Washington -- High gas prices are affecting Memorial Day weekend and summer travel plans, but the Alliance to Save Energy offers ways to cut vacation gas expenses.
Whether you are headed to the big city or great outdoors, how you drive and maintain a vehicle can either increase or decrease a vehicle's fuel efficiency and your gas costs. You can start saving money on gas even before you are on the road with a little planning and basic maintenance tips. The Alliance's Drive $marter Challenge website (www.drivesmarterchallenge.org) offers money-saving gas tips and extensive resources that cover such questions as: Where can I rent a hybrid or fuel-efficient vehicle? Where can I find public transportation at my vacation destination? Where can I find cheap gas along my vacation route?
Drive $marter Money-$aving Gas Tips
Planning your vacation:
-- Choose the Right Vehicle. If your family has more than one vehicle, drive the car that gets better gas mileage if possible. If your family is vacationing 300 miles from home, switching from a vehicle that averages 18 mpg to one that gets 30 mpg will save approximately $43 on fuel costs.
-- Reserve the Right Rental. Request a vehicle in your car size class that gets the best fuel economy. Check with the rental agency about the cost of having them fill the car up at the end of the trip. Sometimes their prices are lower. Sometimes not. Ask if they charge a gas surcharge. If they do, find out how to get it removed, and keep your gas receipts in case the rental car company requires receipts to remove a gas surcharge.
-- Are we there yet? Getting lost while driving in unfamiliar areas could lead to an expensive waste of gas. Resources on the Drive $marter Challenge website can help your family print a customized vacation map that highlights low cost gas stations along your route. Also consider the long-term wroth of a GPS system - some also locate the cheapest gas stations on your route.
-- Rise and Shine! Although it may not be possible for your family to drive during off-peak hours, it could save on gas costs and stress by avoiding stop and go or bumper to bumper traffic conditions.
-- Investigate other options for getting to your vacation destination - consider public transportation, buses, or trains when possible.
Before You Leave: Maintenance Tips
-- Inflate Your Tires. Keeping your tires properly inflated improves gas mileage by around 3%, saving up to 20 gallons of gasoline, or about $65 a year.
-- Check and replace air filters if necessary. Replacing a clogged or dirty air filter keeps impurities from damaging the inside of your engine.
-- Select the Right Oil. Using the manufacturer's recommended grade of motor oil, including re-refined motor oil, improves gas mileage by 1 to 2%, resulting in annual savings of up to $40. Motor oil that says "Energy Conserving" on the API performance symbol contains friction-reducing additives. Also, change your oil to extend the life of your vehicle, and remember to recycle used oil which can be re-refined, to save even more money.
-- Tune up. 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%.
While On The Road: Driving Tips
-- Decrease Your Speed. Gas mileage usually decreases rapidly above 60 mph. Each five miles per hour over 60 mph is like paying an additional 20 cents per gallon for gas.
-- Drive Sensibly. Speeding, rapid acceleration (jackrabbit starts), and rapid braking can lower gas mileage by 33% at highway speeds.
-- Use cruise control. Cruise control to cuts fuel consumption by maintaining a steady speed during highway driving.
-- Use Overdrive Gear when appropriate to reduce engine speed, which will enable you to save gas and reduce engine wear.
-- It's a "drag." If possible avoid carrying items on your vehicle's roof. A loaded roof rack or carrier increases weight and aerodynamic drag, which can cut mileage by 5%. Place items inside the trunk whenever possible to improve your fuel economy.
-- Ditch "junk in the trunk." After your vacation, don't forget to unpack your trunk. An extra 100 pounds in the trunk cuts a typical car's fuel economy by up to 2%. You can save up to 12 gallons of gasoline per year - up to $40 - by removing an extra 100 pounds of unneeded items in the trunk of a car.
-- Turn Down the Air. Operating the air conditioner on "Max" can reduce mpg by 5-25% compared to not using it.
-- Avoid idling, which gets 0 mpg. Cars with larger engines typically waste even more gas while idling than cars with smaller engines. Turn your car off while waiting for the kids to buy snacks and drinks.
Taking the Drive $marter Challenge, a campaign with 18 diverse nonprofit, governmental, and for profit partners, means pledging to take from one to six actions that will produce measurable reductions in gas, money, and CO2 emissions. The website demonstrates how taking small steps can add up to big savings by showing each individual visitor's savings along with a running tally of savings by everyone who has taken the challenge at www.drivesmarterchallenge.org.