NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Prices at the gas pump are hitting record highs nearly every day and are expected to top the $4 mark this summer. But don't let $80 fill-ups pump the fun out of your warm, sunny days.
From Kiplinger's magazine reporter Stacy Rapacon, here are four ways to keep more cash in your pocket when you pull into the service station:
Find the lowest gas prices.
That may sound like a no-brainer, but do you know how to research your options for getting gas for less? Two Web destinations to consider are GasBuddy.com and GasPriceWatch.com. GasBuddy links you to more than 179 local Web sites, each focused on a U.S. state, metro area or city. Prices are updated constantly by the site's 124 million users and are dropped after 72 hours, when it is assumed that spotters will have updated their information. Similarly, GasPriceWatch.com also hosts data from about 162,000 volunteer tipsters, but it mostly collects pricing info directly from fuel providers and gas-station companies. By Memorial Day weekend, the site plans to roll out a certified pricing program, which will guarantee you a specific price if you get to the pump within one hour of seeing it on the site. Additionally, it offers a tool that allows you to track prices at specific stations along your regular routes.
Time your gas purchase.
The best time of day to fill up your tank is before dawn or late at night, when traffic volume is down. Stations usually will raise prices during the day, especially for rush hour. Also, don't wait until your gas gauge drops down to "E." Thinking about a refill earlier, when the gauge indicates a quarter-full tank, leaves you some time to shop around for the best gas price. Finally, check that the price on the pump matches what's on the sign, and be sure that the gas pump starts at the $0 mark.
Keep your car in healthy shape.
Proper maintenance of air filters, spark plugs and fluid levels is best for your car and wallet. Proper tire pressure is very important for good fuel economy. Every pound-per-inch under the manufacturer's recommendation for your tires loses you one mile per gallon per fill-up. Also, large loads impact cars much like mules -- weighing the vehicle down and making it harder to speed up. Trim the excess luggage from your car, like those golf clubs in the winter and those snow tires in the summer.
Get a gas rewards card.
Carrying the right credit card can earn you rebates on gas purchases. One of the most popular rewards cards is the Citi Dividend Platinum Select MasterCard. Swiping this card at your gas station earns you 5% cash back and 1% on all other purchases. Summer vacation? Check out BedandBreakfast.com for free gas promotions. For example, you can stay at the Brewster House Bed & Breakfast in Freeport, Maine, and get $25 in gas money for a two-night stay, or $50 for three nights. If you'd prefer the opposite coast, you can park it at Cliff Crest Bed and Breakfast in Santa Cruz, Calif. For a two-night stay, get $25 knocked off your final bill -- then walk to the many nearby attractions. Both deals are restricted to Sunday through Thursday and expire in August 2008.
By Marshall Loeb