4 Ways Drivers Can Save Money and Help the Environment

Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

Americans are always looking to save money on gas or transportation costs in general. The good news is that many cost-saving measures are also great for the environment. Cars and trucks are to blame for nearly one-fifth of all U.S. emissions, releasing 24 pounds of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases for every gallon of gasoline. Though California’s biennial smog tests have made a huge difference since the 1970s, Los Angeles still had 94 “smog days” in 2014. These are days when pollutants in the air exceeded federal regulation standards, largely due to emissions from vehicles.

Improving fuel economy is one of the best methods for reducing the huge carbon footprint caused by American cars. From your choice of vehicle to keeping it in good working condition, there are plenty of easy ways to cut costs as well as emissions. Here are four green tips to save drivers money.

1. Stop driving so much

Drivers, relative to those who used other modes of transit, create an incredible amount of pollution in addition to spending a lot of money. If you aren’t able to completely give up driving, you can save money and the environment by finding ways to drive less, such as combining errands, carpooling with friends, staying in your neighborhood, or altering your daily commute. According to a 2013 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a single commuter who integrates carpooling, public transit, and telecommuting into his or her daily routine could save more than $1,800 annually. If 25% percent of Americans adopted one of these alternative commuting choices, annual transportation greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 3% to 12% and transportation fuel use could be reduced by billions of gallons.

2. Drive a fuel-efficient vehicle

Choosing a car that gets 20 MPG rather than 30 MPG can cost $645 more per year, according to the EPA. That amounts to $3,225 in extra fuel costs over five years. Electric vehicles and hybrids are an eco-friendly, money-saving choice, and they can even get you a better deal on car insurance. If you are looking at cheaper price brackets, manual vehicles also tend to be more fuel-efficient and are easier to find used than hybrids or electric cars. You can also try the “find a car” tool at fueleconomy.gov to search vehicles by MPG.

Source: Thinkstock
Source: Thinkstock

3. Change the way you drive

Fueleconomy.gov identifies a number of ways you can improve your car’s efficiency by changing how you drive. Avoid idling, riding the brakes, excess weight, speeding, and hauling cargo on your roof, which impacts wind resistance. Even simply driving more smoothly, rather than jerking to a stop and start, can save a significant amount of gas. Cruise control is an efficient choice for highway driving, and turning off the A/C makes a major difference. Today, there are even mobile apps available to help you drive in a manner that increases your fuel economy.

4. Take good care of your car

In addition to extending the life of your car and improving its performance, regular auto maintenance and repairs save drivers money in the long run. According to the EPA, routine maintenance including changing the air filter, changing the oil, proper alignment, and keeping tires correctly inflated can improve fuel efficiency by as much as 19%. A broken or missing gas cap can also cost drivers a lot of money. A significant amount of gasoline is actually vaporized if your gas cap doesn’t fit correctly, and that’s hard on both your wallet and the environment. Faulty sensors, such as the oxygen sensor, could be affecting your fuel economy as well, so don’t ignore your car’s check engine light.

For more information on sustainable driving practices, check out The Eco Driver’s Manual, published by The Auto Alliance.