Gas prices are headed up just as summer vacationers head out for their road trips. According to GasBuddy.com, which tracks gas prices, regular unleaded gas was $3.67 a gallon on average as of mid-June, a slight increase compared to last month, but in certain states in the Midwest, the price increase was greater. Michiganders were paying an average of $3.92 a gallon, an increase of 5 percent over last month, and prices were similarly high in Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota. The unrest in Iraq could drive prices up even higher.
As a result, some drivers are getting creative about how to reduce their bills. In addition to widely practiced strategies like driving at a constant speed, consumers are taking golf clubs out of their trunks and even turning their engines off while moving slowly (which, although economical, may not be safe). Here are some of the best tips collected from around the Web on how to reduce your bill:
Walk (or bike) instead. Skipping the car altogether will reduce your gas bill, and you’ll benefit the environment and your waistline at the same time. If your city has a bike share program, then you can change your mode of transportation even more easily.
Feel the breeze. U.S. News blogger and Wise Bread columnist Sabah Karimi recommends skipping the air conditioning this summer, even if it means working up a bit of a sweat on the road. She says opening the windows, wearing lightweight clothing and even sipping hot beverages can help keep you cool. (It sounds counterintuitive, but it really does work!) Also, try to park in the shade whenever possible.
Lighten up. Blogger Clever Dude points out that driving around a 40-pound bag of soil for three weeks is the equivalent of shuttling an extra (little) passenger, which requires more fuel. According to the Energy Department, carrying an extra 100 pounds reduces a vehicle's fuel economy by up to 2 percent. The percentage is higher with smaller cars. That means unloading any boxes, books and other heavy things you have in your trunk or back seat could help make your tank of gas last longer.
Use an app. Before you fill up your tank, make sure you’re getting the lowest price possible for your fuel. Prices might be up, but they still vary by location. Apps like GasBuddy can help you find the lowest cost gallon near you.
[Read: 8 Ways to Spend Less on Gas.]
Carpool. Hitching a ride with neighbors or co-workers lets you make new friends while conserving energy. Websites such as RideSearch.com and eRideShare.com can get you started. There are also many regional sites that specialize in connecting commuters. Do a Web search for "carpool" and the name of your region.
Get sleeker. Roll up your windows and remove that luggage rack, and you might be able to improve your aerodynamics. The Farmers' Almanac estimates that removing a roof rack can improve fuel economy by 5 percent.
Reward yourself. If you're forced to pay big bucks at the pump, at least collect any available rebates. Gas rewards cards give users cash back and other incentives. Credit card comparison websites, such as nerdwallet.com and creditcards.com, compare various offers, which include up to 5 percent cashback rewards on gas purchases.
Reduce horsepower. Getting a car with a four-cylinder engine doesn't have to mean a big image sacrifice. In fact, some car companies are enhancing their lower-horsepower offerings by adding the classic muscle-car engine rumble. Cars with less horsepower also tend to be cheaper.
Visit the mechanic. Replacing a clogged air filter for about $20 increases fuel efficiency by up to 10 percent, or about 37 cents per gallon at current gas prices, according to the Energy Department. That means it would pay for itself after you've driven enough to burn about 54 gallons of gas. An engine tuneup can increase a car's mileage by up to 4 percent, or about 15 cents a gallon.
Just coast. Here's a real sign of desperation: When you're going downhill, moving slowly in traffic or pulling into a parking space, online hypermiling forums recommend turning your engine completely off. That way, you can take advantage of the car's momentum and avoid wasting gas on unnecessary acceleration.
But the American Automobile Association warns about the dangers of this technique. Power steering and the ability to accelerate quickly may use more gas, but they also let you get out of harm's way if necessary.
The cost of an accident, after all, would far exceed any one-time gas