We do. We’ve done the math. The numbers might surprise you.
Our “angry idler” has made a lot of mistakes that are costing him a lot of money, polluting the air, and contributing to climate change. Think you are better? Take a look at our list of (common) bad driving habits and see how many apply to you. Chances are you’ve got some work to do behind the wheel. (We did when we started Driving2Save). But the good news is that these bad habits are easy to break by following our Driving Smarter Tips and the financial rewards for doing so are real.
Underinflated tires increase friction, robbing you of fuel economy and increasing wear and tear. A moderately underinflated tire can decrease your fuel economy by 2%. Over the course of a year, this will cost a typical driver about $46. How do you avoid this? Check your tire pressure twice/month.
Riding on the wrong tires.
With so many different types of tires in the market, how do you choose? Most tires generally fall within these categories – summer performance, all-season, and winter. Within each category, there are many subcategories, such as performance all-season. In recent years, manufacturers have introduced low-rolling resistance tires (LRRTs) that feature an ECO compound that helps reduce rolling resistance and thus reduces fuel consumption. In some cases, LRRTs can save you 1-2 MPG. If you commute 10,000 miles/year, not having LRRTs on your car could be costing you $70-$140/year.
Junk in the trunk.
Extra weight forces your engine to work harder, which reduces your fuel efficiency. Every 100 lbs of unnecessary weight in your car reduces your fuel efficiency by 1%. Lugging stuff around? It’s probably costing you $12.50/year.
Empty roof rack.
Did you know that a roof rack can reduce your mileage by as much as 12%? This does not even account for bikes, roof boxes or anything else you put on the roof. With 2 bikes on top, the reduction can be 35% or more. If you are not using the roof rack or the accessories, take it off! This can save you a significant amount of fuel – we performed an analysis on a 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid and found that having the roof rack alone costs $121.50 in extra fuel each year of driving based on driving 13,500 miles (and the Hybrid gets better than average gas mileage). If you transport bikes often, consider getting a trailer hitch and a hitch bike mount – not only are these racks inexpensive, they will save you a considerable amount of fuel as well!
Missing or loose gas cap.
We have all seen folks driving around with loose or missing gas caps. But you probably didn’t know that a loose or missing gas cap can reduce fuel economy by 1-2% — the same as lugging around an extra 100 lbs. That’s another $12.50/year. We’re only 5 bad habits into our analysis and we’re already talking about real money — at least $262.50/year.
Failing to Plan Ahead
Forgetting to check traffic.
No one enjoys traffic especially if you can avoid it. Checking traffic before you leave can save you time and money! Even if you get stuck in only 5 minutes of traffic each weekday, this can add up to 21.7 hours of idling each year, translating into 4.3 – 8.6 gallons of fuel consumption (based on Energy.gov) and $10.75 – $21.50 worth of gas at $2.50/gallon. If you run your AC while idling, these numbers go up by 55-60%! And if you live in a congested area, your traffic fuel penalty will likely be even higher! So be sure to check traffic on your favorite maps app before you leave next time, saving you time and money.
Driving the wrong car.
If your household has more than 1 car, then this tip is for you! Next time you head out for a drive, consider what the drive is for and which vehicle you own is the most economical. Are you going to pick up a few items at the grocery store by yourself? If so, take the car that gives you the most MPG! While you may be tempted to drive that large SUV or truck, it needlessly burns extra gas. Heading out for a long commute? Picking the vehicle that achieves 1-2 extra MPG can save you a ton of money over a long distance. If for instance you are doing a 150 mile drive, a vehicle that gets 20 MPG versus a vehicle that gets 22 MPG is a difference of $1.23 in fuel. While that does not seem like much, consider that over a year of driving, if you take the more fuel efficient car for 150 miles every month (just use it for a little over 1% of your driving), you’ll save $15. Therefore, each time you drive, consider whether you need the storage space and seating capacity to warrant driving that large SUV or truck. For most trips, the average family sedan or small SUV will do the trick! Not sure which vehicle you own achieves better fuel economy? Check FuelEconomy.gov for your specific make and model!
Failing to carpool within your social network.
Carpooling is one of the best ways to reduce road traffic, time in the car, fossil fuel consumption, and emissions. To illustrate the potential savings, we created a model to show that if a group of four parents living within one mile of one another, with kids playing on the same sports team, carpooled instead of driving individually, each family would save $210.60 in gasoline and wear & tear costs based on a 14 mile round trip, taken 5 days a week, for 12 weeks. This does not include the 8.75 hours of driving time that they would save and the 433 lbs of CO2 that they would not release into the atmosphere. Even if you are not a soccer mom (or dad), if you can reduce your driving 10 miles/week by carpooling, you can save $283/year in gasoline and wear and tear. An even simpler way to think about this – “sharing is saving.” Therefore, carpool whenever you can, you can have a positive impact on saving lives, money, time and the planet.
Hitting the Road
Starting the car and then getting ready to drive.
We have all done this – we get into the car, start the engine, fiddle with our music, connect to bluetooth, grab something from the back seat, and fiddle with the mirror. Before you know it, you have been idling your vehicle for some time. How much time is that really? We spent an afternoon at a big box store tracking the amount of time people idled before getting a move on. We found that the average person idled for 37.6 seconds before leaving. If you do that 4 times/day when you get into your car, that’s over 2 minutes of idling. Do that every day, and that’s over 12 hours of idling in a year. What does that cost? It’s at least 2.5 – 5 gallons of gasoline, assuming you aren’t using your AC. That’s $6.25 – $12.50/year (or more if you run your AC).
Cooling your car with the windows down and the AC on.
On a warm day, how many of us roll the windows down and blast the AC to cool the car down? Once we think the hot air is out of the car, the windows go up and the AC stays on high. It turns out, the fastest way to cool your car is to leave the windows up and crank the AC. But if you want to cool your car in the most cost-effective manner possible, you should leave the AC off and put the windows down for 4-7 minutes. We’ve done the testing. The car will cool almost as quickly with lower fuel consumption. After a few minutes, put the windows up and the AC on. This will save you about $10/year.
Idling unnecessarily before you turn your car off
Didn’t we already talk about idling? We did, but that was about idling when starting your car. We didn’t talk about idling instead of turning your car off. Like our angry idler, many of us have people to drop off and pick up each day (school, sports, carpool, work, etc.). If you leave your engine on while waiting to pick up your child from school or sports practice, the costs can pile up pretty quickly: 30 minutes of idling a week turns into 26 hours of idling a year, which burns 5.2 – 10.4 gallons of gas (assuming no AC) and costs you $13-$26/year (or more if you run your AC).
Circling for the perfect parking spot.
By some estimates, a typical driver wastes 17 hours/year looking for parking spaces. Our experience watching drivers in parking lots suggests this estimate could be low! Nonetheless, the costs of being a picky parker are high: At least 16 gallons of gas burned and $40/year spent unnecessarily (not to mention the valuable time being wasted).
Holiday Shopping Ahead
So, when you go holiday shopping this year, please don’t circle endlessly looking for the best parking spot. And remember to bring at least an extra $640.50 with you! Where will you find this money? In your bank account. All you have to do is ditch your bad driving habits and Drive2Save throughout the year. If you want to save even more, check out all our Driving Smarter Tips.
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