How to get better mileage, save on your next fill-up as gas prices rise

Gas prices have hit record highs in recent weeks as the world grapples with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and demand soars as the economy reopens.

The average daily retail price of gasoline across the country hit an all-time high of $197.4 per liter on Tuesday, up from the start of the year when it hovered around $146.1, according to data from Natural Resources Canada.

High prices make drivers grumble, but there are several ways to get better mileage and lower your gas bills, says Teresa Di Felice, assistant vice-president of the south-central Ontario chapter of the Canadian Automobile Association.

Plan your trips

Saving on gas and getting better mileage starts before you leave home. If you research your route and use traffic reports or driving apps, you can avoid accident zones and other slow-moving areas, which can help you save gas, says Di. Congratulations.

Also group your trips. “Sometimes we walk out of a place and then we come home and we’re like, ‘Oh, I wanted to go to that place,’ and you walk out again,” Di Felice said. “Try to think about the routes you need to take, so you can combine them and avoid peak times.”

Practice good vehicle maintenance

Mileage is better when vehicles are running smoothly, says Di Felice. To keep your vehicle running smoothly, she recommends making sure the engine filters are clean, the brake fluids are topped up, and the tire pressures are optimal.

“It’s not good for your gas or your car if you drive underinflated or even overinflated,” she said.

To find out what the optimal pressure is, Di Felice tells drivers to look for advice printed on the inside of your car’s driver’s side door. Since driving, road conditions and weather can impact tire pressure, she suggests setting a monthly alert on your phone or marking your calendar to check tire pressure regularly.

Avoid sudden braking and “jack rabbit” starts

Cars consume more fuel when going immediately from standstill to high speed or vice versa. When driving, try not to hit the brakes at the last second or hit the throttle hard when pulling away from a stop light or sign, says Di Felice.

Use cruise control, when safe

Maintaining a constant speed can increase savings because you avoid fluctuations that hurt your fuel efficiency. Turn to cruise control, when safe, to help your mileage, says Di Felice, who notes that most cars achieve peak fuel efficiency between 80 and 90 km/h.

Avoid idling

“People have this idea that they have to rev their car before they start driving it to warm it up because they think it’s better for the car,” Di Felice said.

“That may be true, if you’re driving a very, very old model…but you don’t really need to run a newer car for two or three minutes before taking off.”

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You can be safely moving within 15 to 30 seconds of starting your car, and not idling your vehicle will save you gas and help the environment, says Di Felice.

Be strategic about air conditioning

“Your air conditioner is a really big drain on your gas tank, especially if you choose the auto max feature in your car,” Di Felice said.

She recommends drivers roll down their windows before opting for air conditioning, avoid maximum automatic climate control features in vehicles, and stop idling their cars during warm months to cool them down before driving away.

Remove roof bars when not in use

If you have roof racks or other storage devices on your car, consider removing them from your vehicle when you don’t need them to transport cargo. These devices create a drag on your car and your fuel efficiency, says Di Felice.

Keep an eye on gas prices

While you often can’t avoid filling up with gas when your car is nearly empty, it’s worth watching prices when you have some breathing room, says Di Felice. Several websites list gas stations and note their prices so you can find deals, and news sites often alert readers when prices need to go up or down by a few cents, she says.

Find loyalty programs

Many gas stations, credit cards and other loyalty programs offer gas discounts. The CAA, for example, offers three cents a liter off at Shell stations to all its members, Di Felice says. Esso, Husky’s and several other stations also have incentive programs.

Sometimes these programs allow you to earn points every time you fill up and these points can be redeemed for other rewards.

“Maybe you’re not saving directly at the pump, but maybe you’re saving a few dollars on a grocery bill or something else that you usually buy,” Di Felice said.

Make these tips a habit

Most people know what to do to improve their mileage or save gas, but they easily slip away from these tips. Make the tips part of your routine, says Di Felice.

“It’s just a matter of making it a habit.”

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