Squeezed at the Pump: Eight Ways to Beat Rising Fuel Prices
By AARP Bulletin Editors
JULY 17, 2008 (http://bulletin.aarp.org) - At $4.11 this week, the average price of a gallon of gasoline nationally is now more than a dollar higher than it was a year ago. The consequences have been diverse but very real for Americans who have enjoyed relatively cheap gasoline for generations. Household budgets are being scrunched and altered as people change commuting preferences (public transit ridership rose 3.3 percent in the first three months of 2008, according to the American Public Transportation Association) and forgo vacations, restaurants and summertime staples such as trips to the ballpark. After more than five years of steady increases in gasoline prices, Americans actually also drove less last month, the first time that’s happened since 1979.
"The fear here is that we've crossed a Rubicon," John Townsend, a spokesman for AAA, told the Washington Post. "Normally, prices plateau after Memorial Day . . . But I don't think we're going to get much relief this summer. "
With crude oil trading at over $135 a barrel, even more gasoline price increases are expected, as refiners and retailers attempt to pass crude oil costs along to consumers, say industry analysts.
The forecast is grim, but there are some things you can do to ease the pain at the pump:
Take it easy.
Don't brake suddenly or accelerate quickly—doing so can lower gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds, according to the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE).
Don’t skimp on vehicle upkeep.
Keeping your tires properly inflated and your trunk free of junk can also increase fuel efficiency. So can regular tune-ups, fixing faulty oxygen sensors and regularly replacing air filters.
Gas mileage decreases rapidly above 60 miles per hour. “Each five miles per hour over 60 mph is like paying an additional 20 cents per gallon of gas,” ASE reports. Use cruise control to help you maintain a constant speed.
In some cities, gas prices can vary by 20 percent from one side of town to the other.
SUVs may be fun, but maybe it's time to switch. Smaller cars and hybrids are more fuel-efficient. If you’re in the market for a new car, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fuel Economy site (fueleconomy.gov) or the EPA’s Green Vehicle Guide (www.epa.gov/greenvehicles) for information on which vehicles get the best gas mileage.
Bikes—even walking—are cheaper than even the most fuel-efficient car.
Having “no particular place to go” may have been OK for Chuck Berry, but it can cost you money, especially if you have a larger car.
Get more for less driving.
Sure, driving less helps you save on gas. But it can also help you save on car insurance. The Consumer Federation of America reports that driving less can help consumers save an average of 5 to 15 percent on insurance rates. If you’ve started taking the bus to work instead of driving, for instance, your classification may change and you may be eligible for an immediate rate reduction. Savings will vary by insurer and type of coverage said J. Robert Hunter, director of insurance for CFA, but “it’s certainly worth a call.”