Expert offer tips to save money on gas


Increasing oil supplies, the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and Europe’s economic struggles are helping push gas prices lower, according to AAA’s weekly Fuel Price Brief.

The average price for a gallon of regular on Nov. 5 was $3.47, down from $3.80 a month ago and slightly higher than the $3.41 average a year ago, AAA said.

However, when it comes to prices at the pump, what goes down usually goes up – and that means a bigger chunk of a family’s income, experts say.

“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average household spent more than $2,600 a year on gasoline and motor oil in 2011,” said Laura Connerly, assistant professor-family and consumer sciences for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

That was up from $1,232 in 2010 and $1,986 in 2009. (see www.bls.gov/news.release/cesan.nr0.htm)

She based her comment by assuming a vehicle averages 15,000 miles a year.

“Increasing your fuel efficiency by an average of 10 miles per gallon can save you more than $900 a year per vehicle,” Connerly said.

Connerly had a few tips to help save money on gasoline:

1. Compare prices. As with any other consumer product, one of the best ways to save is to comparison shop for the best price. Some places may offer special discounts for shopper’s cards or gift cards. Compare prices online at gasbuddy.com or gasprices.mapquest.com

2. Watch your speed. According to the US Department of Energy, you can cut gasoline costs by up to 33 percent by driving steadily – avoid speeding, rapid acceleration, and sudden braking. “Optimal fuel efficiency occurs at different speeds for different vehicles,” she said. “Using cruise control when possible can help keep you at a steady, fuel-efficient speed.”

3. Check your tires. “A free and easy way to cut fuel costs is to make sure your tires are inflated to the recommended pressure,” Connerly said. “Use the amount of tire pressure recommended in the vehicle owner manual, or on the label inside the door pillar.”

4. Get a tune-up. “Simple maintenance problems can seriously decrease your gas mileage,” she said. “A tune-up can improve mileage by 4 – 40 percent, depending on the condition of your vehicle.”

5. Carpool. “If you make long commutes on a regular basis, consider carpooling,” she said. “Carpooling not only reduces your fuel costs but also saves wear and tear on your car.”

For more information about saving money, visit www.uaex.edu, www.arfamilies.org/, or contact your county extension office.

The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

Mary Hightower is an extension communications specialist at the U of A Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service.