Birmingham, AL- Record gasoline prices are here...again. Alabama gas prices have reached an all-time high today at $3.18 per gallon for regular unleaded. The national average is also at the highest point in history at $3.25 per gallon. What can consumers do to help cope with these high prices? Plenty.
Motorists can lower their gasoline expenses even before they fill up at the pump, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California's Automotive Research Center. By using the following strategies, car owners can save on gasoline costs and likely extend the life of their vehicle. The result could be up to a 50 percent reduction in fuel usage annually.
"What motorists don't realize is that they can significantly reduce fuel consumption on an annual basis and save money by making simple adjustments in their driving habits," said AAA-Alabama spokesperson, Clay Ingram. "This saves money in the short term by purchasing less gasoline, but more importantly helps to reduce the price of gasoline in the long term by decreasing overall demand."
Some basic tips to save gasoline and money include:
- Read your owner's manual for the recommended fuel for your vehicle. If it says "regular unleaded gasoline" is recommended, using anything else is a waste of money, and if it says "premium required" you must use it for proper vehicle operation. (However, when your manual says mid-grade or premium "recommended", read carefully; sometimes it indicates you can use regular unleaded to save money, but you may experience reduced power and/or a small reduction in fuel economy.)
- Consider letting your kids ride the school bus or maybe share car pool duties with a neighbor to get your kids to/from school.
- Avoid excessive idling. Parking your vehicle and walking into the store or restaurant instead of using a drive through will save gas and the walking may improve your health. Choose a shopping center where you can park and walk to most of the stores you need.
- Look into gas rebate programs such as the AAA Visa® card and other credit cards that provide a rebate every time you fill up.
- Many families have more than one vehicle, so select the one that meets the task at hand. Don't automatically jump into your "battle cruiser" when the sedan will do. Consider renting a fuel-efficient vehicle for vacations and long trips to save on fuel costs. Conversely, consider renting that full size truck instead of buying it if you only need its capabilities occasionally. Use the most energy-conserving vehicle you own as much as possible.
- Track your fuel economy; if it drops suddenly, have the cause determined and corrected.
- Consolidate trips and errands to cut down on driving and number of miles driven. Shop for low gasoline pricesin your normal travel area to be sure you're getting the best price. You can get free gas price information for stations in your area by visting the Fuel Price Finder on www.aaa.com. Remember that traveling long distances to save a few cents wastes fuel and may cost motorists more money than you save.
- Plan your route and find one location where you can take care of all or most errands.
- Look at your work schedule; can you shift your working hours to avoid bumper to bumper traffic? Is carpooling an option? Both can save gas and reduce vehicle wear.
- Comparison shop by telephone, the Internet or through newspaper ads to reduce driving.
- Properly maintaining your vehicle is critical in reducing gas use. Under-inflated tires, for example, can cut fuel economy by up to 2 percent per pound of pressure below the minimum recommended level. Worn spark plugs and dirty air filters also increase fuel consumption.
- Slow down and drive smoothly, avoiding "jackrabbit starts." The faster you go, the more fuel used. Remember, however, that traveling slower than the flow of traffic can cause a safety hazard.
- Don't haul extra weight in the passenger compartment or trunk. Reducing extra weight can save up to 2% fuel economy for every 100 lbs. removed depending on the weight of the vehicle. Also lose the roof rack, if it's not being used regularly. Carrying things on a roof rack increases aerodynamic drag and reduces fuel economy - year round (no matter how cool the ski rack looks!)
- Knowing the correct starting procedure for your car. Racing an engine to warm it up wastes fuel.
- Maintaining steady speeds. A car uses extra fuel when it accelerates. Cruise control may be a fuel saving option for motorists who drive a lot on open roads because maintaining a steady speed conserves fuel.
- Minimize braking. Anticipate traffic conditions. Be alert for slow-downs and red lights.
- Use the air conditioner only when necessary. Air conditioning reduces fuel economy by about 5 percent and more if the vehicle is an older model. The rule of thumb on hot days is to open your windows when you are driving slowly (under about 45 mph), but close them and turn on the air conditioner at higher speeds. Driving with the windows open can increase the aerodynamic drag, and this effect increases proportionately with speed. A light exterior color and light interior cloth seats and tinted windows can reduce heat build-up, thus reducing the need for air conditioning.