Tips to stretch those gas dollars amidst soaring prices

AAA anticipates that gas prices in the Philadelphia area will likely top the $4 per gallon in the coming weeks.

ByNydia Han and Heather Grubola WPVI logo
Monday, February 28, 2022
Tips to stretch those gas dollars amidst soaring prices
AAA anticipates that gas prices in the Philadelphia area will likely top the $4 per gallon in the coming weeks. But there are ways you can stretch the dollars you spend on fuel.

CLIFTON HEIGHTS, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- Gas prices are soaring amid the Russia/Ukraine conflict.

We are teetering on about $3.78 a gallon in Philadelphia as of Monday afternoon, but there is a dismal prediction on prices which will unfortunately have a ripple effect beyond the gas pump.

"They are crazy! $3.76 here, $4.19 in Havertown what is going on?" said Patricia Foster of Chester, Delaware County.

"I know it's terrible. It's going to get worse," said Jim MacDonald of Clifton Heights, Delaware County.

Unfortunately it will get a lot worse.

"AAA anticipates that gas prices here in the Philadelphia five county area will likely top the $4 per gallon mark in the coming weeks. And that will be the first time since the summer of 2008 that we crossed that threshold here locally," said Jana Tidwell of AAA Mid-Atlantic.

But there are ways you can stretch the dollars you spend on fuel.

"A lot of the cars, 70% I believe, only take the regular gas - the 86 - so you don't necessarily need to do to get the premium or the ultimate because they're not really going to make any more fuel efficiency for your car," explained AAA Master Technician, Daniel Cave.

Cave said if you do put in regular fuel in a premium car that requires a higher octane gas, you may notice a performance decrease or engine knocking. So if you do that, make sure it's only every now and again.

"I wouldn't recommend it, but I suppose you could do it," he said.

Driving the speed limit and using cruise control while on the highway will also help save on gas. Another big tip is don't let the car idle even to warm up on cold mornings.

"Most cars actually warm up and perform better when you get in and start driving them," said Cave.

Idling your car for even ten seconds uses more gas than shutting it off and restarting. Also, try to eliminate items that could create drag.

"Any kind of bike racks or luggage carriers you have on there or flags or anything all reduce your mileage and the aerodynamics of the car," said Cave.

Keep up with regular maintenance and also check your tire pressure.

"Underinflated tires puts more surface contact with a tire on the road. Not only is it bad for the tires, but it creates more rolling resistance on your tires and which would therefore decrease gas mileage," said Cave.

AAA does have a gas finder you can use. But Tidwell does caution you, however, "Look specifically in your area. It is not worth the 10, 15, or 20 minute drive, either across the bridge, into another state, or up the road to find gas that may just be a few pennies less than where it is in your neighborhood because you're going to burn that fuel just getting to that gas station."

"Motorists are encouraged to take advantage of those gas station programs that they have at discount clubs, grocery stores that can save you a few pennies on every gallon just by enrolling in those rewards programs," she said.

And beware: higher oil prices will affect travel costs, energy bills, and all kinds of consumer goods. When companies have to pay more to transport items or provide services, they will pass that cost along to consumers.

AAA Gas Saving Tips

Get your vehicle checked out. Perform regular car maintenance at the intervals recommended by the vehicle manufacturer in the owner's manual or as indicated by the in-car maintenance reminder system. Did you delay regular maintenance during the pandemic because you were driving less? Now is the time to get it looked at. Find a AAA Approved Auto Repair Facility here.

Keep tires properly inflated. Under-inflated tires can decrease your gas mileage by approximately 3 percent. Not to mention, properly inflated tires are safer and last longer. Check pressure in all four tires every two weeks with an accurate, hand-held air pressure gauge.

Know your octane. Do not purchase mid-grade or premium gas unless your owner's manual specifically recommends it. According to AAA research, Americans waste more than $2.1 billion annually on premium gas in vehicles designed to run on regular fuel. AAA found no benefit to using premium gas instead of regular-grade fuel. At the time of the study, 70% of U.S. drivers owned a vehicle that required only regular gasoline.

Avoid idling. Idling gets zero miles per gallon. Letting your vehicle idle for more than 10 seconds uses more gas than shutting it off and restarting. Don't start your car until you are ready to go. The engine actually warms up more quickly once the car is operating, and will stay warm after stopping. Avoid drive-up windows - park and go inside instead.

Observe the speed limit. Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 60 mph. Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.15 per gallon of gas. Using cruise control on the highway helps you maintain a constant speed and, in most cases, will save gas.

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.

Consolidate trips. Combining errands into one trip saves you time and money. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer multi-purpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm. With a little planning, you can avoid retracing your route and reduce the distance you travel as well. You'll not only save fuel, but also reduce wear and tear on your car.

Minimize drag. Drag reduces fuel efficiency. Driving with the windows open, using roof- or rear-mounted racks and carrying heavy loads increase vehicle drag. A roof rack or carrier provides additional cargo space and may allow you to meet your needs in a smaller, more fuel efficient car. However, a loaded roof rack can decrease your fuel economy by 5%. Reduce aerodynamic drag and improve your fuel economy by using a removable rack and placing items inside the trunk whenever possible. Avoid carrying unnecessary items, especially heavy ones. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk reduces a typical car's fuel economy by 1%-2%.