(RNN) – Summer’s almost here, and for many Americans that means travel. And travel means shelling out for gas, which these days can be painful.
The daily national average for regular gasoline is $2.81 per gallon, up from around $2.39 per gallon last year. Crude oil prices are at a three-year high and are expected to go higher, increasing the cost for gasoline.
Keep up with vehicle maintenance:
Sticking to your vehicle's maintenance schedule can help maximize fuel economy. It's important to keep an eye on things like fluid levels, air filters and spark plugs. Keeping your tires inflated at the recommended PSI will also increase fuel economy. And if one of those dashboard lights come on, it's time to see a mechanic.
Watch how you drive:
It's best to avoid high speeds, because – for one thing – the aerodynamic drag increases on your vehicle the faster you go. You can also improve fuel economy by as much as 20 percent by taking it easy on the brakes and the accelerator, according to GasBuddy; slow and steady acceleration and deceleration rather than sudden starts and stops can make a big difference. One way to keep acceleration steady is by using cruise control.
And even though summer's approaching, it's best to use air conditioning sparingly if you want to save on fuel; on the flip side of that, keeping the windows down at high speeds can put extra drag on a vehicle, decreasing fuel economy.
A little planning for trips could help save gas. Combining several errands into one trip is more fuel efficient than taking several short trips that require starting a cold engine each time, according to AAA.
Just don't plan those trips in an idling car: Restarting a vehicle uses less fuel than keeping an engine idling for longer than a minute, according to GasBuddy.
Watch your vehicle's weight:
The less a vehicle weighs, the better its fuel economy. So, cleaning out the trunk and passenger compartments is worth the effort. It's also not a great idea to lug stuff on your vehicle's roof over long distances, since it adds extra drag.
Use an app or website:
And speaking of GasBuddy and AAA – they offer two apps/websites drivers can use to find lower gas prices. There’s also Fuel Finder and Gas Guru, among others.
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