7 Easy Ways to Save Money on Gas This Week

Making a few changes to your driving habits could help cut some commuting costs.

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Americans spent an average of $368 per month on gas in 2011, almost double the monthly amount spent in 2009, according to the latest statistics. If you’re cringing every time you fill up at the gas station, making a few changes to your driving habits could help you cut some of those costs.

Here are seven easy ways to save money on gas this week:

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1. Have your tires checked. Head to the nearest tire store or mechanic to make sure your tires have enough air in them; check your wheel alignment on the same trip. Poor alignment can reduce your mileage and also cause some unnecessary wear and tear. Check your car’s manual to make sure you know how much air to put in each tire. Some models require different amounts in the front and back tires. A four-wheel alignment typically costs less than $100 in most cities and only takes about an hour.

2. Search for the best deals. Use online tools and apps to find the lowest gas prices in town. Free mobile apps like GasBuddy make it easy to track down local gas stations with the lowest prices. An extra bonus: Reporting prices in your area enters you into a prize giveaway. Mapquest also has a gas prices tool where you can see national highs and lows at a glance, and find gas prices at any intersection, address, or city using a basic search tool.

3. Stop speeding. The Consumer Federation of America reports that you can reduce fuel consumption by 7 percent for every five miles per hour you cut back on the highways. This equates to saving about 27 cents per gallon by reducing your speed from 70 to 65. Gas mileage decreases rapidly once you hit the 55 miles-per-hour mark. Simply driving slower could help you save a good amount of money in gas expenses this month.

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4. Get a tune-up. Head to the mechanic for a tune-up and top-up of all fluids. An efficient car will burn gas more efficiently, which could translate to saving money on gas in the long run. A well-maintained engine can boost your mileage. Tune-up costs and basic performance checks vary by vehicle, but it’s an annual check-up you won’t want to miss.

5. Take your foot off the brake. Riding the brakes is a bad driving habit–and a costly one. You reduce your fuel efficiency when you keep your foot on the brake, so make a conscious effort to take your foot off the brake and only use the brakes to slow down or come to a complete stop. Pay attention to your speed so you can just slow down by letting your foot off the accelerator. A simple change in your driving habits could be all it takes to cash in on some gas savings by the end of the month.

6. Take advantage of gas card benefits. Consumers with good spending habits can look for the top gas rewards credit cards to earn cash back on every gas purchase. If you’re spending several hundred dollars on gas every month or taking care of multiple vehicles, the savings can really add up. Take a good look at the terms and benefits of your credit card rewards program so that you’re making the most of your purchase.

[See How to Save on Gas With Your Credit Card.]

7. Drive more smoothly. Pay attention to the road and avoid major traffic areas so you can accelerate and decelerate more smoothly. Sudden starts and stops can take their toll on your engine, and your mileage. Accelerate gradually and use your cruise control often so you can just coast along for the majority of your trip. Minimizing braking, keeping your foot off the brake (see #5), and driving at a steady pace can not only make for a more comfortable ride, but will also help you save money on gas.

Sabah Karimi is a top Yahoo network contributor and a Wise Bread guide to auto insurance and efficient driving.