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Saving Money At The Pumps

As gasoline prices continue to soar to near-record highs, many are starting to feel the pinch at the pump. But there are a few ways to get the most out of a tank of gas.

On The Saturday Early Show, Smart Money magazine's Russell Pearlman provided some tips on saving money at the pump.

The oil industry has been blaming high prices on air pollution regulations that require them to make cleaner, specialized products for certain metropolitan markets that are not widely usable.

Crude prices have been high, but the real culprit behind the 2004 surge, Pearlman explains, has been the inability of U.S. refineries to make a comfortable amount of gasoline. With clean air regulations tightening, there are fewer countries capable of making gasoline that can meet U.S. specifications. Pearlman predicts that situation will continue to be a trend in this decade. He says the worries about imports, together with winter refinery maintenance, are breeding the fear that there won't be enough gasoline down the line.

Unfortunately, Pearlman predicts the situation will get worse before it gets better. The Energy Information Administration has predicted the nationwide monthly average pump price will peak at about $1.83 per gallon this spring, then average about $1.74 per gallon throughout the summer months.

Gasoline prices this spring will hinge on crude prices and how many barrels of gasoline can be imported from Europe and Venezuela. Pearlman says European refiners will ship gasoline across the Atlantic Ocean to U.S. harbors like New York if they can make a profit doing so.

Some people think putting gas in your car in $5 increments is a way to save while waiting for the price of gas to go down. But, Pearlman says it's really not worth it. The amount of gas in your tank does not affect the car's fuel efficiency, and the time wasted going back and forth to the gas station for those $5 fill-ups isn't worth the 2 or 3 cents per gallon in savings.

Despite the increase in gas prices, there are some ways to save at the pump. Pearlman suggests the following Web sites to keep track of low gas prices at local stations:

  • Gasbuddy.com is the portal site to more than 170 web sites that help consumers find cheap gas prices. All web sites are operated by the non-profit organization known as GasBuddy Organization Inc. Each of GasBuddy Organization's web sites provides a live forum for consumers to post local recent low and high gasoline prices. Since gasoline prices change frequently and may vary by as much as 20 percent within only a few blocks it is important to be able locate the service station with the lowest priced fuel. GasBuddy Organization web sites allow consumers to both share information about low priced fuel with others as well as target the lowest priced stations to save at the pumps.
  • Gaspricewatch.comis another Web site designed to help consumers find the lowest gas prices in their area and is also updated by consumers.
  • AAA.com provides users with regional price estimates.

    Pearlman suggested the following ways to svae money on gas by getting better mileage:

    Get a Tune Up
    Get your car tuned-up and keep it in good shape. First, make sure to keep your air filter clean. Your car's air filter keeps impurities from damaging the inside of your engine. Replacing a clogged air filter can improve your car's gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.

    Check spark plugs and transmission fluid, and keep the moving components of your engine properly lubricated. Proper maintenance of these components will help your vehicle's fuel economy. Also, you can improve your gas mileage by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage.

    Slow Down
    Of course, speeding is against the law, but driving fast can also cut down on your car's fuel efficiency. It's pretty simple: the faster you go, the more fuel you use. Once you get above 60 miles an hour, gas mileage decreases rapidly. Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.10 per gallon for gas. Additionally, when you calculate the time saved by speeding, you'd be amazed at how little you save by going fast. One or two minutes of time saved is not worth the gas used, the money burnt or the additional risk to you and your passengers.

    Eliminate Erratic Driving
    Believe it or not, driving less aggressively can save gas. Rapid acceleration and sudden braking burns more fuel and is harder on vehicle components. It can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town. Pearlman says sensible driving is also safer for you and others, so you may save more than gas money. Also, use your cruise control feature whenever possible.

    Remove Needless Weight
    Lightening the load of your car is another way to get better gas mileage. Many of us have a tendency to use cars as extra storage space, but it's important to keep your vehicle as light as possible. If you're going on a trip and need to store luggage, store it in the trunk. Avoid putting bike racks and luggage racks and luggage on the roof of the car because they affect the aerodynamics of your vehicle, slowing it down and causing it to burn more gas. Approximately 100 pounds of needless weight will cost up to one half miles per gallon.

    Carpool
    Make use of carpools and public transportation to cut commuting costs dramatically. Pearlman also suggests walking on errands of short distances. It saves gas money - and it's good exercise, too!

    Shop for Fuel Efficiency
    Research a car's fuel efficiency before buying it. If you're looking for a family car, be aware that many sport utility vehicles are gas guzzlers. Station wagons, on the other hand, get better gas mileage than SUV's and are also good family cars.

    There is also an increased interest in hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius. Hybrids use a combination of a gasoline engine, an electric motor and a battery pack, raising the car's gas mileage to about 44 miles per gallon. Pearlman says if the price of gas continues to rise, more people may buy hybrid cars because it makes more economic sense. But, if gas is in the $1.50 to $1.65 range, it makes less sense economically because hybrids are more expensive.