Transportation costs are one of the most volatile energy costs we face in Virginia, with gas prices changing from week to week. Our automobiles are also one of our biggest expenses - for most Virginia families, the costs associated with car ownership are second only behind mortgages in household expenses, and a car is the only investment we make that we know will depreciate in value immediately!
With that in mind, there are a ton of changes you can make - little and large - to save money on your transportation expenses.
Leaving the car at home or driving less is the easiest way to reduce pain at the pump:
- The easiest trip to take off the road is the commute trip. Save a Ton partner RIDE Solutions can assist in starting carpools, vanpools, help you learn about bike commuting, and more.
- Most of the trips we take are shopping and social trips. Use Bike Roanoke's Interactive Bike Map to see if there are safe routes to shopping destinations and friends' homes. You can also use Google's "Get Directions" tool to plan a bike trip - just visit their maps page and click the bike icon.
- Trip chain! Plan ahead for the day or week and group errands as closely together as possible to avoid extra trips.
- Check to see if your employer has a telework option. The commonwealth's Telework!VA program can provide incentives and training to companies interested in starting work-from-home initiatives.
Using your car more efficienctly and making sure it's running well can also save a ton of money:
- Although it's been the butt of political campaign in the past, the recommendation to keep your tires inflated to their recommended psi is a good one that can increase your fuel economy by 3.3%. You can pick up a tire inflator from a local automtive shop or department store for about $20, and many gas stations have free or cheap air compressors to give you a quick fill-up. NOTE: To find the proper tire pressure for your vehicle, look for a sticker on the inside of your driver's side door, rather than using the number on the wall of the tire. The number on the sticker takes the weight of your vehicle and other variables into consideration.
- Regular maintenance of your vehicle - in particular, changing the air filter, can improve your gas mileage by around 4 percent. Proper and regular maintenance can also reduce emissions and prolongs the life of your car.
Eventually, you'll probably be in the market for a new vehicle. Consider the following when you're making that purchase:
- Hybrid-electric and all-electric vehicles generally cost less to run based on Virginia's electricity prices, but the upfront cost can be prohibitive. In some cases, you are unlikely to pay for the cost of the car from fuel savings alone. But if you're interested in saving energy, cutting emissions, and reducing our dependence on oil, a hybrid or electric vehicle is your best bet.
- Buy the vehicle you need for your every day trips, not for your once- or twice-a-year camping trips or family vacations. You'll save money on the vehicle itself as well as gas, and what you'll save will more than pay for a car rental when you need more space or hauling capacity. In fact, what you save on car payments and gasoline may fund even more vacation time with your family!
- If most of your trips are short and around town, think about a scooter or moped. They are cheaper and generally get around 80 mpg, so your transportation costs will be slashed. Keep in mind, though, that older mopeds can actually pollute more than a full-sized car - their engines often lack the catalytic converters and other technologies that help scrub their exhaust of pollutants. Do some research on the model and year you're looking at before you buy.