Money Saving Monday: Drive Down the Cost of Driving

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - With gas prices hovering around $3.50 a gallon, it's the fastest way to burn through your hard-earned money.  But it doesn't have to be.  Just a few changes in how you drive could drive down the cost of driving.

It's something many people might call a necessary evil of modern day life: driving.

To ease the pain at the pump, first, choose a car that makes a gallon go as far as possible -- a smaller or compact car.

You can go online to research which models get the best gas mileage here.  You'll find gas mileage by the car's make, model, and year and then you can compare it to others side by side.

Once you've got your ride, then you are in the driver's seat when it comes to saving money.

"Get your car tuned up and change the air filter," said Will Wherry.

He owns an auto service shop in Huntsville and says good car care is key in saving money.

A tune-up can improve gas mileage by four percent, which you'll lose if you don't keep the air filter clean.

"If the air filter is stopped up, can't no air go through to burn it and burn lean," said Wherry.  "It'll burn up a lot of gas."

Experts say a clean filter alone can increase your gas mileage by up to 20 percent.

Your tires mean another three percent improvement to gas mileage if they're inflated enough.

And keep the car aligned.  Otherwise, it wears on your tires, which eats up dollars in gas mileage.

And don't forget to check what's under the hood.

"Check your injectors and your hoses, see as they're good and not cracked," said Wherry.

Once you're on the road, you drive your fuel efficiency.

Don't load down your trunk.  Experts say 100 pounds costs you two percent in fuel efficiency.

Avoid traffic in which you'll have to brake, accelerate, idle and run the car longer than necessary.

When driving longer distances, use cruise control to steady your speed and save gas.  Roll up your windows, as wind increases drag on the car and requires more energy to run.

Experts say you get the best gas mileage driving 50 to 60 miles per hour.

When it's time to fill up, don't wait til you're on empty or you're at the mercy of the nearest gas station in terms of price.

Pay cash.  Many places offer gas at a cheaper rate if you pay cash.

Don't top off the tank.  That's just extra gas that will evaporate away.

And fill up during the middle of the week.  Some experts say that's when gas prices are at their lowest, and they rise on the weekend.

You can find cheap gas prices near you through the free smart phone app "Gasbuddy".

And you can locate jam-ups with the free "Beat the Traffic" app.