Most of us remember learning to drive and all the rules we were given about defensive driving. Sometimes you just wanted to say, “I get it!” Turns out those rules about safety can make a difference in how much money you spend on your car. And they aren’t the only ways to save.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, aggressive driving, defined as speeding as well as rapid acceleration and braking, can lower gas mileage by roughly 15 to 30 percent at highway speeds. In addition, a 2017 study from researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that aggressive driving can contribute to reduction of fuel efficiency by as much as 40 percent in stop-and-go traffic. “Our findings added credence to the idea that an aggressive driving style does affect fuel economy probably more than people think,” said John Thomas, lead researcher on the study.
Here’s a look at the numbers:
Let’s say you are not an aggressive driver, as described above, and routinely fill your car every three weeks at 400 miles on the odometer with 15 gallons of fuel and pay $2.75 per gallon. That equals 27 miles per gallon and $40.25 to fill the tank.
Using the percentages above and looking at someone who is an aggressive driver, at a 15 percent drop in gas mileage you will pay $936 more for fuel every year than a non-aggressive driver. A 30 percent drop will cost $1,872 more and a 40 percent drop in mileage will cost you $2,496 more. Definitely something to think about.
Here are a few other ways to improve your car’s efficiently and save money.
1. Avoid rooftop cargo.
Rooftop cargo units are great for family vacations or other extended getaways. But using rooftop cargo boxes as storage units for items you don’t need on a daily basis or simply keeping them attached reduces fuel efficiency. They increase the aerodynamic drag on vehicles, forcing them to burn more fuel. Department of Energy estimates suggest that large, rooftop cargo boxes can reduce fuel efficiency by as much as 25 percent when moving at speeds between 65 and 75 miles per hour.
2. Don’t treat your trunk like a closet.
Trunks are not closets, so resist the temptation to use them to store golf clubs and other items that are better stored in a house or garage. Research indicates that an extra 100 pounds in a vehicle can reduce gas mileage by about 1 percent. Because that figure is based on the percentage of extra weight relative to the vehicle’s weight, drivers of small vehicles may find using their trunks as closets to be especially costly.
3. Use cruise control when possible.
Cruise control lets vehicles maintain constant speeds. That helps drivers ensure they are always obeying the speed limit, and it keeps cars from the constant acceleration and deceleration that wastes fuel.
Efficient driving is safe, cost-effective and eco-friendly. With some simple strategies, drivers can do their part to protect the planet and make roads safer, all while saving money.