Driving Down the Cost of Your Car Expenses

Driving Down the Cost of Your Car Expenses

High gas prices are a reality for everyone, but for a senior on limited income, rising gas prices are even tougher to get a handle on. According to AAA, the average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gas across the U.S. is $3.96. That’s about a dollar more per gallon than it was a year ago. And some experts are predicting that with the onset of summer prices could reach as high as $5.00 per gallon in some areas.

Seniors, especially, can benefit from knowing how to curb the use of gas and find the best gas prices around town. A quick way to find real-time gas prices at gas stations in your area is to get on the computer. Some websites actually tell you what stations are charging that day for a gallon of gas, saving you from having to drive around, wasting gas, to find the best price. The sites include maps, so it is easy to see where the station is located. You can even ask the site for directions from your address to the station if you are not sure how to get there or how far it is.

AAA’s Daily Fuel GaugeThis fun online tool provides up-to-date information for  consumers about current, daily gas price averages and historical gas price data over the past year.

Knowing where to find the best gas prices in your area helps you plan your route so that it includes a trip to a less expensive pump. This driver-friendly innovation helps drivers take back some of the control over surging gas costs by helping them plan better before leaving the house. These sites also provide many other helpful driving tools, such as assistance in locating attractions, events and restaurants.

Thrifty gas price locator tools:
AAA– Offers their trademarked Trip Tik® Travel Planner tool for streamlined trip planning, information about gas prices in your area and help in locating restaurants, hotels and other attractions across the country.

MapQuest® Gas Prices – Allows you to plan a journey and find out where the gas will be cheapest along the way.

GasBuddy.com– Lists the lowest gas prices in your area, tracks industry trends, has a “Trip Cost Calculator” that will estimate the amount you’ll pay for gas and shows fuel prices nationwide with their “Heat Map” tool.

Bankrate– Has a handy gas calculator that shows you whether driving to that cheap station across town will save you money. Just plug in the capacity of your car’s tank and its miles per gallon, the distance to your primary gas station and to that cheap gas station and you’ll find out exactly how much you’ll save (if any) by making the drive.

While there is not much one can do about the price of gas, there are plenty of money saving tactics that seniors can put into place long before the tank hits empty. Many of these tips are good for fuel efficiency and make your car run better and last longer. This translates to less money spent on gas and car repairs over the long term.

Tips Especially for Seniors

  • If you are a veteran, you can gas up on military bases and posts around the United States, often for less money.
  • Consider running errands with family or friends who need to go to the same stores or retail areas.
  • Plan doctor appointments, lab tests and pharmacy visits all on the same day to consolidate the number of trips you have to make.
  • Run several errands in one trip. Plan the route in advance to make sure you aren’t back-tracking or haven’t forgotten an important errand.

Downsizing the Number of Cars You Have

If you own multiple vehicles, consider how you might be able to get rid of one car. With car ownership comes many persistent costs – car insurance, registration fees, basic maintenance, and of course, gasoline. Seniors who are retired and don’t have to drive to a job everyday may actually find themselves in a position to relieve this drain on their finances. By reviewing driving routines, including driving to the store, volunteer activities, doctor’s               appointments and visiting family, it may be likely that a couple could share one car. The monthly costs saved from getting rid of one vehicle can greatly alleviate the financial pressures of a retired person.

More Tips that Pay Off

Edmunds.com performed a number of driving tests for fuel efficiency. Their findings were that a driver would experience better fuel efficiency if a few driving practices were changed. This chart shows how:

Your fuel efficiency would be: If you would:
37 percent better Drive less aggressively. If you can lengthen the time it takes you to go from 0–60 mph from 10 seconds to 15 seconds.
14 percent better Drive at lower speeds to save gas. Go the speed limit, instead of 5 mph or more over the limit. The U.S. Department  of Energy says, “Mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.” The slow lane is where you find the happy people who are saving money on gas.
33 percent better Use cruise control. The reasons for this are that it smoothes out the driver’s accelerator by preventing nervous “surging,” and it makes the driver take the long view of the road rather than reacting to every change in the traffic around them.
19 percent better Avoid excessive idling. Turn your car off rather than letting it idle.

With the hot summer months ahead, there is some good news for staying cool. Edmunds.com found that a car used the same amount of gas when the car had the air conditioner on with the windows up and when the car had the air conditioner off with the windows down. They recommend that you make yourself comfortable while driving.

Saving Money Through Car Maintenance

For the cars that you do keep, maintenance is key to getting the best performance out of your car. Cars are expensive – period. The old adage “take care of your car and it will take care of you” certainly speaks volumes, but those words are hard  to hear when everything you do to a car costs money – and aren’t we talking here about saving money?

The truth is, when you regularly maintenance your car, it will run more efficiently and the engine will have fewer repair issues over the life of the car. To do this the right way, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for your car on oil changes, tire rotations and systems checks. A dealer can also provide you with a printout of what kind of service is recommended and at what mileage marker. This practice of upkeep will actually save you money over time.

It is nice to know there is much a driver can do to make the gas in the tank last longer even though gas prices continue to rise. Pre-planning your route with a trip to a less expensive gas station, considering your driving habits and keeping your car on a regular maintenance plan, all make for an improved driving experience. With these suggestions, seniors can realize significant savings, leaving more money in the bank and spend less time in the car, allowing more time for enjoying retirement.