Road Trip Tips – How to Save Money on Gas


With the airlines coming up innovative ways to charge customers more and more, people are getting behind the wheel instead of flying. Even if you are not driving to just reach a destination, road trips are a fun way to vacation. It is a great way to spend time together, bond with your family and get close to the nature as well. More than anything it gives you convenience and control. But a road trip can cost a lot too and fuel is a big chunk of it. Here are my 12 favorite tips to save money on gas while you enjoy your road trip –

Road Trip

Plan your trip

For some people road trips are more fun without any planning. I agree to an extent. But some basic planning goes a long way in terms of saving money without affecting the fun of the trip.

  1. Choose the right car : Pick a small car if there are only a couple of people. Most of the time small cars give good mileage. But cramming everyone in a small car or even two small cars instead of one minivan won’t save you any money. So consider what you actually need based on the number of people, space needed, comfort, etc. and pick the right car for the job.
  2. Plan your route (roughly) : You don’t have to plan your every turn, you will miss the detours and the awe of nature that is waiting in those detours but roughly know what route you are going to take. If there is a possibility of getting stuck in traffic with this route, plan an alternate route in advance. This will help you tremendously in saving time and fuel.
  3. Plan your time : Starting at the right time will get you out of traffic. Nothing burns gas more than sitting idly the traffic and braking frequently. So plan a time when you can avoid traffic and cruise through.
  4. Plan your fuel stops : Know the cheapest gas stations along your route even before you hit the road. Use this trip planning tool from Gas Buddy, it maps your refill stations based on the cheapest gas stations along your route. It plans the refills based on historical data of mileage and fuel tank capacity based on your car. To account for detours I simple reduce the fuel tank capacity before hitting submit, so it will map more frequent refills. You can also play with it to get fewer stops or cheaper stations or how much your tank level will be when you start the trip. Very useful tool.

Road trip gas budd

Drive smart

  1. Don’t speed : Speeding will reduce your fuel efficiency and also might get you a speeding ticket, not fun at all. According to consumer reports, going 10 miles per hour faster will reduce your fuel efficiency by 15%-20%. Pay attention to stop signs and traffic lights; slow down at the right time to avoid sudden stops and take off slowly instead of sudden acceleration.
  2. Don’t hit the brakes too much : Rapid braking and acceleration will cost up to 33% more fuel. Anticipating traffic and driving smoothly will cut the fuel cost and could also avoid accidents.
  3. Use Cruise control : If you have cruise control use it when the road is relatively flat. Going at a constant speed is much better for the fuel tank and also will give your leg some rest. Know when not to use cruise control as well. Don’t use cruise control in a hilly road, it will try to maintain the speed and burn more fuel.
  4. Avoid the idle : If you anticipate staying idle for more than a minute or two, in a very crowded drive through for example, stop the engine or at the very least change the gear to neutral.

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Prepare the car

  1. Do a mini-maintenance : Properly inflated tires at the right pressure recommended by the manufacturer gives good mileage. Check the pressure before you start a long road trip (don’t forget the spare tire in the trunk). Also check the fluid level, brake pads, etc. These won’t help with fuel efficiency as far as I know, but it is always safe to take a well maintained car on a long road trip.
  2. Clean the trunk : Too much heavier junk in the car will reduce the fuel efficiency. Clear our the trunk and remove whatever is not needed for the trip. Pack the right amount.
  3. Avoid the drag : Carrying items on the rooftop increases the drag. However, if you can put that stuff inside the car, do it before you leave. If you don’t need an extra attachment, it might be worth the time to remove it (like a bike carrier that is attached to your car but won’t be used in your trip or empty roof-top racks).
  4. Pack everything the day before : Forgetting that camera or your DVD player and making multiple trips back and forth are not going to help. Try to pack everything at least the day before, that way you will know what is missing and what fits in the car.

These are some of the tips that I have tried and found useful. Some people swear by hypermiling (what is hypermiling) as a way to save gas, but I have not tried that and not planning to either. I would love to hear about more ways you have used to try and save money on road trips.

What are your favorite gas saving tips?

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