Thirty-seven percent Canadians say they would be concerned about not being able to pay for essential goods and services like groceries, utilities and gas if Canada enters a recession, according to a September 2022 NerdWallet survey conducted online by The Harris Poll among 1,116 Canadians.
Although prices at the pump have cooled somewhat since surging past $2 per litre during the summer, there’s no guarantee that trend will continue.
If you’re already using apps, loyalty programs and credit cards to spend less on gas when you fill up, here are some tips to help you stretch the litres in your tank even further.
How to save gas
1. Don’t speed
Driving faster creates more aerodynamic drag — which means your vehicle consumes more gas. For example, you can use about 15% less fuel by driving at 100 km/h versus 120 km/h, according to analysis by GasBuddy, an app and website that tracks gas prices.
2. Keep your eye on ‘E’
Don’t wait until you’re running on fumes to fill up, because this situation limits your choices of where and when to refuel. When you’re starting to get low, proactively search the apps and websites mentioned earlier to determine the best time and place to buy gas.
A 2019 GasBuddy study found that Tuesdays and Wednesdays tend to be the best days to fill up in Canada; Mondays and Fridays typically have higher average prices.
3. Use air conditioning strategically
Air conditioning uses fuel, but opening your car’s windows increases drag, which also uses fuel. So which cooling method is more fuel-efficient? You can think about the decision in a couple of ways.
One is to think about your vehicle’s size and shape. If you have a smaller and more aerodynamic car, opening the windows could make a big difference, so air conditioning is a better bet. In larger vehicles that already have a lot of drag, opening the windows won’t make as much of a difference.
The other is to think about where and how fast you’re driving. When you’re cruising around town, the Canadian Automobile Association recommends opening your windows because air conditioning can increase fuel consumption by 20%. But on the highway, open windows create more drag, so it’s better to use air conditioning.
4. Travel lighter
Before you hit the road, remove any nonessential items from your car, like a bike rack or that extra row of seats. The extra weight adds to your gas consumption, and removing it will help you stretch each tank of gas.
5. Check the oil and tires
Check your tire pressure once a month; improperly inflated tires increase friction and reduce gas mileage. Staying on top of oil and filter changes also maximizes efficiency.
6. Accelerate and brake gently
Being first off the line and braking hard at the next light may save you 4% on time (if you’re lucky), but it will cost you 39% more in gas, according to Natural Resources Canada. The ideal rate of acceleration is 20 km/h per five seconds.
7. Don’t idle
Some newer cars are designed to shut off at lights rather than idle. Even if your car doesn’t have this feature, it’s a good idea to turn off your vehicle if you’re sitting still for a while, like when waiting for a passenger or at a train crossing. Why? Because idling for 10 seconds uses more fuel than it takes to start your car: between 1 and 4 litres of gas per hour, according to CAA.
8. Consider an engine block heater
It can take a long time to warm up your car in cold weather, which can burn a lot of gas. An engine block heater is a device that warms the vehicle’s engine and fluids without having to start it up, significantly reducing your idle time during winter.
9. Stay home (if you can) in winter weather
While it’s not always possible, limiting optional excursions in winter conditions like snow and freezing rain may help you avoid the decreased fuel efficiency that often accompanies poor road conditions.
10. Don’t fill up with premium (unless you must)
Most cars don’t need premium gas, so upgrading to premium is a waste of money unless your vehicle specifically requires it.
11. Carpool when you can
If you’re commuting in the same direction as others, or taking your kids to school or activities, consider setting up a carpool with others who live nearby. Carpooling not only helps you save gas, but it reduces traffic and saves time and energy on the days when it’s not your turn to drive.
12. Use public transportation
When it’s an option, leaving your car at home entirely is the best way to save on gas. In fact, 33% percent of Canadians say they’ve driven less over the last six months in response to inflation, according to NerdWallet’s survey.
In many cases, the cost of a bus or train pass will likely be significantly cheaper than the cost of commuting by car. Depending on your area and the season, you might even consider walking or biking for some of your trips. Not into walking? E-bikes are becoming popular because they make even hilly or long trips more manageable and enjoyable.
13. Choose a hybrid or electric vehicle
Buying a car that uses less (or no) gas like a hybrid or electric vehicle may cost you more at the outset, but you can save money in the long run. CAA has a handy driving cost calculator that will help you calculate and compare the ongoing costs of ownership of vehicles you’re considering buying (both new and used).
This survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of NerdWallet from September 6-7, 2022 among 1,116 Canadian adults ages 18 and older. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within +/- 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact Marcelo Vilela at [email protected]