Saving On Road Trips

When driving for long stretches, remember that organization, navigation, and preparation can save you time, money, and hassle.

ORGANIZATION

While you can purchase auto pouches, seat pockets, and other organizational devices, there are myriad household items that are perfect for road trips. A simple rubber band can be threaded through air vents and around your phone to keep it in place and within reach. Shoe organizers can be hung from the back of seats to hold and categorize anything that needs to be easily accessible. Tackle boxes can be used to partition various snack foods and shower caddies are perfect for holding fast food items or assorted car fluids. If your vehicle has a trunk, plastic storage bins with drawers can be used hold and organize larger items. To free up additional space, you can store items in a mesh bungee on the inside of your vehicle’s roof. For garbage storage, a plastic cereal container with a grocery bag inside makes in ideal makeshift trash bin.

NAVIGATION

Dropping a pin (using your phones map application or the offline map app maps.me) at important locations can help you find your way back. Other apps that could help you include; the Gasbuddy app, which allows you to find the cheapest gas near you or on your route; the Venmo app, which enables you to exchange money with your friends (perfect for splitting restaurant and bar tabs or gasoline expenses); and the Waze app, which is powered by information from a network of local drivers reporting on traffic information, construction areas, speed traps, and general road condition. It will give you up-to-date information that can guide you smoothly along your way. Last but not least, road trip game apps such as Road Trip Scavenger Hunt and State Plate Bingo can help pass the time during long, boring, stretches. In addition to phones and other global positioning systems, it is a good idea to have good old-fashion maps and Atlases (best kept in plastic bags for protection against water damage).

PREPARATION

Emergency kits are also a smart thing to have; equipped with a first aid kit, toilet paper, water, snacks, blankets, jumper cables, and even a cheep mobile phone in case of an emergency. There are also apparatuses (such as the Jump-N-Carry) that can transfer power to your car battery without the need for another vehicle.

Whilst road tripping, one might also consider bringing a hooded sweatshirt to cover the eyes while sleeping in the passenger seat; duck tape, as you can always find a use for duck tape, even if only to make an improvised cup holder; and dryer sheets, which when inserted in the air vents can freshen up the nasty orders that are sure to arise from hours of sitting.


ON THE ROAD

When you’re on the road, you can tell whether the exit will be on the left or the right based on the position of the exit number above the street or highway name on the sign (if it is to the left, so too is the exit and vice-versa). It is also important to take heed of the big-rigs (18-wheel semi-trucks), as they have mastered the art of interstate road travel. Truckers use citizen’s band (CB) radios, head and tail light flashes, and turn signals to communicate, giving them enhanced knowledge regarding traffic, road conditions, speed traps, and more.

If you find yourself getting road sick, tilt your head to the side and you’ll feel a lot better. Also, not using your car’s air conditioning saves gas – the most efficient way to cool down is to open only the driver and passenger side windows. This creates a vortex that optimizes airflow and maximizes cooling.

On hot days, turn your steering wheel 180 degrees when parked to avoid burning your hands upon returning. On snowy or muddy days, you can use your floor mats to gain traction if you get stuck. An anti fog trick you can use involves cutting a fresh potato, rubbing it on the inside of your car windows, and letting it dry; no more incessant window wiping! If you are looking for a particular direction and google maps has let you down, try asking a local fast food delivery service, their expertise in local address location is impeccable. Having mechanical issues but don’t trust shifty foreign mechanics? Ask them about a part you know is functional and see what they say.

Saving With Car Apps

Like with shopping, phone apps can also save you loads of money on your car. iGasUp is a great app that provides you with the ten cheapest gas station closest to your location. It also gives you directions on how to get there. Route optimization can also help those who are making several stops on a single journey. Delivery drivers, real estate agents, and house hunters alike can all make use of an app called Route4Me to reduce route distance by approximately 30%. Carticipate, Zimride, and BlahBlahCar are cool ride exchange applications that help users carpool across the city or across the world. They match individuals with others in their network who are traveling in the same direction. If you want a ride but don’t have a car, these platforms are definitely viable options for your travel purposes. If you don’t feel like sharing a car, consider companies such as ZIipcar or programs like Connect by Hertz. These organizations are revolutionizing the car sharing industry by allowing users to rent cars short term (daily or by the hour) and for a low price.

Cutting Back on Repair Costs

Knowing your vehicle and familiarizing yourself with the owner’s manual is imperative. Dealerships and mechanics will frequently make unnecessary recommendations such as transmission fluid replacements before 100,000 miles or oil changes every 3,000 miles. When you know your vehicle, you’ll not only know how to make easy fixes by yourself (YouTube tutorials can help with this), you will also have the confidence call dirt-bag mechanics out on their shit.  Simple things like knowing how to rotate your tires or change your own oil can save you over 120$ annually on labor costs.

Saving on Car Insurance

When it comes to reoccurring costs, car insurance ranks high on the list. Most people renew their insurance every year without giving it a second thought. If you shop around, however, you will probably find that you can get the exact same coverage at a substantially lower price. When it’s time for you to renew your insurance, beseech the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to find at least four companies with whom you can get a quote.

If you drive a clunker, get basic liability coverage – as the cost to repair your vehicle could be more than it is worth. Bundling your home, boat, and/or ATV insurance with your car insurance can bring your rates down over 10%. Some agencies offer discounts if you install a device that monitors your driving habits; and if you practice the art of hypermiling, you are sure to get a substantial discount. Lower rates can also be obtained if you have minimal mileage on your vehicle and/or a high credit score.

If you have children who drive, expect to pay over 80% more for coverage. While 16-year-old drivers cause a 96% spike in insurance rates, 19 year-olds only cause a 60% spike; so it might be prudent to make your teen wait a few years before driving. If your child receives good marks in school, inform your insurance company and you could receive a “good student” discount of between 6% and 20%.

In some cases, it is better to not claim an accident. If you file a claim on an accident that you caused, expect your premium to rise over 41%. For minor accidents involving no one else, it is probably best just to pay out of pocket (or live with the damage if it’s purely cosmetic). You might be tempted to file a claim, receive the payout, and leave the damage. But the money pocketed will likely be lost due to higher premiums. And don’t think for a second that changing insurers is a loophole, as CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) reports can be obtained which detail a complete history of your insurance claims. For help deciding whether or not to file a claim, use an online insurance claim calculator.

From Gas Hog to Hyper-miler

For those who own a car, one of the easiest things you can do to save money is use less gas. The best technique to increase fuel efficiency is called hypermiling. Through small changes in driving behavior, you can increase your fuel economy by nearly 40%.

To begin, make sure that your car is optimized for hypermiling, as any inefficiency in the vehicle will detract from your overall mile-per-gallon (MPG) rate. It is recommended that you use high performance, iridium-tipped spark plugs. These plugs generate a longer spark, insuring that all the fuel in the combustion chamber gets ignited. You should also consider using low viscosity and lightweight oil. Although slightly more expensive than regular oils, synthetics such as 0W-20 reduce powertrain friction and require less energy to pump, conserving fuel and saving you money. Every 30,000 miles or so (check your manual for the exact timetable) you should change your air filter. This is easy to do and takes less than five minutes. Consider the aforementioned alterations as investments. They will cost more initially, but more than pay for themselves in the long run.

As the main contact point between the road and your car, tires play a significant role in fuel economy. Make sure that are aligned, weighted properly, and inflated to the correct pressure. Getting rid of unnecessary weight will also increase in your MPG; so take all the non-essentials out of your car.

The staunch hypermiler will put some effort into planning before he/she embarks. When making multiple stops, it is best to go the furthest distance first, as engines operate more efficiently when they are warmed up. Country roads and routes that require less stopping are optimal, even if the distance is a bit further.

After you’ve planned your route and made the proper alterations to your vehicle, you can begin to hypermile. Whilst driving, accelerate as slow as possible, maintain a constant speed, and drive at or below the speed limit (to reduce air friction). If you do need to accelerate quickly, put the pedal to the medal and get it over with as quickly as possible. Doing this is more efficient than slowly getting up to speed. Drive as if you don’t have bakes, coasting as much as possible. This will not only increase gas mileage, but also extend the life of your brake pads. Counter-intuitively, disengaging the clutch or putting your car into neutral is less efficient. When you take your foot off the gas pedal the injectors shut off completely. When you go into neutral, however, the engine goes into idle mode, using up more gas than it otherwise would.

Take heed and obey traffic laws. Tickets, fines, and increased insurance fees from running stop signs or going below the minim speed limit will eat into your savings, offsetting all of your hypermiling efforts. When going through hilly terrain, go slow up hill and fly downhill. When appropriate, draft off of other vehicles. Aerodynamically speaking, cars create a wake of low- density air behind them as they go. By tailgating, your car requires less energy to push through the air ahead of it, but the closer you get the more dangerous the situation becomes, so draft with care.

Opening your windows creates aerodynamic drag, and using the air conditioner drains energy. If you can stand the heat, keep your windows up and the A/C off. Bring a bottle of ice water with you when you drive to keep you cool. If you can’t handle it, crack one window and turn the fan on low. Another strategy is to cycle your air conditioner. Crank it up full blast for a few minutes then shut it off and use only the fan for a while.

The final aspect of hypermiling is the park job. Instead of searching for a spot close to the entrance, park far away. This will reduce the stop-and-go driving that is typical within parking lots. Look for a spot with the highest elevation and park facing downhill; enabling you to coast a little when starting your engine while it is cold and  inefficient.