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Higher gas prices force drivers to cut back, we offer money-saving tips
Mar 15, 2012 12:30 PM

Gasoline prices has risen over 40 cents a gallon since late January and they’re predicted to hit $4.00 by May nationwide. Some areas are already at that painful price. To deal with this unpleasantness, many drivers are looking at ways to lessen the impact on their wallets. We recently posted a question on our Facebook page asking readers to tell us what they do when gas prices rise. Judging from the rapid responses, it’s an issue that impacts many. Below are some comments, as well as tips from our experts on how to reduce your gas expenses.

The overwhelming response in our informal poll was that people are driving less. Many are combining errands into fewer trips or looking for a job closer to home. Some people commented that are walking, biking, and using public transportation more often. Others responded that they own or bought a more fuel-efficient car, motorcycle, or scooter.

If you can’t drive less or buy a new vehicle, our tests show that there are things you can do with your current vehicle that can help improve mileage and save money.

Drive at a moderate speed. You may have to be a little patient, but driving at 55 mph instead of 65 or 75 will save you money. In our tests, going from 55 mph to 65 reduced fuel economy by 5 mpg. Going up to 75 cost 5 mpg.
Drive smoothly. Avoid hard acceleration and braking whenever possible. In our tests, frequent bursts of acceleration and braking reduced mileage by 2 to 3 mpg. Once up to speed on the highway, maintain a steady pace.
Reduce unnecessary drag. Don't carry things on top of your vehicle when you don't have to. Installing a large roof-top carrier on our tests dropped gas mileage from 35 mpg to 29 at 65 mph. Even an empty rack reduces fuel economy.
Don't use premium fuel. If your car specifies regular fuel, don't buy premium under the mistaken belief that your engine will run better. The only difference you'll see is a cost that’s about 20 cents more per gallon. Most cars are designed to run just fine on regular gasoline. If the owner’s manual states that premium is required, then use premium. If it is “recommended,” we’ve found that performance difference will be negligible.
Keep tires properly inflated. Our tests show that a vehicle can have a 1.3 mpg loss in highway fuel economy when the tires were underinflated by 10 psi. Underinflated tires also compromise handling and braking, and they wear faster. Check the pressure of your vehicle's tires at least once a month with a tire gauge. (See our Ratings for the best gauges).
Avoid idling for long periods. When you're idling, your car is getting zero miles per gallon. As a rule, turn off your engine if you expect to sit for more than about 30 seconds.
For more fuel economy tips, see our special section.
—Liza Barth
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