In the last month, the price of gas in the Charlotte area has increased from $1.99 a gallon to an average of $2.38 a gallon. If this trend continues, just putting gas in the family minivan this summer could take a huge chunk of your vacation budget. To make sure you save money to buy plenty of salt water taffy for the office, consider these tips:
There are plenty of great Web sites that will tell you about gas prices before you start to pack. A few I suggest are Gasbuddy.com, Fueleconomy.gov and Fuelgaugereport.com.
Prepare your car
A little gadget that costs less than $2 could save you lots more – a tire gauge. According to the EPA, properly inflated tires can improve the fuel efficiency of your vehicle up to 3 percent. Check your owner's manual for the proper pressure level and make sure you adjust.
Clean your filters. The air filter in your car controls the oxygen that moves within your engine. The fuel economy benefit from having a clean air filter can be up to 10 percent, according to the EPA.
Extra weight makes your car work harder and guzzle more gas. So, take off the ski rack when not in use. The same goes for the bike rack.
Watch the way you drive
Driving aggressively and changing lanes excessively wastes gas and can increase your blood pressure. Take a breath, drive the speed limit and get there safe. And you'll save money. Drive at a consistent speed or use the cruise control feature when appropriate.
Avoid idling. In most cars the myth of “warming up the car every morning” is just that – a myth.
Most vehicles today are set to achieve optimal fuel economy around 55 mph. If you drive too fast or too slow, you won't be able to maximize your fuel savings. Also, don't accelerate or brake too hard – this is very hard on fuel economy.
Watch where, when and how you fill up
If you regularly buy along a given route (say, to work or school), notice when the gas station gets refilled by the large tanker trucks. If you know that a station has just been filled, steer clear of it for a day or two. When the tanker dumps its thousands of gallons of gas into the containers below the station, the sediment and old gas get stirred up. This sediment and bad gas gets sucked into the cars that fill up first, and can cause a decrease in fuel efficiency, as well as wear and corrosion of the spark plugs in your vehicle.
Buy gas on Wednesday or three days before a holiday. Gas prices are statistically the cheapest on Wednesdays, but this is only statistically true over a large number of days. It won't be true every week. Gas prices almost always go up for holidays.
If you need to fill up, fill up all the way. The more money you try to save by adding $10 today and then $20 tomorrow will be wasted since each time you will have to travel to the station and wait for a pump. Do it all at once to save time and money.