Congratulations, you're now the proud owner of your first vehicle! After years of walking, biking, riding the bus and catching rides with friends, you have joined the ranks of official car owners. While you are excited to have reliable transportation, you are also understandably concerned about your car’s impact on the environment.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to make sure your driving habits are as green as possible—some of which can also add more “green” to your wallet. Check out the following eco-friendly hacks:
Don’t be a Lead Foot
Your new-to-you vehicle may have tons of horsepower under the hood, but this doesn’t mean you have to be a speed demon. One of the best ways to conserve fuel and be an eco-friendly driver is to practice careful, relaxed and controlled driving that adheres to the speed limit and other local driving laws.
Create a safe following distance between your vehicle and the car in front of you by using the "4 Second Rule," a technique in which a driver maintains four seconds of distance between the vehicle up ahead. For faster speeds, an even greater distance needs to be maintained in order to be a safe, green driver. More tips to help you become a safe, green driver can be found on Driving-Tests.org.
Lighten Your Load
As HowStuffWorks notes, one of the best ways to reduce your car’s fuel consumption is to make the car's overall weight as light as possible. Take an honest look at your vehicle and see what you can do to lighten the load.
Great examples include taking off the ski or bike rack—unless you are actually using it—and storing heavy sports equipment and winter driving items in your garage instead of the trunk. In general, for each 100 pounds you subtract from your vehicle’s weight, you should improve your fuel economy by about 2%.
Maintain Your Vehicle
You know the expression, “You have to spend money to make money”? When it comes to your car, you have to spend money to save money. Start by scheduling regular service checkups for your vehicle at your local dealership or mechanic. As Green Living Ideas notes, if certain parts are not up to par, your car can lose up to 40% of its fuel efficiency. Set aside money in the budget to pay for these regular tune-ups, and be sure to also budget for new tires.
Properly Inflate Your Tires
Speaking of tires, keeping them well-maintained is an easy way to save money on fuel, not to mention the tires themselves. Underinflated tires means your engine will have to work harder and burn more fuel to move the car. On the flip side, properly inflated tires have less contact with the road, meaning they move more efficiently and require less gas to roll along.
Underinflated tires also tend to wear down more quickly and can be dangerous to drive on. Check your owner’s manual for the correct inflation information, and if you are not sure how to inflate them yourself, schedule an appointment at a local tire shop.
Don't Aimlessly Idle
One of the biggest misconceptions regarding vehicles is that it's bad to turn your engine on and off when stuck in traffic. Thanks to newer and more advanced technology, engines will not be damaged when turned off at red lights or other times when you are idling.
On the other hand, idling will burn gasoline and pollute the air around your vehicle. So the next time you are in a major traffic jam, try turning the engine off until you start moving again; you might notice an increase in your fuel economy.