Nope, I am not going to ask you to stop driving your car. The wheel, according to me has been man’s greatest invention and has radically altered our civilization so we don’t expect it to go away any time soon. At the same time, the way we use our wheels may be important for the health of our planet and more so for our continued civilization as we know it. Thanks to the refining shortfall in the United States, we are experiencing astronomical rise in gas prices. This post was initially meant for Darren’s Group Writing Project but I guess I was too late for it. Anyway, here goes:

1. Don’t do the drive-thru

I know, not getting out of your car and picking up that burger or coffee right from the window of the restaurant is tempting. We all do it for the sake of convenience and as a time-saving effort. But rarely are drive-thru lines empty. Usually we have to wait behind at least 3-4 cars even in a small town like College Station. the rush hour (early mornings) is especially crazy outside Starbucks. You would save a lot of time and gas if you just parked and got your coffee. Given that all cars are in the drive-thru lane, the nearest parking spots are vacant.

2. Park at the first available spot

One of the times you waste gas the most is not when you are driving on the highway but instead when you are looking for a parking spot in a crowded lot of a mall. You know that elusive parking spot right near the entrance (and next to the disabled spots) is most likely to be occupied yet you hope it is not and drive past it when in fact, a spot just dozens of feet away is empty. You keep driving around to find a spot that will make you walk couple of feet less. Why? Expecting that person idling his car in the parking spot to back out? He is not, he is just waiting for his wife to get back while he enjoys the cool airconditioning (the worst offender!)

I say, go for the furtherest parking spot where you are assured of an empty spot almost always and walk it out. Trust me, it won’t kill you. You always have your shopping cart to bring out your loot.

3. Drive directly to the upper levels

Tip #2 might not be suitable for city drivers that rely on parking garages in downtown. Well, you just flip the parking lot 90 degrees and the same advice applies and in fact, you walk even less. Drive directly to the upper levels and you will find a parking spot in no time instead of zigzagging through the lower levels. You have the elevator anyway to take you up or down and have to walk almost the same distance to the elevator no matter what level you are parked on, right?

4. Go ahead, use your air-conditioning

It is a myth that using air-conditioning consumes more gas [source]. It might be true if you are driving short distances and in traffic (enjoy the outdoor air then but beware of exhaust fumes). If you are driving long distances like on a highway, having your windows open increases drag and slows you down causing more gas consumption. See, some gas-saving tips in fact keep you comfortable.

5. Don’t use your brakes too often

Yup! It is the most simplest yet oft-ignored advice one can get for saving gas. While learning to drive, my dad kept insisting that I use the brakes to the bare minimum extent and should instead rely on the clutch to manage speed. According to my dad, the less you use your brakes the better drive you are. Now after more than 15 years, I agree. Speeding when you know the light is red and then braking abruptly wastes gas. Instead just ease to a stop (easier with a stick-shift) and brake gently. Of course, don’t heed this advice if a kid runs on the street. Perhaps his life is more important than saving gas at that time.

Most of these tips may have seemed obvious but are rarely heeded. I try and practice them as often as I can although I can’t give you definite answers on how much I have saved (give me a grant and I’ll model a study).

I bet you have tons of tips as well based on your personal experiences on saving gas while not quitting driving and saving gas money. In these times of rising gas prices, any tip that saves a fluid ounce is worth it. Share them in the comments or better blog about them and send me a trackback.

Additional Tips

17 tips from the EPA [PDF]
30 tips from HowTo Advice.
11 tips from Bankrate.