From the November 2001 issue of Entrepreneur

Fueling business cars gets expensive fast, especially if your company makes deliveries or your salespeople spend a lot of time on the road. A few simple steps can help slash your gas expenses.

Start by checking the owner's manual for the octane rating your vehicle needs. Most can fill up with the less expensive 87 octane.

Next, assess driving habits, which have a big-time impact on your gas bill. Are your drivers first off the line when the light turns green? That burns big gulps of gas. Is your impatient right foot constantly mashing, then releasing, the throttle? Maintaining a steady pace is more fuel-efficient. Must people really drive 75 miles per hour? Cutting back to 55 mph translates into 25 percent more mileage. Unnecessary idling ups the gas bill, too. Even driving with a truck's tailgate down affects fuel economy. To reduce aerodynamic drag, attach a cover to the pickup's bed. And because carrying more weight uses more gas, avoid loading up with unnecessary cargo.

Poor vehicle maintenance decreases fuel efficiency, too. Clogged air filters or wheels that need alignment can drain dollars at the pump. Although manufacturers of the newest cars often suggest long gaps between tune-ups, the Federal Trade Commission says you can save hundreds of dollars by keeping the engine well-tuned at all times. Measure your miles per gallon once in a while to see if it's time for a maintenance check.

Tires are prime gas-guzzling suspects. The correct tire pressure can give you as many as 20 more miles from each tank. Learn to use a tire pressure gauge, or buy a vehicle such as the Lincoln Navigator that has a low-pressure warning light built into the dashboard. Check out www.enjoythedrive.com for tire-monitoring systems you can have installed.


Editor and consultant Jill Amadio has been reporting on the automotive industry for 23 years.