Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



FUEL EFFICIENCY: A few tips to help you get more for your dollar

With gas prices hovering near $4 per gallon and summer approaching, a growing number of consumers are searching for ways to make their next trip to the pump less painful.

With gas prices hovering near $4 per gallon and summer approaching, a growing number of consumers are searching for ways to make their next trip to the pump less painful.

The average American family is expected to spend about $825 more to fill up its vehicles this year than in 2010, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

"People are becoming more cost conscious these days," said Dennis Smith, director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities program that aims to reduce petroleum use in transportation. "Obviously, the interest in fuel efficiency goes up every time the price of gasoline goes up, and it's been going up a lot lately."

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded was $3.82 Wednesday in Grand Forks, a decrease of about 15 cents the past week, but a full dollar more than it was on the same day a year ago.

While gas prices have increased, Memorial Day and summer driving are not expected to take big hits. AAA projects that 30.9 million Americans will drive to holiday destinations during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a slight decrease from a year ago.


Six of 10 intended travelers in a recent AAA survey indicated that rising gas prices would not affect their travel plans. Seventy percent of those who expected to be affected by gas prices said they intended to cut back in other areas. The rest said they might take a shorter trip or find another way to get to their destination.

"You're still going to see a fair amount of traffic this summer," said Mike Rud, president of the North Dakota Petroleum Marketers Association. "I think you'll see people be more conservative. That means you'll see more people stay closer to home."

Consumers may be more cautious about their driving habits when gas prices are high, consolidating shopping trips and errands, car pooling and searching for the lowest-priced gas stations. But experts say there are plenty of other things you can do to get the most out of your next trip to the gas station.

Tips for better mileage

One of the easiest ways to improve your fuel economy is to slow down. Each five miles per hour you drive over 60 mph adds an extra 24 cents to how much you pay per gallon, according to the government's Fueleconomy.gov Web site.

"The slower you drive, the better your fuel economy," said Gene LaDoucer, a spokesperson with AAA North Dakota. "Cars are engineered to get their best gas mileage at around 60 miles per hour. Anything faster than that and you are using more fuel."

Other ways to improve fuel efficiency include avoiding driving during rush hour, idling and rapid acceleration and braking in traffic.

You might be able to improve your gas mileage by as much as 3 percent by making sure your tires are properly inflated and aligned, according to Fueleconomy.gov.


Something as simple as using the cruise control button on trips also helps. Another drag on fuel efficiency is any added weight, from sports equipment to camping gear. Unless you're planning to use it on your trip, you're better off leaving extra stuff behind, including items strapped to bike and suitcase racks.

"There are a lot of things people can do to increase fuel efficiency," said Smith, the Clean Cities director. "People tend to think these are silly things, but they add up."

What type of fuel to use?

Unless the manufacturer suggests using premium fuel, most vehicles run just fine on regular unleaded, which is generally cheaper, according to AAA's LaDoucer.

Fuels containing ethanol blends are usually cheaper at the pump because of subsidies encouraging ethanol production, but LaDoucer said fuel economy can be reduced by 3 percent to 5 percent for every 10 percent of ethanol blend added to gasoline.

"Motorists should not be overly concerned with whether their gas contains ethanol or not," LaDoucer said. "In most cases you, will not notice a big difference in fuel economy, but you might save some money when you fuel up because it's less expensive."

One common notion is that you should buy gas in the morning when the air is cool because gasoline is more dense at cooler temperatures. But LaDoucer says not to put much stock in the theory.

"There's really not much to that," he said. "It's hard to measure, but the gasoline is buried underground in tanks that remain at a fairly constant temperature."


Turn on the air

Another constantly debated issue is whether to use the air conditioning or roll down the windows.

Running the air conditioning has been shown to impact fuel efficiency. But the resulting drag from driving with the windows down cancels out any perceived benefit, according to the Department of Energy's Smith.

"Research has shown at highway speeds you are better off to have the air conditioning on and the windows closed," he said.

Schuster reports on business. Reach him at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 107, or email rschuster@gfherald.com . Follow Schuster on Twitter at @RyanSchuster.

What To Read Next
Get Local