USA TODAY International Edition

Open road may open wallets wide

As gas prices soar, make your cash go farther

- Bailey Schulz

Drivers are facing record- high gas prices this year, but that isn’t stopping travelers like Jacob Becker from hitting the road.

The 21- year- old from Des Moines, Iowa, tries to do a major outing at least once a year. Last year’s road trip to Canada was canceled after Becker contracted COVID- 19, and he’s not letting another trip slip by – even with the cost of travel compoundin­g because of soaring gas prices, which hit an all- time record of $ 4.40 per gallon on Wednesday. Becker and a friend plan to take off for Montreal later this month.

“We’re both in college right now, so money is not amazing,” he said, adding that they considered canceling the trip because of their tuition costs and rent. “( But) I’ve been really looking forward to this for a really long time. So we’re just going to make it happen and deal with the money afterward.”

They’re traveling light and trying to save money by camping when they can. Even then, they expect to pay at least $ 1,100 each for lodging, food and gas, up from $ 800 per person on their last two- week trip in May 2021.

About 60% of Americans are planning at least one trip this summer, and 35% expect to travel more this summer than last despite the high gas prices, according to the U. S. Travel Associatio­n.

For those who are going ahead with summer road trips, here are ways to ease costs:

How can I save gas on a long trip?

Travelers should get a full vehicle inspection before starting any major road trips to help boost fuel economy, experts say.

Checking tire pressure is especially important, AAA spokespers­on Ellen Edmonds said. This can be done at home with a tire gauge or at a gas station and prevents underinflation, which can cause drivers to lose 5% of their fuel economy according to Edmonds.

That “doesn’t sound like a lot, but when gas prices are over $ 4, it definitely will make a difference,” she said.

What is the most gas- efficient way to drive?

Once on the road, drivers can take additional steps to boost fuel economy.

Speeding and rapidly accelerati­ng or braking can lower gas mileage by 15% to 30% at highway speeds or up to 40% in stop- and- go traffic, according to the U. S. Department of Energy.

Edmonds suggests planning routes and drive times that avoid major congestion to keep speeds steady.

Idling – another product of heavy traffic – can waste up to a half- gallon of fuel per hour, according to the Department of Energy. Edmonds said drivers can save fuel by temporaril­y turning their car off if standstill traffic lasts more than 10 seconds.

“That actually uses less gas than if you’re just sitting and idling for several minutes,” AAA’s Edmonds said.

Is it more fuel- efficient to drive fast or slow?

Fuel- efficient speeds are typically capped at 50 mph, with each additional 5 mph equivalent to paying an extra 29 cents per gallon of gas, according to the Department of Energy. Drivers can flip on their cruise control to keep speeds – and costs – lower, or opt for slower, more scenic routes.

“A road trip is as much about the journey as it is about getting to the destinatio­n,” Edmonds said. “If you can stay in that ( 50 mph) sweet spot and stay consistent, that can improve your fuel economy.”

Removing weight can also help fuel efficiency, especially when driving a smaller vehicle.

A large rooftop cargo box can reduce fuel economy up to 25% at interstate speeds, and an extra 100 pounds in the trunk can reduce miles per gallon by 1%, according to the Department of Energy.

How should I pack for a road trip?

Traveling light can help cut travel costs, but Edmonds noted that filling a cooler with sandwiches and snacks can also help drivers save money on the road.

“You’re keeping that consistent speed when you’re driving,” she said. “That’ll also reduce not having to stop at a gas station or restaurant to get snacks or food. That’s going to help quite a bit.”

How to find the lowest gas prices

Making a pit stop at the first available gas station may be tempting, but Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at fuel- savings app GasBuddy, said it’s worth shopping around before filling up your tank.

This is especially true for motorists crossing state lines, which De Haan labeled “danger zones” for drivers.

“Every state has various gas taxes,” he said.“You may be either leaving the cheap fuel behind or the cheaper fuel may be in front of you.”

The average price of regular gas in California on Wednesday was $ 5.85 per gallon. Average prices were more than a dollar less in neighborin­g Arizona.

De Haan suggests comparing fuel prices between state lines if heading toward a border. Websites and apps like GasBuddy, AAA’s TripTik, Gas Guru and Waze can help travelers compare costs.

What is the cheapest way to pay for gas?

It’s not just where you pay that can help alleviate expenses; it’s how.

“Some credit cards have gas percent rebates. Some stations offer a cash discount,” De Haan said.

Membership­s at wholesale club stores like Costco or Sam’s Club or various gas stations can offer some relief. Paying in cash at the pump can also cut up to 10 cents per gallon.

Can I switch from premium to regular gas?

Drivers may be tempted to fill up on premium gas, thinking it will help their car run more efficiently, but Edmonds said many drivers can and should fuel up with regular gas.

If a vehicle doesn’t require or recommend premium gas, “you should not put premium in your car,” Edmonds said.

“Some people look at ( premium gas) like it’s a treat,” she said, “but actually, it doesn’t really do much for your car ( if it’s not required), and it will definitely cost you more money.”

Instead, go with the gasoline grade your manufactur­er recommends. An owner’s manual usually lays out what sort of gas a driver should purchase.

Fueling with E15, which uses a 15% ethanol blend, may also cut 10 cents per gallon for drivers with compatible vehicles.

When will gas prices go down?

Experts say high gas prices may continue well into the summer travel season.

The average U. S. gas price hit a record high Wednesday. De Haan expects to see an “expensive, uncertain summer at the pump.”

“All bets are really off,” said De Haan. “There’s very little breathing room, very little margin for error because demand continues to outpace global supply. And that’s a predicamen­t. So it’s going to be an expensive, uncertain summer at the pump.”

 ?? BILL CAMPLING/ USA TODAY NETWORK; GETTY IMAGES ?? Six in 10 Americans plan at least one trip this summer. And 35% expect to travel more than a year ago despite record pump prices.
BILL CAMPLING/ USA TODAY NETWORK; GETTY IMAGES Six in 10 Americans plan at least one trip this summer. And 35% expect to travel more than a year ago despite record pump prices.
 ?? PROVIDED BY JACOB BECKER ?? Jacob Becker and a friend plan to take off for Montreal later this month.
PROVIDED BY JACOB BECKER Jacob Becker and a friend plan to take off for Montreal later this month.

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