How to Cut Gas Costs
With the price of gas at its highest level since spring, you're probably feeling pain at the pump. The national average is $3.83 a gallon -- up nearly 28 cents from this time a year ago, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. So filling the tank of a 15-gallon car could set you back close to $60.
The recent run-up in gas prices can be attributed to several things, says Jim Patterson, associate editor of the Kiplinger Letter. Crude oil prices rose substantially over the summer largely because the markets were nervous about the possibility of a conflict between Iran and Israel over Iran's nuclear program. Also, gas consumption jumped a bit around Labor Day due to the usual burst of late-summer vacations. At the same time, Hurricane Isaac forced some Gulf Coast oil refineries to shut down for a week or so, temporarily reducing gasoline supplies, Patterson says.
"Those factors have largely run their course now," he says and predicts that the national average price for regular unleaded should drift down to about $3.75 in a few weeks (see our outlook). "Not exactly cheap," he says, "but it's a little relief."
If you're looking for more relief (and who isn't?), here is our best advice to keep gas costs under control.
Download a gas app to find cheaper prices. You can use your smart phone to comparison shop for the lowest gas prices in your zip code with a free app such as GasBuddy. If you don't have a smart phone, visit GasBuddy.com or gasprices.mapquest.com before you leave home or the office to check gas prices online. Learn more strategies in 10 tips to Lower Gas Costs.
Never (fill up) on a Sunday. Or a Friday or Saturday, for that matter. Gas prices typically rise over the weekend; most station owners post the new prices Thursday mornings by 10 a.m. Get more tips in 6 Things to Know About Saving on Gas.
Don't keep your engine running when you're stuck in traffic or, say, waiting in a car line to pick up your kids . A common falsehood is that continually stopping and starting your car’s engine uses additional gasoline. This just isn't true. When you're not going anywhere, turn your car off. Most fuel-injected cars manufactured today don't waste gas when do you this. So the next time you’re waiting for a friend outside a convenience store, cut off that engine. It's better for the environment, too. Learn more about what you shouldn't do in 6 Gas-Saving Myths That Don't Work.
Leave the car in the garage and bike instead. If you have a bicycle, you can save a lot by peddling -- rather than driving -- where you need to go. And you might save time, too. Half of the working population in the U.S. commutes five miles or less to work, with bike trips of three to five miles taking less time or the same amount of time as commuting by car. To learn more about how a family of six saved thousands of dollars when they switched to bicycles as their primary mode of transportation, see Cut Commuting Costs by Biking to Work. And use our calculator to see how much you can save bicycling to work.Follow me on Twitter