Economy Beyond Gas – Three Things You Can Do to Save Money on Your Car’s Brakes

Almost everything you read about driving your car in an economical manner tells you about how to get more miles per gallon. But remember, fuel is not the only cost of operating your car. Yes, it’s the one cost that you pay the most often, but what about the other costs of maintaining your car? You have to replace the brakes pads, among other things, every few years, depending on how much you drive. Did you ever consider that your driving habits can affect how often you have to replace the brakes, and thus how much it costs you to drive your car?

This article describes three things you can do while driving to make your brakes last much longer, and so save you money on maintaining and repairing your car. We’ll talk about how to:

  • Stop and stay put
  • Drive with one foot
  • Think ahead

Each of these things will make your brakes last longer, and I’ll tell you why.

Stop and Stay Put

When you come to a stoplight, just stop and wait for the green signal. Don’t creep up while you wait.

We see it all the time, and probably most drivers do it. Impatient to get moving, you let your foot ease up on the brake pedal, and let your car roll forward a foot or two, then stop again. Or the cars stopped ahead of you have crept forward a few feet, so you have to roll up a little closer.

Every foot you let your car move with the brakes on is bringing you a bit closer to your next brake job. Just stop.

It is difficult to measure how much wear you are causing and how much money you are costing yourself in unnecessary brake jobs by creeping at a stoplight, but if you think about what’s happening to your brakes, it should be obvious. Creeping wastes your money by causing unnecessary wear on your brakes. Stopping and staying stopped until it’s time to go will make your brake pads last thousands of miles longer.

Drive with One Foot

(Drivers with manual transmissions can probably skip this section. You use your left foot on the clutch, so you almost certainly don’t use it on the brakes. Good for you!)

Most of us were taught in driver’s education that you should use only your right foot for both the accelerator and the brake pedals. That way, you’re only pressing one pedal at a time. It makes you safer, it saves you gas, and it saves wear and tear on the brakes.

Many drivers – not most, but many – have fallen into a habit of using the right foot on the gas and the left foot on the brakes. From this point, it’s very easy to fall into the habit of keeping a foot on each pedal all the time, even without noticing it.

If you drive this way, stop doing it!

Two-footed driving like this wastes both your gas and your brakes. All the while you’re cruising along, you’re creating extra drag by depressing the brake pedal slightly. It might not be much, but your engine has to produce more power to overcome this extra friction, and that means wasted gas. It also means that you are wearing out your brakes unintentionally.

If you notice that you have to have your brake pads replaced more often than your owner’s manual recommends, pay attention to where your left foot is. It might be creating unnecessary drag on your budget!

Think Ahead

There are many habits of driving that can be classed under “thinking ahead,” and they all save you gas and save wear on your brakes, besides keeping you and your passengers safer. What’s not to love?

Heavy braking causes more wear and tear on your brakes, not to mention your nerves, than gentle, even braking. So try to avoid situations where you know you’re going to have to stop or slow down suddenly. Keep a safe following distance to the car in front of you, and you can brake gently when you see brake lights ahead of you, instead of having to jam on your brakes.

Pay attention to the traffic situation ahead of you. Is there a knot of traffic where you’re going to have to slow down? Is there a “stale green light” that’s likely to turn red before you get to it? Is there a slow driver about to enter the road a little way in front of you? If you can see that you’re going to have to slow down, take your foot off the accelerator and let natural friction start slowing you down before you use the brakes. Then, use gentle braking pressure when you need to.

Did you just come to the top of a hill? Ease up on the gas pedal before you start going too fast, exceeding the posted speed limit and/or riding up too close to the driver ahead of you. Then you won’t need to use the brakes, at least not as much.


Many of the suggestions in this article will improve your fuel economy and make you a safer driver, as well as saving you money on brake jobs. So pay attention to these ideas, and to the way you use your brakes. Gas isn’t the only way your car eats into your budget, but many of the costs of driving your car are under your control.

Drive economically. Drive safely.

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