From the gear-head’s garage: Hypermiling, a guide to saving money on the road


By Joseph Strong, Mass Communications Major

During the school year, I make even less money than usual, so being able to make that $50 paycheck last as long as possible would be quite useful. While driving, I attempt to “hypermile,” or change my driving habits to get more miles per gallon. It helps your wallet, it helps the planet and all it requires is being more mindful as you drive, so financially speaking, it’s free to do.

1.Check your tire pressure. Having properly-inflated tires is probably the easiest and cheapest short-term task that will save you money in the long run. Not only will you have a better fuel economy because of well-balanced tires, but you’ll help your tires last longer. 

I just bought new tires back in December, and it was over $400 just for two of them. According to a “Tire Inflation and Safety” guide published in 2010, “It’s not uncommon to be 10 psi below spec, which would waste three percent more fuel and increase tire wear by 45 percent.” The longer you can make them last, the more money you’ll save.

 2.Be mindful of braking. Braking is the worst possible thing you can do – unless you’re about to hit something, in which case it’s the best thing you can do. But assuming you’re not about to hit anything, all braking does is create excess heat. If possible, slow down by coasting. Not only does this save the wear and tear on the brakes, but it takes longer to slow you down. Therefore, you should start coasting when you see a red light. By doing this, you’ll increase the odds of the light changing back to green before you get to it.

3. Be topographically aware. Hills matter. Be mindful of elevation changes before they happen, and you can save fuel. 

Say you are on the highway and you are headed downhill, and you can see the road rise up again in front of you (I’m thinking of Highway 70 from Saint Louis to Columbia, if you’re familiar with that route). Assuming you can do this safely, and without excessive speeding, don’t break – accelerate. 

When going downhill, gravity will help you gain speed. Use this to your advantage and let it help you build up momentum to get back up the other side.

4.Keep your receipts from the gas station. Reset your trip meter after you fill the tank from a completely empty one. Drive until it’s empty again and your gas light is on. Divide your miles driven (on the trip meter) from the gallons of gas used (check your receipt). This will give you your average miles per gallon. 

If you’re up for an experiment, drive as you normally would and do the math. Then try some of these steps on the following tank of fuel and see if you get better mileage. If you’re feeling nerdy, try to beat your last “score.” If you win, you saved money – congrats! If you want some help with the math, can do the work for you. Go to the forum section and you’ll see an option called “garage.” All the tools necessary are there.

As an owner of a full-size pickup truck, I don’t get the most brilliant gas mileage to start with. But as a full-time student with very limited income, I’ve learned how to make the fuel I can afford last the longest. By just following these steps, I’ve gotten around two miles per gallon better on my last few tanks than I did before that. That might not sound like much to some, but to me that’s free lunch money.

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