Making it my business: 5 not-crazy ways to save yourself some gas


You may have heard that gas in Richmond has officially hit $4 a gallon. I know, part of me never thought it could happen, too. But look at it this way – we could be in Europe where I believe it’s more in the $10 range right now. Still it cost 50 bones to fill up my tank yesterday – I remember when it took $10 to fill up my car. Now pumping $10 worth of gas will barely get me to and from work.

Anyway, I thought I’d break down a few tips for saving gas – I’m not talking about ridiculous strategies like drafting big rigs. I’m talking about real things you can do to save some cash, not to become some fanatical hypermiler. Let’s just keep it simple, shall we?

1. Slow the mess down.

The majority of cars are most efficient at around 55mph. It just so happens that the fairly standard speed limit of 55mph came about in 1974 in response to the Arab oil embargo of 1974 in an effort to save energy. Did you see how I just got all smart and informed all up in your face? Now I’m not saying you necessarily have to drive below the speed limit (people on 95 might kill you – or me for even suggesting it). But, think about it, do you ever really *need* to drive at or above 80mph… I mean in situations other than attempting time travel?

2. Toss the junk in your actual trunk.

Every extra pound of crap requires energy to move around. Energy = money. I’ll admit I’m guilty of mistaking my car for a junk drawer – in fact, I probably have about three pounds of faded receipts carpeting the floor of my backseat… and in my cup holders… and in the arm rest…. God, that’s gross. Let’s all make a pact that we will clean out our cars this week. We’ll keep it limited to the spare tire, the jack, and *maybe* an errant copy of Style Weekly (c’mon, you know you guys all have them stacked up in there).

3. No more peeling out.

Don’t be a jackass. Gunning your engine makes it work harder and burns more gas or, in our case, money. Accelerate like a normal person and rely on other things to make you feel awesome, like smashing beer cans on your forehead or knowing all the words to Old School (jk, jk, I love that movie).

4. Be a man and drive a stick shift.

I’m a bit biased to manual transmissions because it’s the only thing I’ve ever driven. And because my mom always said, “No daughter of mine is going to drive a prissy automatic. What if there’s an emergency and you’re the only one able to drive? *I’m* not coming to pick you up.” True story. Anyway, when driven correctly (i.e. not revving the engine) a stick shift will get you better gas mileage if you keep the rpms under 3000.

5. Stop using the brake.

Not totally. That would be dangerous! But think about it. The more often you brake, the more often you have to accelerate, thus using more gas. Luckily, The Universe has this wonderful thing called friction (please click that link, it’s SO FUN). Friction is cause by lots of things when you’re driving, specifically the road and the wind. If you scan about 10 seconds ahead and take your foot of the gas a bit sooner than you normally would, chances are you won’t have to use your brake as much. Please note though, those of us who drive in the city or in high traffic areas won’t be able to do this as much, what with all the crazy teens hopping around in the street. But you folks who live in the suburbs will be able to do this until the cows come home. Except they can’t because you live where their homes used to be. Different story though.

Do you have any other ways to save gas and, thusly, some Benjamins? Leave them in the comments.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. edg on said:

    And turn of the AC. Really, open the windows. The AC really wastes gas, way more so that a pile of faded receipts.

  2. Although… there was something on Myth Busters that compared driving on the highway (the highway, mind you, not Grove Avenue) with the windows down to driving with the AC on, and the drag that the windows created used up as much energy as the AC. Who knew??

    Also, scooters!

  3. edg on said:

    No, way. I just drove up to DC and the way up, used AC. Way back, no AC. I got back on less the $20 of gas and I had a 1/4 of tank left. On the way up it took $25 and I was below E when I got there.

  4. christy on said:
  5. christy on said:

    oops. that last link was to something i wrote about riding my bike to work…

    this one is about my new scooter…

  6. Even if you don’t drive a stick, supposedly staying under 3k rpms is good.

    I totally dig#5 but I’m so that guy that rides up on the person in front of me because I don’t want to brake *just yet*… my wife loves it so much. really.

    yeah I heard something on NPR where they were interviewing some other guy that said the same thing re: A/C vs. windows. His studies showed A/C made more sense but he was willing to say that others might experience something different.

    I would have figured keeping a clean air filter would benefit mileage, but the NPR interview guy said otherwise.

  7. not driving is the best way to not waste gas…

  8. Dave Wimbish on said:

    I break all those rules, but in a 2-door civic, so it still uses very little gas. And unlike a moped, I might actually survive a crash. I don’t know how anyone familiar with Richmond drivers can get on a moped and expect to not get killed.

  9. driving slow sucks. i feel the need, the need for speed.

    also i drive my scooter everywhere. cars are stupid. i think i fill my car up now once a month. about 40 bucks right there. fill my scooter up about 3 times a month. thats about 12 bucks. so im spending around 52 dollars on gas every month.

    bam bitches!

  10. Carpool!
    Also, have you heard of the DC area “Slugging” trend? That’s pretty cool too.

  11. Craig on said:

    I would carpool, but my fellow carpoolers might be offended by the sexist insults, swears, and racial slurs I yell out while driving.

  12. Gray on said:

    I wish my kid’s booster could fit on a scooter.

  13. Still trying to find someone to carpool with around me… I’d be up for it at least a few days a week!

    Instead of a scooter how about a really loud motorcycle (I’d imagine it’s all about the mufflers) – hopefully cars would still be able to hear you…

  14. daniel on said:

    Ride your bicycle, or walk. I save lots o’ cash monthly doing this.

    But if you have to drive, the steps outlined above help a lot more than fuel additives, air intake scrap metal, and other stupid money wasting things.

    Just feel guilty for pressing the pedal and you won’t speed, won’t accelerate as hard, and will find the useful transition from gas pedal to brake pedal–called coasting.

    Keep your car well tuned.
    Do not draft other cars (unless you hate your life).
    Use A/C or Windows, the difference is negligible at highway speeds. It really depends on the car which is better for you.

    The key is just drive less, but when you must drive–do it smart.

    The bus is a good idea if your automobile is a gas guzzler, or if you pay parking at work. I save $3 every day I bus rather than drive and park. I save $5.50 everyday I cycle. Days I ride the motorcycle, I save $4.75 (free parking).

  15. I just saw this today @ Maye Rain:

    I’ve got my own bunch of cards up my sleeve to save us from this financial malady. First, eat a lot of watermelon (hey, I’m from the south) which I am convinced can solve most summertime problems including hunger, heat (turn your ac off while ingesting) and anger (I challenge you to be mad while eating fruit). Give half of it away and you’ve also helped your fellow neighbor. Buy vintage clothes because if you have to get a horse (and how great would that be!), you’ll just look cooler in a vintage outfit than in flip flops from Old Navy.

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