Summer is fast approaching, and this year many consumers are beginning to realize that they may have to factor near record gas prices into their vacation plans. The U.S. Energy Information Administration has forecasted that during the summer driving season (April 1 through September 30), retail prices for regular-grade gasoline are expected to average $3.86 per gallon nationally. This represents an increase of more than a dollar per gallon over the same time period last year, and draws attention to the importance of understanding what factors impact our vehicle's fuel economy. The following are a few tips that may help you spend a little less at the pump this summer:
Buying - Although there are practical steps that can be taken to increase your car's gas mileage, the vehicle you choose to drive will ultimately be the most important fuel economy decision you make. In fact, a person would save $965 per year in fuel expenses with a car getting 30 MPG versus one getting 20 MPG (assuming 15,000 miles of driving annually and a fuel cost of $3.86). For many, that amount alone would fund their entire vacation. The official U.S. government source for fuel economy information is www.fueleconomy.gov, which is offered through the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. This site has a feature that assists consumers in making educated and informed decisions when purchasing new or used vehicles by allowing them to make comparisons based on gas mileage, fuel cost, greenhouse gas emissions, energy impact score, air pollution ratings and safety information.
Fueling - Locating the most inexpensive gas in your area will certainly help steer you toward savings, and it's never been easier to do. Simply visit www.fueleconomy.gov and look for "Find the Cheapest Gas" within the "Save Money" box. After selecting your state, links will be provided that allow you to view current gas prices at stations in your area. Some of these links even provide "apps" for your mobile device that access this same information. After selecting where to purchase gas, consumers should consult their owner's manual to determine the most effective octane level for their vehicle. In the majority of cases, this will be regular octane gas. Unless the engine is knocking, buying gas with a higher octane level than your owner's manual recommends will be a waste of money. Also, be wary of gas-saving claims for automotive devices or gas and oil additives. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has concluded that few of these products offer any fuel economy benefits, and of the ones that do, the improvement seems to be marginal at best.
Maintaining - The importance of keeping your vehicle properly maintained cannot be overstated. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can actually increase your MPG by as much as 40 percent. In addition to fuel saving benefits, following the recommended maintenance schedule in your owner's manual for tune-ups and oil changes will also help ensure that your car runs better and lasts longer. Simply using the grade of motor oil recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer can improve gas mileage by 1-2 percent. It's also a good idea to keep your tires properly inflated. Not only will they be safer and last longer, but you may also see as much as a 3 percent increase in gas mileage.
Driving - This is the variable that you actually have the most control over. Combine errands, use public transportation and carpool whenever possible. Amazingly enough, several short trips taken from a cold start can actually use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm. Avoid unnecessary idling by turning off your engine if you anticipate a lengthy wait. Remove excess weight from your vehicle, as an extra 100 pounds could affect your gas mileage by as much as 2 percent. Use overdrive gears and cruise control, especially when travelling on a highway. Avoid aggressive driving and abrupt stops and starts. Gas mileage tends to decrease rapidly at speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour, so stay within the posted speed limits. And, if for no other reason than the safety of yourself and those around you…drive sensibly!
Remember, we're here for you. Either visit us online, or simply call 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) from within Florida, 850-410-3800 from outside of Florida or en Español 1-800-FL-AYUDA (352- 9832). A member of our Consumer Assistance Center will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have or direct you to the best resource for assistance.