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6 smart ways to maximize your gas tank

Spend more time on the road—and less time filling up—with these tips.

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One of the best parts of traveling are those long, lazy drives across the country.

But filling up your gas tank during a long trip can be expensive: the average American household spends about $1,900 on gas each year.

You may not be able to control how often you drive—especially when a dreamy vacation is on the horizon—but you can control how efficiently you use your gas. Turns out, there are plenty of easy ways to maximize what's in your tank, so you can ultimately save time and money at the gas station.

Here are a few tips from Jim Manelis, a Chase Auto executive:

1. Choose light over lead-foot

Putting pedal to the metal gets you from point A to point B faster, but it also drains your gas tank—and wallet.

There's no need to floor it for short distances, brake hard, or quickly accelerate. In fact, doing so can drain your gas tank by as much as 30 percent on the highway, and 40 percent in regular traffic.

Instead of treating your pedal as an "on/off" switch, Manelis recommends maintaining a steady, even speed. Speaking of slowing down, going five to 10 miles under the speed limit can actually save you seven to 14 percent of fuel.

2. Use your AC sparingly

No one will judge you for cranking up the air-conditioning as the temperature outside reaches the triple digits. But if you're driving somewhere with a cool breeze, roll down the windows and let some fresh air in. "The air conditioning really does drag the motor a little bit so if you're really trying to optimize your gas mileage, rolling the windows down definitely helps," Manelis adds.

3. Check your tires

Your tire pressure can impact the contents of your gas tanks. Manelis says the lower your tire pressure is, the harder it is for your engine to physically push the car. As a result, your gas mileage ends up taking a hit.

"It doesn't matter if they're old or new: Tires naturally lose air over time," Manelis says. "You always want to be aware of your tire pressure no matter what because they will eventually need to have a little air added to them."

To maximize your gas tank, always make sure your tire pressure is up to date. Most cars have tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) that will let you know when you need to fill your tires. Can't find the TPMS on your car? Some gas stations or service centers will check your tire pressure for free. 

4. Fuel up wisely

Yes, there's a science behind choosing between regular, mid-grade, and premium. Manelis says it's important to feel good about where the gas is coming from and choose the correct octane rating for your car.

"You may think you're saving money by buying the cheapest option, but your car may be less efficient," he says. "Always make sure you're putting in the right octane for your car and it'll make your car last longer and run better."

You can usually find you car's octane rating in its manual.

5. Get in control

Want to maximize your gas tank? Make friends with your car's cruise control. According to Manelis, cruise control can prevent random accelerations and decelerations, thus increasing your gas mileage.

But flipping on your cruise control doesn't mean you can take a back seat on your road trip. It's important to stay vigilant and safe when you're on the road , so pay attention when you're driving and be prepared to brake at a moment's notice.

6. Don't be idle

Your gas mileage can take a nosedive when you leave your car on when you're not driving it. If you have to run into the store quickly and there's a friend waiting in the car for you, have them roll down the window instead of using the engine to run the air conditioning. 

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