When David Champion is behind the wheel of a car, he accelerates slowly and brakes gingerly. He tries to drive, he says, as if there were a cup of coffee on the dashboard that would shower him with scalding liquid if he were overzealous with the accelerator or the brake.
The driving habits adopted by Champion, director of automobile testing for Consumer Reports, have as much to do with saving money as they do with safety.
"When you're driving, your foot is connected to your wallet," Champion said. "The faster you step down, the more money comes out of your wallet."
Here are some tips on what you can do to conserve gasoline:
Get on the Web: The U.S. government offers tips at www.fueleconomy.gov, and Consumer Reports' tips can be found at www.consumerreports.org/fuel. This month, the nonprofit Alliance to Save Energy will debut a calculator at www.DriveSmarterChallenge.org that will allow consumers to plug in the type of car they drive and determine how much money six different changes in driving or maintenance activities will save them.
Opt for lower-grade gasolines: "Often there's a sticker (inside a vehicle) that says 'premium gas recommended.' But if you read the owner's manual, it will say that's recommended but the vehicle will run fine on regular fuel," Champion says.
Don't idle for long periods: "If you're going to be waiting more than 30 seconds, turn the engine off," Champion said.
Drive more sensibly: Eliminate "jackrabbit" starts, speeding and rapid braking at highway speeds. Just slowing down from 75 to 70 mph can significantly improve gas mileage
Empty the trunk: Get rid of the dead weight you carry around and make your car lighter.
Keep tires properly inflated: You'll improve gas mileage by about 3 percent.
Use the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil: You'll gain 1 to 2 percent on your mileage.
Autos | Fuel economy