Fighting Back on Gas Prices

Physician's Money Digest, May 15 2004, Volume 11, Issue 9

When the retail price of regular gasolinehit an all-time high of $1.74 per gallonnationwide back in March, fewreports bothered to mention that theprice was still far below the inflation adjustedpeak of $2.83 hit in 1981. Ifthinking about the cost of gasoline ininflation-adjusted terms doesn't makeyou feel any better, though, it may betime to outline some fuel-stingy strategiesfor the future, when a combination ofOPEC production cuts, lower refineryoutput, and the summer driving season isexpected to drive gasoline prices over the$2-per-gallon mark.

Beware:

You can start at the pump by gettingthe latest info on prices in your area atwww.gasbuddy.com. The higherthe cost of gas, the bigger the price breakyou'll need and the shorter the distanceyou should be willing to drive to makebuying it for less worth the trip. You canalso get a 5% rebate on your gasolinepurchases with a AAA credit card (www.aaa.com). If you use premium gas, checkwith your mechanic to see if your carreally needs it—most new cars don't. Aswitch to regular could save you $0.20 to$0.40 a gallon.

Some energy experts see the recentspike in fuel costs as a temporary glitch,but others think that prices are destinedto stay high for the foreseeable future andmay even go higher. Take a look at thevehicle you drive. If it's gas-guzzler, youmight want to think about switching to amodel with better gas mileage.

Although the most fuel-efficient carson the road are gas-electric hybrids likethe Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius,there are several traditional cars that willget you farther down the road on a gallonof gas, including the Honda Civic, ToyotaCorolla, and Dodge Neon. All of thesemodels average more than 30 miles to thegallon tooling around the city and doeven better on the open road.

Other fuel-miser tips:

Check your vehicle'stire pressure. Low tire pressure createsdrag that cuts down on fuel efficiency.And make sure your air filter is clean;a dirty air filter slows you down, whichmeans you burn more gas.