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February 17, 2011 Published in Top Stories, Traffic & Transportation

More Pain At The Pump: Pumped Up Prices Don’t Have To Leave A Hole In Your Pocket

AAA Offers Motorists Ways to Save Money as Gas Prices Increase

Pain at the pump. (Courtesy Photo)

The average pump price of gasoline and diesel fuel soared to a new 28-month high, putting a tighter squeeze on the purse strings of consumers and motorists, says AAA Mid-Atlantic. From coast to coast, the national retail average price of unleaded regular increased two cents overnight to $3.15 a gallon, according to the Daily Fuel Gauge Report from AAA Mid-Atlantic. That’s $1.19 more than drivers paid two years ago at this time and 54 cents more than they paid a year ago.

Gasoline prices have increased 23 percent since last year, a sure sign of more pain at the pump for consumers. The last time motorists across America paid more than that for their fuel purchases was on October 14, 2008. Locally, pump prices increased three cents overnight to $3.25 in Washington, D. C. proper. District motorists are paying 48 cents more than a year-ago prices. Metro area motorists are currently paying $3.12 a gallon, three cents less than the national average. Still that’s 44 cents higher than local retail prices were at this time last year.

At the current price level, it is likely motorists will spend about $32 billion to fuel the nation’s fleet of 248 million registered vehicles during the 28 days of February, notes AAA Mid-Atlantic. Last month, the nation’s 200 million licensed drivers spent $31.6 billion on motor fuel, compared to less than $21 billion the same month two years earlier in January 2009, or $10 billion more. Consumers spent $34 billion on gasoline purchases during the busy leisure travel month of December alone.

Consumer spending increased last month, a reaction to higher gasoline and food prices. “Sales at gas stations rose 1.4 percent,” the Commerce Department is reporting. Across the country, “the average household will spend roughly $305 on gasoline” this month. That figure represents an average 7.4% of median household income, according to a study by Portia Group, based on data provided by the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS).

The average household in Virginia is currently spending an estimated $331.94 on fuel purchases this February, according to a study by Portia Group, based on data provided by the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS). That’s about 6.71 percent of the monthly household budgets, the study shows. In contrast, households in Maryland are currently seeing gasoline expenses that reflect about 4.84 percent of their family income each month (an average of $279.37), observes AAA Mid-Atlantic.

From browsing around for the best options on the showroom floor, to driving the speed limit on properly inflated tires, the list of ways to save money at the pump goes on and on. Here are a few tips, from AAA Mid-Atlantic and the Federal Trade Commission, on how to keep money in your pocket as prices go through the sun roof:

Consider the Alternatives

Choose an Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) that operates on fuels such as methanol, ethanol, compressed natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas or electricity. These alternative fuels can reduce harmful pollutants and exhaust emissions. Hybrid Electric Vehicles combine the benefits of gas engines and electric motors to provide improved fuel economy and increased power.

Properly inflate tires

The U.S. Department of Energy reports that proper tire inflation can improve fuel economy by up to three percent. It’s important to correctly check tire pressures at least once a month. Check the pressure when tires are cold and have not been driven on recently. Tires should be inflated to pressure levels found on a sticker on the driver’s side door jamb or in the owner’s manual, NOT the pressure levels stamped on the tire sidewall.

Be gentle on the gas and brake pedals

One of the easiest and most effective ways to conserve fuel is to change driving styles. Instead of making quick starts and sudden stops, go easy on the gas and brake pedals. If there is a red light ahead, ease off the gas and coast up to it rather than waiting until the last second to brake. Once the light turns green, gently accelerate rather than making a quick start. The U.S. Department of Energy reports aggressive driving can lower a car’s fuel economy by up to 33 percent.

Drive the speed limit

Slowing down to observe the speed limit can not only conserve fuel, but also avoid a speeding ticket. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that each 5 mph driven over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.24 per gallon for gas. Leave yourself plenty of time to reach your destination to avoid feeling rushed so you can arrive safely and with a little more fuel in the tank.

Plan errands in advance

Try to combine multiple tasks into one trip. Several short trips starting with a cold engine each time can use twice as much gas as a longer multi-purpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm. Also, plan the route in advance to drive the fewest miles.

Remove excess weight

Take away excess weight from the trunk to reduce a typical car’s fuel economy by up to two percent. Also, avoid the use of a car’s roof rack to transport luggage or other equipment. A loaded roof rack creates wind resistance and extra drag that can reduce fuel economy by five percent.

Keep up-to-date on vehicle maintenance

Be sure to follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule, and pay attention to vehicle warning. Warning lights can signal problems that will greatly decrease a car’s fuel efficiency. To help motorists find reliable, high-quality vehicle service, AAA has inspected and approved nearly 8,000 auto repair shops across the country. To locate a nearby AAA Approved Auto Repair facility, visit AAA.com/repair.

Use the Octane Level You Need

Your owner’s manual recommends the most effective octane level for your car. For most cars, the recommended gasoline is regular octane. Using a higher octane gas than the manufacturer recommends does is a waste of money - unless your engine is knocking.

Check Out Claims About “Gas-Saving” Gadgets

Be skeptical of claims for devices that will “boost your mileage” or “improve your fuel economy.” The EPA has tested over 100 such devices and found that very few provide any fuel economy benefits. The devices that work provide only marginal improvements. Some “gas-saving” devices may damage a car’s engine or increase exhaust emissions. For more information and a full list of tested products, check www.epa.gov/otaq/consumer/reports.htm.

Drivers equipped with the AAA TripTik Mobile iPhone application can find the lowest gas prices close to home or on the road. Using AAA TripTik Mobile, motorists can compare fuel costs in a specified area. The AAA app’s GPS technology enables users to quickly locate stations and see the price for all available grades of gasoline. AAA also provides gas station location and fuel price information at AAA.com with the online TripTik Travel Planner.

AAA Mid-Atlantic advocates on behalf of its nearly four million members in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. It provides a wide range of personal insurance, travel, financial and automotive services through its 50-plus retail branches, regional operations centers, and the Internet. For more information, please visit our web site at

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