How to Cope with Higher Gas Prices

Gas prices are already topping $3 a gallon across the country, and analysts think prices will go even higher. These steps can help keep the price you pay for per gallon as low as possible.

Unleaded regular gasoline at three bucks a gallon this winter? In many areas of the country, it’s already there, as an unusual cold-weather spike in gasoline prices has recently sent fuel costs on a tear. You’re actually paying a lot more to fill up now than you did last summer, a time when prices usually peak. Many industry analysts think prices will go even higher, so you need to take steps to keep the price you pay for a gallon of gas as low as possible. Here are some tips that will help.

If you routinely put high-test gasoline in your vehicle, you can save 20¢ to 30¢ a gallon by switching to regular. Only one out of five cars on the road today really needs premium gas, and most of them are older models. Check your car’s owner’s manual to see what the manufacturer recommends. Over the course of a year, the savings can add up: Assuming that premium gas costs 20¢ more than regular and you put 20,000 miles a year on a car gets 20 miles a gallon, you can save $200 a year by using regular gas.

It also helps to be a bargain hunter. When gasoline prices are stable, there’s so little price difference between one gas station and another that it usually isn’t worth going out of your way to get cheaper gas. But when prices are in turmoil, as they have been recently, there can be significant differences in price. The bigger the spread between high and low gas prices, the more it makes sense to shop around. Websites such as GasBuddy.com and GasPriceWatch.com can help you find the lowest prices in your area.

When you do get gasoline, make sure you fill up. As prices go higher, some drivers try to save money by not filling up the tank all the way. A bad idea, say automotive experts; in a volatile market, the price of gas may be even higher the next time you visit the gas station.