Many people know that they can save on fuel costs by not idling their vehicle, staying within the speed limit, and keeping their vehicle conditioned, but there is much more you can do, especially as a business owner, to keep your gas expenses down.
Here we go again... The cost of gas is again soaring and that can spell bad news for small businesses. The higher cost of fuel can easily cut into the slim, post-recession profit margins that many smaller companies are maintaining these days- especially where a significant amount of business travel is required.
The seven tips to save on gas mentioned below are specifically directed at small business owners and the self-employed- even though some of them can really benefit anyone with a automobile. To maximize your savings, I suggest using a suitable combination of these tips:
1. Maximize your tax deductions. First and foremost, if you are a small business owner or are self-employed, then you may be able to deduct the cost of fuel on your business (or where appropriate, personal) tax return. IRS form 334, chapter 8 has all the details. Be sure to consult it and where necessary ask a qualified professional because conditions apply and there are different ways to claim the expense. It almost goes without saying that to maximize the deduction you need to keep clear, detailed, and up-to-date records of your business travel expenses.
2. Use a cheap gas locator. There are several services that provide the user with a rundown of the cheapest gas prices in any given area as well as directions how to get there. This is particularly important if you need to fill up in the middle of a trip. The Microsoft Network has a pretty good cheap gas locator that is updated daily, but there are others as well.
3. Get a rewards card to pay for fuel. There are several credit cards that offer cash back rewards on fuel purchases up to 5%. Both nerdwallet and Bankrate.com can help you locate the best card to suit your needs. Just make sure you read the fine print because some restrictions apply, such as you can't purchase gas from wholesalers like Costco or there is a gas spending limit.
4. Use your GPS with traffic monitoring services. In order to conserve miles, especially on unfamiliar routes it is a good idea to get a GPS system with real-time traffic monitoring services. GPS devices with the ability to monitor local traffic conditions are able to use this information to adjust their navigation directions and thus offer the fastest route between the two points. This can save a tremendous amount of time in addition to gas (a lot of gas is consumed in start-and-stop driving as well as while idling).
5. Make simple changes. Often, small simple changes in the way you do business can result in significant gas savings. Making it a habit to schedule appointments just outside of the peak commute time, having some or all of your clients come to you, or incorporating telecommuting and/or teleconferencing into your operations can all affect your travel expenses.
6. Consider alternative vehicles. Many sites advise small business owners to invest in electric or hybrid vehicles or to upgrade to a more fuel efficient automobile. But, this advice may not be so practical for many smaller companies. However, for local travel or delivery routes, you may want to consider: industrial bicycles (some of the models even come with an electronic-powered motor), motorcycles, and scooters. All of these vehicles are extremely cost-effective and gas efficient.
7. Decrease your delivery area or charge a fee. If your business involves making deliveries to the community at large, then decreasing your free delivery area is an easy way to cut down on your fuel costs. You can offer free delivery for nearby locations and then charge customers that reside outside of a certain mile radius, or alternatively, you can charge a small, standard delivery fee that will help to defray the cost of fuel.
In short, there are many ways your small business can save on gas. A few small tweaks in gas consumption and business operations can add up to some significant fuel savings.