This summer, like most summers, gas prices are expected to rise. A gallon of regular is likely to average $2.92 during the summer driving season, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That would be up 48 cents from $2.44 per gallon last summer and 8% more expensive than the $2.71 current national average.AAA estimates 32 million Americans traveled away from home over Memorial Day weekend, with 87% driving, up 5.8% over last year.)
But this year, other factors could set in. Oil-industry analysts say BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could interfere with crude prices later in summer if oil deliveries to Gulf Coast refineries are disrupted or if the spill leads to increased drilling restrictions. Tropical storms and hurricanes could also affect prices because they disrupt distribution channels and drilling operations.
1. Drive smoothlyRapidly accelerating and braking -- and driving aggressively in general, for that matter -- will reduce your mileage by up to a third. Instead, change speed at sensible rates. You'll save money if you do.
Fuel economy benefit: 5% in the city, 33% on the highway.
Equivalent gasoline savings: 14 cents per gallon in the city, 89 cents per gallon on the highway.
2. Maintain tire pressureImproperly inflated tires will decrease your gas mileage by almost 4%. Properly inflated tires are not just more efficient -- they'll last longer, too.
Fuel economy benefit: about 0.3% for every 1 PSI (pound per square inch) drop in pressure of all four tires.
Equivalent gasoline savings: about 8 cents per gallon.
3. Obey the speed limitIt's true that each vehicle reaches optimal fuel economy at a different speed, but for most cars, efficiency decreases at anything over 60 mph.
Fuel economy benefit: up to 23% improvement.
Equivalent gasoline savings: For many vehicles, each 5 mph over 60 mph costs an extra 24 cents per gallon, and in some vehicles it costs more than 60 cents per gallon.
4. Nurture that engineChange oil regularly, replace fluid levels, keep the engine clean, get the emissions tested, and stay up-to-date on tuneups. Fixing major problems, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve your mileage by 40%, according to the Department of Energy.
Fuel economy benefit: about 4% for regular tuneups.
Equivalent gasoline savings: 11 cents per gallon.
5. Buy a car with a smaller engineSmaller engines need less fuel than larger engines (for example, a 4-cylinder will require less than a V-6 or V-8), and turbochargers can help make up the difference in power. So if you're choosing between a 4-cylinder and a V-6, go small.
Fuel economy benefit: as much as 20%.
Equivalent gasoline savings: Assuming 15,000 miles driven in one year, on fuel that costs $2.71 per gallon, the difference between getting 20 miles per gallon and one that gets 30 mpg amounts to $678.