie Lee, Vice President and National Director of AARP Driver Safety, has more than 30 years experience in management, strategic planning, transportation and safety. With AARP for over ten years, Lee directs the largest driver improvement course designed for drivers age 50 and older.