Owning a vehicle is expensive. Not only do you need to consider payments, taxes, and insurance; a vehicle requires routine maintenance and fuel. And since, in the last three months alone, gasoline prices have risen 50 cents, fuel is a major consideration. So what’s the traveller to do?
1. Reduce the number of vehicles you own.
When we lived in a major metropolitan area, our family of six only owned one car. Since I stayed home with the children, my husband generally drove the car to work. If I had something planned for the day, I would take him to work and keep the car. This required that I plan ahead, keep my pantry stocked, and time my outings around his work schedule; but we saved a great deal of money this way.
2. Choose different modes of transportation.
Ride your bicycle wherever you go. Baskets can be purchased to go on the front of the handlebars or over the back tire, saddle-bag fashion. You can even buy pet baskets and insulated bags to hold hot or cold items. If you have a child, attach a baby seat on the back. More than one child? Check out the new pull-behind carts that hold two children. Travelling this way not only saves on vehicle expenses, but keeps you in top physical condition as well.
If cycling isn’t your thing, or if you have more children to accompany you, walk. Unless you live in a rural area, you probably have shopping and eating establishments less than a mile or two from your home. Walking not only helps you to keep off those extra pounds, it keeps your heart in shape and sets a great example to your children. Ever wonder how many calories you would burn walking to the grocery store twice a week or the office every day? Try this Calorie Burn Calculator.
Many people in urban areas use public transportation. In the city near my now rural home, you can ride the bus for a dollar. A transfer is free. Since the city has two universities and one junior college, students are half fare—as are senior citizens and those with disabilities. Grade school students are free. To check out the availability of public transportation in your area, visit your city’s website or do a web search for “city name, state + public transportation.”
Although not a family vehicle, motorcycles average more than 50 mpg. Where gas prices hover between $5 and $6 per gallon, my son drives a motorcycle in Haiti. The guys at his mission average 90-125 mpg on their bikes. Not up to tooling around on a Harley? Try a slower-paced scooter. These smaller, gasoline-powered, two wheelers will get you there faster than a bicycle, and still brag at getting over 100 mpg. If you want to be a one-car family, perhaps dad could commute on the two-wheels while mom shuffles the kids around in a more economical car.
As you can see, there are several low-cost transportation alternatives when you consider different modes of transportation. But there are more ideas as well . . . .
In rural areas with limited jobs, many professional people commute to the city for work. Currently, the United States highways have about 126 High Occupancy Vehicle lane projects in place that cover more than 1,000 miles. These sections of highway are reserved for those with more than two people in the car. Some of these areas include parking lots near interstate exits for carpoolers to leave their vehicles for the day. The Departments of Transportation have made carpooling more inviting than it used to be in order to encourage people to share the ride. To find someone going your way, check out eRideShare.com. This free service will list you in a database of travellers going in the same direction.
4. Purchase a fuel efficient vehicle.
If you are not getting the fuel economy you would like, do some research before purchasing another vehicle—that includes whether or not to purchase a hybrid. A friend sold her hybrid before having to replace the battery because the expense was prohibitive. “If I had to do it over again,” she shared, “I wouldn’t have gotten the hybrid, just a regular Honda Civic.” For up-to-date information on green transportation and electric or hybrid vehicles, see the Mother Earth News website. Whatever you have in mind, the Kelly Blue Book website will give you a miles-per-gallon estimate for any particular vehicle.
5. Reduce your number of trips.
Gone are the days when a mom can run out for a carton of milk. Add the price of fuel and the cost of that carton of milk just skyrocketed. Try to limit your shopping to once a month. Call home before returning from town to see if anyone needs anything. If a family member has an appointment, check the pantry before leaving the house and combine that trip with a visit to the library, Walmart, or the grocery.
6. Seek vacation alternatives.
Maybe you’re not looking to save on transportation every day; but want to take a trip. Renting a vehicle to drive on vacation saves wear and tear on your own car and possible fuel costs if your vehicle is not fuel efficient. To save on airfare, hotel reservations, car rental, and cruises, use Priceline.com. At this site, you can compare prices in one convenient location, or you can name your own price and Priceline will try their best to match it. According to them, “If you can fly any time of day, agree to fly on any major airline, stay in any name-brand hotel or rent from any of the top 5 U.S. rental car agencies – you can save a lot of money with priceline!” Also, don’t forget about the train or the bus. Do your research and compare. This is one of the best ways to save money.
What about you? What have you done to fight the rise in fuel costs? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.