Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.
~ H.G. Wells
How to save money on gas? This is a question that a lot of folks interested in minimalism, living frugally and just generally trying to protect the environment are asking quite a bit lately. Well, that has been a theme for a couple of years already, ever since the price of gas took off starting early 2007.
I’m going to give you some of the tried and true methods on how to save gas at the gas station but I also want to talk more broadly about a saving gas mindset if you will.
Let’s take a look first at the average cost of owning a vehicle in North America. This average cost is taken from the Canadian Automobile Association’s 2010 Driving Costs Brochure. I’m taking the numbers for an average 1.4 litre compact 4 door sedan like the Chevrolet Cruze. The numbers will be similar for Americans but in imperial rather than metric.
The CAA estimates that driving an average of 18,000 kms (11,000 miles) costs about 14.70 cents per kilometre or about 23.52 cents per mile for operating costs. This includes gas, maintenance and tires. Based on gas prices of 129.6 cents per litre or 491.18 cents per gallon. A little higher than the current prices but a good gauge nonetheless.
We also have to think about the ownership costs which includes insurance, license and registration, depreciation and finance expenses. For the 4 door compact sedan spoken about earlier these costs are estimated at around $17.09 per day when driving 18,000 kms or 11,000 miles per year.
So adding both operating costs and the ownership costs for a 4 door 1 litre compact sedan ends up costing you around $8883.85 per year when driving 18,000 kms per year. That averages out to 49.4 cents per kilometre or 79.04 cents per mile.
That’s not chump change. So the question on how to save money on gas is perhaps not the best question. A better question might be how can we save money on our driving or travel expenses?
However, the title of this post is about helping you save money on gas. So some of the easy ways to do that include:
- Shopping around for the cheapest gas in your neighbourhood, but don’t travel to far to save a few pennies.
- Keep your car well tuned with regular maintenance and oil changes.
- Keep your tires at the proper pressure and inflated properly.
- Avoid carrying heavy bags of sand and such that you don’t need.
- Amalgamate your trips so you do less driving.
- Drive at the speed limit or slightly below.
- Accelerate modestly and smoothly.
- Limit or eliminate the use of roof top car carriers.
- Avoid idling for long periods.
- Drive with a warm engine. Take longer trips and don’t let the car warm up more than a minute or so on first startup.
So those are a quick top 10 list of ways to save money on gas when driving. But perhaps more importantly we need to look at how we can reduce our costs associated to driving and travel in general. Living the good life lightly and yet abundantly is about making considerate and well reasoned choices.
So rather than just focusing solely on gas costs, let us turn our attention to the broader questions. Do we need to drive? More than that do we actually need a car?
How many of us really need a car and if we are a family, do we need 2 cars? I’d argue that at most, a family only needs one car. In most major North American cities public transportation should be sufficient for most uses and if not, perhaps choose to live closer to the downtown core or where you work and where your children go to school.
If you choose to own a car, then buy a gently used car and save up cash for it. Don’t get into debt for a vehicle. It just isn’t worth it. At the very least you’ll save a few thousand dollars a year on depreciation and financing. I’d guess you’ll save at least 200 to 300 dollars a month.
According to Consumer Reports, depreciation and interest charges combines make up 58% of the cost of car ownership.
So I urge you to carefully consider buying a car, and under most circumstances don’t buy a new car at all. It is a costly debt and will hamper your long term goals of freedom and autonomy.
Also consider walking if the trip doesn’t require buying many or heavy things and is a mile or 2. Consider biking if the trip is 5 miles or less in one direction. You’ll be getting healthier and it is honestly less stressful. Though be careful, it is not as safe as driving. Bicyclists have eight times the rate of accidents as compared to motorists.
Let’s not buy into the mentality of the sheeple. Driving is a luxury and not a necessity. Think carefully of how you can save money rather than be that consumer whipped mercilessly on the treadmill of spending.
What’s good for the economy and especially for corporations is usually not good for us personally. Seek and embrace the deeper values of reverence, simplicity and spiritual abundance rather than blind consumerism and indifference towards the environment. We need to regain a respectful stewardship for our Earth.