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7 ways to cut holiday fuel costs

By Paula Pant ·
Friday, December 20, 2013
Posted: 10 am ET

It's the holiday season, and many people are driving long distances to visit family and friends.

Meanwhile, the average gallon of gasoline costs more than $3, according to AAA. That means a long road trip can result in a huge bill that kills dreams of a frugal holiday.

However, these seven tips can help you save money by cutting back on fuel costs:

1. Drive defensively

Speeding, heavy acceleration and quick braking make the engine consume more gas than normal. The U.S. Department of Energy says aggressive driving reduces gas mileage by 33 percent on highways and 5 percent on city or town roads. Driving defensively and avoiding a lead foot on the gas pedal can help you keep more dollars in your savings account.

2. Tune up the engine

Keeping your car in top shape helps boost gas mileage. Tuning up a car can help you save 4 percent in gas mileage, according to the Department of Energy. Fixing a major problem like an oxygen sensor can improve your mileage by up to 40 percent.

3. Combine trips

If you are driving several times a day to buy holiday gifts, pick up groceries and attend parties, consider combining those trips together. The combination of cold weather and frequent short trips reduces your fuel economy, since engines do not operate at peak efficiency until they are warmed up.

4. Drive during off-peak hours

Try commuting to work during off-peak hours, when the roadways aren't packed with other drivers. If you're making a long road trip, plan the trip so you're not driving during rush hour. Sitting idle in traffic is a waste of gas.

5. Carpool

Carpooling or ride-sharing helps you reduce fuel costs because you split the gas bill with other people. Talk to friends and neighbors to see if anyone else is heading to a destination near your own.

6. Use public transit

Taking public transportation such as a bus or train to a holiday destination can help you save big on both gas mileage and normal car maintenance.

7. Don't overload roof racks or stuff trunks

Using a roof rack during a vacation decreases your fuel economy by 5 percent, according to the Department of Energy. If things don't fit in the car,  consider leaving some nonessential items behind. Loading an extra 100 pounds into the trunk can subtract 1 percent to 2 percent from your gas mileage.

Paula Pant is a journalist-turned-blogger who helps people ditch the cubicle and live on their own terms. She's traveled to 30 countries, owns six rental property units and hasn't had an employer since 2008. Her blog, Afford Anything, is the gathering point for a tribe that refuses to say, "I can't afford it." Follow Paula on Twitter: @AffordAnything.


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