How to Save Gas and Time With Google Maps

Google Maps Logo

With numerous “How to Save Gas” tips all over the internet, such as this one on WikiHow: How to Save Money on Gas, I figured I wouldn’t do one here because they can be easily found elsewhere. So this post won’t be about the most common suggestion such as: Unload all unnecessary weight, leave early, drive slower, etc., but rather on how you can use tools provided by Google Maps to save you gas and time.

With gas prices constantly rising and the economy as it is, we can’t go wrong saving even tiny bits of money and gas here and there. Even if we shave off only .1 mile on a daily trip, it will add up to something.

Google Maps has been getting fancier and fancier with satellite images, trip planners with multiple destinations, re-route tools to discover shorter routes and more. Many of you probably already know about this, but it is possible that some do not, so I thought I would do an in-depth guide on how to use Google Maps to help you plan and re-route trips, be they long or short distance.

This is a rather long guide (mostly due to the number of images), so here is a table of contents of the sections contained in this post:

How Google Maps Can Help You Save Gas and Time

  • Re-routing drives for daily errands, trips to the grocery store, to your kids’ schools, church, the bank, post office or homes of friends and family.
  • Planning routes with multiple destinations to consolidate your trips.
  • Avoiding left turns, which according to UPS (UPS Delivers Gas Saving Tip), saves gas because it prevents waiting in traffic.
  • Satellite images of street views can show you what unfamiliar destinations look like so you can know what to expect, which side of the road your destination is on, which lane you should be driving in and prevent you from wasting time by getting lost.
  • Traffic conditions look-up for live traffic or a specific day and time can help you plan your departure time and estimate driving time.

How to Re-Route Trips on Google Maps

The re-route tool can help you save gas by planning the most efficient route for your drive.

  1. Enter in your starting and ending locations. You can type an address or the name of the location. It helps to include the city and state.
  2. The site will generate a map with a route.
  3. To the right is a map with the route marked with a blue line.

    Google Maps Directions: Ghirardelli Square to Coit TowerTips: To shift the map, place the cursor on the map and a hand tool will appear. Simply drag the map to center your area of interest on the screen. You can also click on the small arrow on the bottom right-hand corner of the map. A small square box will pop up showing the current are. Click and drag the blue box to shift the map. If you use your scroll button, the map will zoom in (up) and out (down).

    Shift Google Maps

  4. To the left are driving directions, distance and estimated travel time.
  5. Don’t take for granted that the default route shown is the shortest option.
  6. Place your cursor somewhere on the route.
  7. A small circle will appear under your cursor.

    Google Maps Driving Directions: Drag to Change Route

  8. Click on the circle and drag to another street.

    Ghirardelli Square to Coit Tower Revised Route

  9. As you drag the route to different streets, a small text box pops up to show you the driving distance and estimated travel time of this new route.

    Changing Routes on Google Maps

  10. Release the cursor and the directions to the left will update with a new route, distance and travel time.

    Ghirardelli Square to Coit Tower Revised Directions (Google Maps)

  11. One-way streets
    When you try to re-route a trip where there are one-way streets, Google Maps will take them into consideration and show the closet alternative. If you insist on driving on a certain one-way street (keep dragging to the same street), it will map out a route for you.
    One-Way Streets (Google Maps Driving Directions)

Driving Directions and Route Options

Google Maps Driving Directions Features

  1. Method of travel: Driving, public transportation, or walking (Walk when at all possible. This is good for your health and wallet!) For public transit, the directions show the fare compared to the driving cost for the trip. How cool is that?!

    Google Maps Directions Public Transit

  2. Check the box if you wish to avoid driving on highways.
  3. Click on this link if you need reverse directions to get back from Point B to Point A.
  4. Click on the camera icon to see a satellite image of that location. Also works if you click the numbered link before each direction.

    Coit Tower Satellite Image (Google Maps)

  5. Click the plus “+” or minus “-” to show or hide the driving directions.
  6. Click on the small blue arrow to expand the map (make it full-screen width) and hide the directions panel on the left. Click again to bring back the directions.
  7. Click the “X” to delete the location. Will let you enter a new one.
  8. Click the “Edit” link to edit your location.
  9. Click to add a destination to your trip.

    Add Destination Driving Directions Google MapsClick and drag the new destination to re-order your route.

    Re-Order Destinations Google Maps Driving Directions

  10. Click on the “km” or “miles” links to change to change distance calculations to kilometers or miles.

Traffic Conditions

The Traffic tool can show you live traffic conditions on freeways as well as estimated traffic conditions for specific times on any day of the week (estimated based on past conditions). Simply click on the “Traffic” button and a window will pop up. If the bold text reads “Live traffic” and you wish to see a specified time and day, click on the change link to enter your choice.

Google Maps Traffic Conditions

Tip: You may need to shift the map to see the highways.

The colored lines on the freeways correspond to the color guide in the Traffic box. A red line means the traffic is between 10 and 25 MPH, a red line means 25 to 45, etc.

Satellite Image Street Views

Click on “Street View” and a little yellow man will appear on the map. Click and drag the little yellow man to a location you would like to view.

Google Maps Street View

Google Maps Street View

Click on the arrows to advance in the specified direction. You can go straight to following the road or make turns to see the surrounding street view.

Tip: If your map does not show the “Street View” button, use this link: Google Maps Street View

Foreign Travel

Google Maps is available for many foreign countries. Below is an example for a trip from Tokyo, Japan to Kochi, Japan. Because Japan is primarily a public transportation/walking country – very few people drive there, but rather take taxis and trains, and Kochi is an island separate from mainland Japan, the trip directions includes directions for walking, bus, train and plane as well as the cost of transportation fares for the trip in the local currency.

Google Maps Tokyo to Kochi Directions and Cost of Fares

Google Maps Japan

Fun Stuff and Research

Photos and Wikipedia

Click on the “More” button for an options to show photos and Wikipedia entries on landmarks and places.

Google Maps More Info - Photos and Wikipedia

Click on a photo thumbnail for a larger view.

Google Maps More: Photos

Click on the Wikipedia icon Wikipedia Icon for an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry on the landmark. Includes a link to the full article.

Google Maps More: Wikipedia

What does your house look like from the sky?

For me, this is mostly a fun thing to find and look at my house and seek how it looks from above, but it could conceivably come in handy too. Wondering if your roof is missing any tiles? Take a look on Google Maps! :)

Satellite View Google Maps

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