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Cut Summer Gasoline Costs in Tough Economy With Drive $marter Challenge Money-Saving Road Trip Tips

(Editor's note: To help media and blogs illustrate the story, the Drive $marter Challenge broadband media website -- http://nonflash.drivesmarterchallenge.org/broadband -- offers visuals, TV clips, podcasts by a NASCAR driver, and English and Spanish PSAs.)

Washington, D.C., June 2009 —Summer road trips offer a brief escape from reality, but smart, frugal drivers are looking for ways to cut their gasoline costs in this economy during the heavier summer driving season and the approaching July 4 holiday weekend.

The Alliance to Save Energy and its 13 diverse nonprofit, governmental, trade association, and for-profit partners (http://drivesmarterchallenge.org/about-the-campaign/partners.aspx) in the Drive $marter Challenge fuel efficiency campaign provide vacationers and everyday drivers with hundreds of dollars of money-saving gas tips, resources, and myth busters on an interactive website (http://drivesmarterchallenge.org) that responds to the call of frugal drivers.

Whether you are headed to the big city, the great outdoors or staying closer to home, you can start saving money on gas even before getting on the road with a little advance planning, basic maintenance, and other driving choices:

Planning your vacation:

  • Get a customized vacation map with low gas prices along the route. Getting lost while driving in unfamiliar areas could lead to an expensive waste of gas and unnecessary disputes among passengers. Campaign website resources (http://drivesmarterchallenge.org/money-saving-tips/fuel-efficient-resources.aspx) can help your family print a customized vacation map that highlights low-cost gas stations along your route.
  • Choose the right vehicle.  If your family has more than one vehicle, drive the car that gets better gas mileage if possible. 
  • Rise and shine!  When possible, drive during off-peak hours to reduce gas costs and stress by avoiding stop-and-go or bumper-to-bumper traffic conditions.
  • Investigate other travel options. Consider trains, buses, or public transportation to your vacation destination when possible. 
  • Explore new ways to get around at your destination.  Find information on biking, public transportation routes, car sharing, walking, and renting hybrid or fuel-efficient vehicles on the Drive $marter Challenge websiteresources page.

Before you leave: maintenance tips

  • Inflate your tires.  Keeping your tires properly inflated improves gas mileage by around 3%.
  • Select the right oil.  Using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil improves gas mileage by 1 to 2%. Motor oil that says “Energy Conserving” on the API performance symbol contains friction-reducing additives. Change your oil as recommended to extend the life of your vehicle.  And, those taking the Drive $marter Challenge (http://drivesmarterchallenge.org ) can get a $10 coupon towards the purchase of Mobil 1 Advanced Fuel Economy motor oil. 
  • Tune up.  Fixing a car that is noticeably out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4%.

On the road: driving tips

  • Decrease your speed.  Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly above 60 mph. Each five miles per hour over 60 mph is like paying an additional 20 cents or more per gallon for gas. 
  • Drive sensibly.  Speeding, rapid acceleration (jackrabbit starts), and rapid braking can lower gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds.
  • Use cruise control and overdrive gear.  Cruise control cuts fuel consumption by maintaining a steady speed during highway driving.  Overdrive gear, when appropriate, reduces engine speed, saves gas, and reduces engine wear.
  • It’s a “drag.” Avoid carrying items on your vehicle’s roof. A loaded roof rack or carrier increases weight and aerodynamic drag, which can cut mileage by 5%. Place items inside the trunk when possible to improve fuel economy.
  • Turn down the AC.  Operating the air conditioner on "Max" can reduce mpg by 5-25% compared to not using it. 
  • Avoid idling, which gets 0 mpg. Cars with larger engines typically waste even more gas while idling than cars with smaller engines.
  • Navigate with a GPS system.  GPS systems can help you find your way and, increasingly, GPS programs can search for low-priced gas at nearby stations.
  • Fill up before returning rental. Rental car companies charge higher gas prices if you don't fill up the tank before returning the vehicle. Keep your gas receipts in case the company requires them to remove a gas surcharge.

The Drive $marter Challenge website calculator, www.drivesmarterchallenge.org, has been updated with 2009 vehicle models and 2009 projected average gasoline prices. It's the only website where drivers can find out, up front, how many hundreds of dollars they can save on gasoline with their specific vehicle by taking six easy driving and maintenance actions.


The Alliance to Save Energy is a coalition of prominent business, government, environmental, and consumer leaders who promote the efficient and clean use of energy worldwide to benefit consumers, the environment, the economy, and national security.