Road trip plans foiled by rising gas prices

road tripJust as spring and summer road trip plans are being made, gas prices are on the rise. That’s no big news, as we reported the same thing about this time last year. This year, though, gas prices are beginning their annual climb earlier than ever with potentially bad news on the horizon for road trippers making plans right now.

In an interview with the Buffalo News, Patrick DeHaan, a senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, said, “it’s pretty rough. One word can sum it up: ‘ouch.’ It’s going to be a nasty year for gas prices.”

GasBuddy reports gas prices around the United States, assesses what drives the price of fuel, and offers helpful tips on getting the best fuel economy. This week, Gas Buddy reports a national average of $3.63 per gallon of regular gas, with an average of $3.92 and a high of $4.19 in New York City. In Santa Barbara, California, the situation is worse with an average of $4.40, peaking to $4.79 at the highest station, well before road trip season gets going in full stride. The early rise in gas prices has motorists wondering why.

“This year, the price increases are really based on what’s happening in the world oil market, the crude market,” said Wally Smith, a vice president with AAA, explaining to the Buffalo News, “You get around $4, people really start adjusting driving behaviors.”

So what can we do to prepare for $5.00 per gallon gas?

Moneycrashers, an online source dedicated to developing a community of people who try to make financially sound decisions, suggests that those thinking about buying a car might consider a more fuel-efficient vehicle. At $3.00/gal the added expense of a green car makes owning one more for super eco-aware drivers. At $5.00/gal, the math works.

But saving in other areas to offset the price of fuel, often areas directly affected by the price of fuel itself, can help too. Homes heated by fuel oil will see an increase in costs so finding alternative ways to heat your home is a good idea.

Food will go up in price so we can save money by starting a home garden. Moneycrashers even suggests keeping chickens, starting a beehive, growing your own sprouts, or learning how to forage for nuts.

If that sounds a bit extreme, consider other methods to save on food like buying products in bulk, cooking more at home, and eating out less.

“Food prices really surged at the end of 2011, which isn’t good news to consumers,” said USDA food economist Richard Volpe, in Business Week. “Costs this year will rise as much as 4.5 percent for meat products and baked goods.”

All good reasons why cutting back in areas related and affected by rising fuel prices can leave room in the budget for a decent road trip. Online tools to help manage expenses and predict the price of a road trip are also available.

The website Cost2Drive built a galculator, a fun and easy tool to help travelers budget for road trips, because, as they put it, “the carefree days of jumping in the car with no regard to costs are long gone.”The easy-to-use online tool calculates the price of gas from point A to point B based on current gas prices along the way and even throws in carbon footprint data to consider.

So while we may not be able to do anything about the price of gas, we can control expenses in other areas, leaving room for road trip dreams to blossom.


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Flickr photo by photopaige

Ten tips for saving fuel and having fun on your summer road trip

saving fuelGas prices are going down across America. That’s good news to travelers fearing a repeat of 2008’s high gas price of $4.11 a gallon. AAA’s daily Fuel Gauge report shows regular gas at an average of $3.65 per gallon right now, down from $3.88 a month ago but still way higher than this time last year when it was $2.72 per gallon. Still, Summer road trip plans once put on hold have a breath of new life as prices continue to drop.

At the US Department of Energy (DOE) our supply of gasoline is a big deal and their fuel saving tips are a great source of information. Unfortunately they’re kind of dry reading and a lot of the same information you learned in drivers ed back in high school.

At Gadling, road trips rule supreme as one form of travel we can all do, anytime with anyone willing to go along for the ride. Gadling road trippers have a juicy, unique perspective on the American road that offers tips of a different nature.

Here are ten DOE fuel-saving tips along with ten Gadling road trips posts.

1. Keep Your Engine Properly Tuned-
Fixing a car that is noticeably out of tune or has failed an emissions test can improve its gas mileage by an average of 4 percent, though results vary based on the kind of repair and how well it is done. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by as much as 40 percent.

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2. Keep Tires Properly Inflated
You can improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires. Properly inflated tires are safer and last longer.

The proper tire pressure for your vehicle is usually found on a sticker in the driver’s side door jamb or the glove box and in your owner’s manual. Do not use the maximum pressure printed on the tire’s sidewall.

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3. Use the Recommended Grade of Motor Oil

You can improve your gas mileage by 1–2 percent by using the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil. For example, using 10W-30 motor oil in an engine designed to use 5W-30 can lower your gas mileage by 1–2 percent. Using 5W-30 in an engine designed for 5W-20 can lower your gas mileage by 1–1.5 percent. Also, look for motor oil that says “Energy Conserving” on the API performance symbol to be sure it contains friction-reducing additives.

Summer road trip plans; don’t let gas prices slow you down

4. Replacing a Clogged Air Filter on Modern Cars Improves Performance but Not MPG

A new study shows that replacing a clogged air filter on cars with fuel-injected, computer-controlled gasoline engines does not improve fuel economy but it can improve acceleration time by around 6 to 11 percent. This kind of engine is prevalent on most gasoline cars manufactured from the early 1980s onward.

Tests suggest that replacing a clogged air filter on an older car with a carbureted engine may improve fuel economy 2 to 6 percent under normal replacement conditions or up to 14 percent if the filter is so clogged that it significantly affects drivability.

The effect of a clogged air filter on diesel vehicles will be tested in the near future.

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5. Drive Sensibly

Aggressive driving (speeding, rapid acceleration and braking) wastes gas. It can lower your gas mileage by 33 percent at highway speeds and by 5 percent around town. Sensible driving is also safer for you and others, so you may save more than gas money.

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6. Observe the Speed Limit

Graph showing MPG VS speed MPG decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mphWhile each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed (or range of speeds), gas mileage usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph.

You can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.30 per gallon for gas.

Observing the speed limit is also safer.

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7. Remove Excess Weight

Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle, especially heavy ones. An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your MPG by up to 2 percent. The reduction is based on the percentage of extra weight relative to the vehicle’s weight and affects smaller vehicles more than larger ones.

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8. Avoid Excessive Idling

Idling can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner (AC) use. Turn off your engine when your vehicle is parked. It only takes a few seconds worth of fuel to restart your vehicle. Turning your engine on and off excessively, however, may increase starter wear.

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9. Use Cruise Control

Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas.

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10. Use Overdrive Gears

When you use overdrive gearing, your car’s engine speed goes down. This saves gas and reduces engine wear.

Traveling the American Road -this is for sure one not to pass up as Paul Brady “takes to the country’s interstates, highways and back roads to prove it can, exploring both famous Americana and the little-known, roadside inns and road houses, national parks and parking lot flea markets, searching out the stories making so many places in America unique”

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Gasbuddy can help save on your next roadtrip

Gasbuddy can help save

Sure, the price of gas is going up but Gasbuddy can help save on your next roadtrip. Gasbuddy.com has been online since 2000 and has some really cool tools that make finding the least expensive gas easy.

To start with, the site is pretty straightforward: Pick your U.S. state or Canadian province, plug in your location and in just a few seconds you get the results. Gasbuddy gives a long list of stations close to the location you entered starting with the lowest price first.

That would probably be enough for most people to give Gasbuddy a look. But there’s more to it than that. A whole lot more.

Want even more accurate information? Get a GasBuddy.com App for your phone. You’ll find the cheapest gas on the go, locate stations near you and see their current gas prices.

Want to earn $250 Free gas? Registered members earn points (the top member has 3,522,935) for a variety of activities. When 1000 points are earned, you are entered into a drawing for $250 free gas, given away weekly. I earned 100 points for registering, 150 points for posting gas price and $100 for voting in the weekly poll. You can also earn points for using the “Tell-A-Friend” feature, posting a message in the forum for users or reading a recent news item on the GasBuddy.com.

Want to know more? GasBuddy.com has a full-time petroleum analyst on staff, a Gas Price Heat Map currently showing California colored red which can’t be good and news articles relating to gas in just about every way.

Once registered, the site sends location specific information to your desktop or phone and has a bunch of helpful links like a Trip Calculator that asks for a beginning and ending location then wants to know about the car you will be driving (make, model, year) then takes that information and gives you an estimated total trip cost as well as where to stop for gas to get the best price.

For a trip from Orlando Florida to Kansas City, Missouri it told me I would spend $235.30 in gas, how long it would take me, how much fuel I would use, even my carbon footprint (1730.38 pounds….yikes!)

Yeah, this is pretty cool alright.