Savvy drivers jump to save at the pump

by Alyssa Zickenberg

The average price of regular unleaded fuel in San Diego has increased by 24 cents since last April. | Brooke Valls, staff photographer

The average price of regular unleaded fuel in San Diego has increased by 24 cents since last April. | Brooke Valls, staff photographer

Annual gas price hikes came earlier than usual this year and hit San Diego especially hard. The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded fuel in San Diego has increased by 24 cents since the same time last year, resulting in some of the highest gas prices in the nation according to the AAA Automotive Club of Southern California Daily Fuel Gage Report. Average prices recorded in February and March are approaching the county’s record high of $4.63 for a gallon of regular gas dating back to June 2008. The issue is also statewide, as California has one of the highest gas prices nationally, second only to Hawaii and Alaska.

Gas prices across the U.S. have been following the same trend and there is no guarantee price hikes will stop.

A variety of factors at home and abroad have led to the rising prices drivers are seeing at the pump. As tensions with Iran continue to drive up the price for oil, speculators are becoming increasingly uncertain of the state of future supplies. Additionally, a recent refinery fire in Washington state further hurt supply.

“There’s not much defense that drivers have against these soaring prices other than aggressively shopping for the lowest price and maximizing their personal fuel economy,” AAA spokesman Jeffrey Spring said in an interview with San Diego Union-Tribune.

“Something you can do immediately to save money is change your driving style,” he said in an interview with The Daily Aztec.

AAA advises drivers to avoid quick starts and stops, which waste gas. Anticipating the traffic ahead and driving at more moderate speeds can significantly improve gas mileage. Saving gas can also be as easy as checking tire pressure, unloading unnecessary weight in the trunk, using air conditioning sparingly and carpooling.

“If your tires are under-inflated by even one pound, you are loosing 2 percent on your fuel economy,” Spring said. “You could gain 10 percent if you inflate your tires to the right level.”

Other lesser-known gas saving tips can help drivers get the most for what they are paying at the pump. For example, drivers should stop at the gas station in the morning when it is cool outside. As it gets hotter in the day, stations’ underground fuel also heats up and less-dense fuel is pumped into the tank.

Also, when fueling, drivers should place the nozzle on the lowest trigger setting. This slows the rate gas is pumped into the take, reducing how much vapor is being created. Less vapor means more gas in the tank. Filling up half full instead of low can also help. Mobile apps such as GasBuddy and SmartFuel help drivers find the cheapest gas prices in the area. By changing habits and becoming more proactive consumers, drivers can add miles to the gallon and combat rising prices at the pump.

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