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Sunday, October 3, 2010

10 Ways to Save at the Pump

Buying a hybrid isn't the only way to conserve fuel, reduce emissions and save money at the gas pump.
Travel is expected to be back on the rise this summer. Spurred by an upbeat economic outlook and lower-than-expected fuel prices, AAA estimates that more than 32.1 million people will take to the road this Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the U.S. summer driving season. That's more than a 5 percent increase over last year, and the first real uptick since the recession began two years ago.
The drop in fuel prices has caught many experts by surprise. Prices usually rise during this time of year. However, gasoline futures hit a three-month low last week and have plunged 21 percent since the beginning of May. Retail fuel prices typically follow the moves in the futures market.The average per-gallon price of regular gasoline was $2.827 a gallon on Friday, May 21, according to AAA, and has been on the decline for almost a month.
Some analysts believe this means pump prices still have room to fall, which bodes well for anyone planning a road trip. Tancred Lidderdale, a senior economist at the federal Energy Information Administration, recently told The Wall Street Journal that the EIA "expects retail gasoline prices to fall even as Memorial Day approaches."
While AAA and the EIA are upbeat, others are more cautious and question whether the low gas prices will last. "That is really going to be a function of how strong demand for gasoline is" and whether any supply can keep up, John Felmy, chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute, told The Wall Street Journal on Friday.
Some even believe that the average price of gasoline will hit $3 or more a gallon during the summer. Retail prices are already $3 a gallon on the West Coast and were closing in on that level on the East Coast and in the Rocky Mountains before futures prices collapsed. In fact, the national average cost for a gallon of gasoline is 35 cents above the price this time last year.
Either way, cash-strapped consumers will want to conserve as much as they can in order to lower fuel costs during the dog days. But that doesn't mean you have to stay at home. Here are 10 ways you can squeeze the most mileage out of every penny spent at the pump. Some involve proper maintenance of your vehicle, but most require a change in behavior. All will help ease the burden on your wallet.
Stop Driving Like a Maniac
Changing the way you drive is the most effective way to reduce the amount of fuel your car consumes. Accelerate gradually, drive smoothly and with care and you could see as much as a 33 percent gain in fuel economy on the highway and 5 percent around town, compared with what you'd get with an aggressive driving style, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. That means skipping those jackrabbit starts at stoplights and sudden pedal-to-the-metal maneuvers on the highway.
Limit Use of the Brake Pedal
Anticipate stops so you avoid sudden braking. In fact, spend as little time on the brakes as possible. "Any time you hit the brake [in a traditional gas-powered vehicle], you are throwing away energy," says Eric Kaufman, engineering manager for fuel economy and drive quality at General Motors. Take a long view of the road ahead, coasting safely to an intersection in front of you where you see traffic stopped.
Observe Posted Speed Limits
A car or truck moving at 55 mph can get about 15 percent better fuel economy than the same car going 65 mph. While each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional 24 cents per gallon for gas.
Use Cruise Control Whenever Possible
Sure, it's a luxury convenience. But, when used properly, cruise control can also be a fuel saver. It smoothes out driver input, helps maintain an even speed and allows the driver to take a long look at the road, rather than reacting to every little change in the surrounding traffic.

7 comments:

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