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Save Money at the Gas Pump

Save Money at the Gas Pump
March 27, 2012

The average price of U.S. regular gasoline jumped more than 11 cents to $3.93 per gallon over the past two weeks, but may be peaking as the price of crude oil holds steady, according to the latest Lundberg Survey. Gas prices in Iowa are currently averaging around $3.80 per gallon.

The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to cut costs at the pump. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers the following tips:

On the road

  • Stay within the posted speed limits. Gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds over 60 miles per hour.
  • Avoid unnecessary idling. It wastes fuel, costs you money and pollutes the air. Turn off the engine if you anticipate a wait.
  • Stop aggressive driving. You can improve your gas mileage up to 5 percent around town if you avoid "jackrabbit" starts and stops by anticipating traffic conditions and driving gently.
  • Use overdrive gears and cruise control when appropriate. They improve the fuel economy of your car when you're driving on a highway.
  • Combine errands. Several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.
  • Remove excess weight from the trunk. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk can reduce a typical car's fuel economy by up to 2 percent. Also, avoid packing items on top of your vehicle. A loaded roof rack or carrier creates wind resistance and can decrease fuel economy by 5 percent.
  • Consider other modes of transportation.Leave your car at home and consider carpooling, public transportation, a bike ride or a stroll across town.

At the mechanic

  • Keep your engine tuned. Tuning your engine according to your vehicle's owner's manual can increase gas mileage by an average of 4 percent.
  • Change your oil. Clean oil reduces wear caused by friction between moving parts and removes harmful substances from your engine. Use the grade of motor oil listed in your owner's manual, and change it according to the schedule recommended by your mechanic. Motor oil that says "Energy Conserving" on the performance symbol of the American Petroleum Institute contains friction-reducing additives that can improve fuel economy.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated and aligned. It can increase gas mileage up to 3 percent.

At the pump

  • Follow your owner's manual recommendation for the right octane level for your vehicle. For most cars, the recommended gasoline is regular octane. In most cases, using a higher octane gas than the manufacturer recommends offers no benefit -- and costs you at the pump. Unless your engine is knocking, buying higher octane gasoline is a waste of money.

Steer clear of gas-saving gadgets.Be skeptical of claims for devices that will improve your gas mileage. The Environmental Protection Agency has tested over 100 supposed gas-saving devices -- including mixture "enhancers" and fuel line magnets -- 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, visit www.epa.gov/otaq/consumer/reports.htm


These tips are provided by the Iowa Bankers Association (IBA), representing banks and thrifts in the state. The IBA serves it members by providing legislative advocacy, training, regulatory compliance and other services designed to enhance the ability of banks to serve their communities. Learn more at www.iowabankers.com.