With the average price of gasoline hovering around $1.13 per liter in Canada and $3.10 per gallon in the United States, a year-over-year price increase of 15% fuel efficiency strategies are becoming even more essential to the average commuter. Based on AAA estimates, the average American drives approximately 12,000 miles per year, which equates to $2,080 per year in gas at current prices. In addition to the obvious environmental benefits of practicing conservative driving methods, such practices can have a big impact on one's wallet. (For related reading, also take a look at Top 5 Money-Saving Tips For Your Car.)

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Vehicle Choice
A simple way to save on gas costs would be to purchase a fuel-efficient vehicle such as a Toyota Prius or Honda CR-Z, which have respective fuel city driving consumptions of 76 miles per gallon (mpg) and 50 mpg. In addition to the perpetual money-saving advantages that these types of vehicles offer, consumers will also save on green levies placed on fuel inefficient cars. Although other more energy-efficient cars are being presented to the market, they typically carry a significant price premium for the budget savvy consumer. The advantage of purchasing a fuel-efficient vehicle that takes regular gasoline over a non efficient one that requires premium can results yearly savings of around $1,000 dollars for the average driver. (If you're looking to buy a car, check out Car Shopping: New Or Used?)

Safe Driving
Fuel-efficient driving is another way that drivers can easily save money at the pump. According to Auto$mart, cutting highway cruising speeds by 10 km/hour (6.2 miles/hour) results in a 10% decrease in fuel consumption. Furthermore, another large fuel waster is quick acceleration after a red light; such behavior is not only unsafe, but also burns up to 39% more gas. Interestingly, many practices which promote safer driving conditions are actually fuel friendly. For example, operating an automobile with just a single under-inflated tire can increase fuel consumption by 4% and poor overall maintenance boosts gasoline usage by 15%. "Riding the brake" is another primary example of an unsafe driving practice which harms the engine and breaking system, and increases gasoline consumption.

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Less Idling
Natural Resource Canada estimates that "if every driver of a light duty vehicle avoided idling by three minutes a day" the average per capita yearly savings would be around $20 with an additional decrease in green house gas emissions. It is estimated that in the cold Canadian winter months a large portion of motorists idle their car for eight minutes a day. Simply by avoiding the fast-food or coffee drive-through, turning the car off while waiting for a friend and reducing remote car starter usage, can have an impact on conserving the environment and your money.

Rising Prices
Consumers are unlikely to witness a material fall in the price of gasoline. The inputs that determine the price that drivers pay at the pump are based on crude costs (approximately 48%), taxes (approximately 32%), refining and marketing costs (approximately 17%), and a very small 3% markup by the gas station. Oil is currently trading around the $90 mark and is forecasted to break the $100 mark by mid-year. Additionally, green regulation such as the American Clean Energy and Security Act will inevitably push emission-heavy refining costs higher in future years. With increasing input costs, the price of gasoline is only going to be higher.

The Bottom Line
Consumers cannot control pump prices, but we can control driving habits. Minor things such as idle time reduction and proper car maintenance can have significant long-term effects on one's gas budget. Larger consumer consumption choices, mainly the make and model of your next car can save thousands, and of course this is not to mention the environmental benefits. (Gas prices getting you down? Check out Getting A Grip On The Cost Of Gas.)

For the latest financial news, check out Water Cooler Finance: Google Shakes Things Up.

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