First the bad news: That pinch you feel every time you fill up? It isn’t likely to get better any time soon.
According to AAA and the Oil Price Information Service’ Daily Fuel Gauge Report the national average price of a gallon of gas rose to nearly $3.50 a gallon this week. In California, Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington, prices long ago topped that. To make matters worse some experts think they’ll reach $3.75 or $4 before long. “People are having to save and budget for gas more than ever, that’s for sure,” says Jason Toews, co-founder of Gas Buddy, a consumer advocate Web site based in Minnesota.
There is some good news though. According to Toews and others, you can save as much as 40% on gas without resorting to rationing. Just follow, MainStreet’s Ten Tips To Beat High Gas Prices (and to get the most out of what you put in the tank):
1. Research and Shop Ahead
The variation between what gas stations charge can be pretty stark, so find the gas station near you with the best prices and shop there first. In Los Angeles, for example, the per-gallon price can vary as much as 75 cents. Sites like Gas Buddy, and Gas Price Watch will help you locate the best deal in your town.
Bear in mind that as a rule, service stations, repair shops and car washes will charge you more because their profits come largely from other services so they don’t need to be as competitive at the pump. Also, some wholesale clubs will sell gas at cost or even at a loss as an incentive to get you into their store where they can sell you higher-ticket items.
2. Slow Down
Each five mph over 60 is like paying an additional 10 cents per gallon. Using cruise control to maintain your speed can go a long way, especially on long highway drives. Driving more carefully also helps: Avoid sudden stops and starts as erratic acceleration and braking can waste up to 50 cents a gallon.
3. Keep Your Tires Pumped
Keeping your tires properly inflated makes big difference. A single tire under-inflated by two psi can lower fuel economy by one percent. Multiply that by the four on you car and the savings will add up.
4. Combine Trips
Instead of making multiple trips to do your shopping, plan ahead and do it all in one trip. Your car’s engine runs most efficiently once it’s warm cruising, so take advantage of that. By contrast, multiple short trips taken from a cold start uses twice as much fuel as the one well-planned trip of the same distance taken when the engine is warm.
5. Buy on Wednesdays. And in the Morning
Gas prices tend to go up for the weekend and come down thereafter, usually settling at their low point on Wednesday, according to Gaspricewatch.com. And because gasoline is denser (and therefore takes less space) when colder, buying in the morning or at night when it’s cooler means you’ll get more gas into the tank per gallon.
6. Pass on the Premium
Very few cars actually require high-octane gas. If yours doesn’t, putting in the fancy stuff won’t improve fuel efficiency or performance. Given that the premium costs up to 20 cents more a gallon, keep the extra cost in your wallet instead of putting it in the tank, where it won’t do you any good.
7. Keep it light
Got golf clubs in your trunk? Keep them in the garage when you’re commuting or driving around town. Every extra 100 pounds you carry in your car costs you one percent in fuel economy.
8. Use Public Transportation
Using public transportation, even if you don’t do it every day, can make a drastic difference. Click here for public transportation options in your area.
If you don’t have access to public transportation or it’s not convenient for you commute, try carpooling. It goes without saying that the more people to share the cost of a tank, the less you have cough up. Click here for carpooling options in your area.
10. Buy a Hybrid
If you drive 15,000 miles-a-year and buy gas for $3-a-gallon (and probably way more), a five-mpg in fuel efficiency adds up to $300, meaning you can save easily $1000 or more each year by switching to vehicle that gets better mileage, like the legion of hybrids that are hitting the market this year. And Uncle Sam will give you a break on your income tax if you buy one, only sweetening the deal.