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Nationwide, prices are up 13 cents to $1.67--just 4 cents shy of last summer's all-time high. According to an industry survey of 8,000 U.S. service stations, prices in the Chicago area had the biggest increase in the country -- jumping 41 cents in a month. The average price per gallon in the San Francisco area is now a whopping $2.04.
With the summer driving season just a month away, major oil companies are reporting huge fourth-quarter profits and prices are not expected to go down any time soon.
AutoTrader.com, the leading Internet automotive classifieds destination and marketplace in the United States, offers these tips to help Americans keep their wallets from being drained at the pump:
-- Steady driving. By accelerating gradually and driving smoothly, a 20% gain in fuel economy could be achieved.
-- Keep tires in proper condition. Inflating tires to the maximum recommended pressure can improve gas mileage by as much as 6%; regular wheel alignments improve fuel economy nearly 10%.
-- Unload. Remove unnecessary items from the trunk and the vehicle -- they add weight and decrease gas mileage. Every 200 pounds of unnecessary weight reduces mileage by one mile per gallon.
-- Be aware of weather and road conditions. Driving into a 20-mph headwind reduces fuel economy by as much as 6%. Driving up a mountain road with a 7% grade cuts fuel economy by 20% or more. Driving on gravel and in snow requires more fuel, as well.
-- Use A/C only when necessary. Roll down windows and open air vents as often as possible.
-- Bring the car to controlled stops. Anticipate stops to avoid sudden braking; take a long view of the road ahead and coast toward an intersection when traffic is stopped.
-- Don't speed. A car moving at 55 mph gets 15% better fuel economy than a car going 65 mph. Use a vehicle's navigation system, if available, when traveling in unfamiliar territory. This can prevent getting lost and thus wasting gas.
-- Service vehicle regularly. Keeping a vehicle well maintained keeps it operating efficiently and reduces fuel usage. Replace air filters and fuel filters regularly. A new oxygen sensor alone can improve gas mileage by as much as 15%.
-- Carpool. If vacation plans include large gatherings like family reunions, consider carpooling. Renting a multi-seat van also aids in maximizing fuel savings.
-- Plan ahead. Don't stop fuel conservation efforts upon arriving to the destination. Combine errands into one trip rather than taking multiple trips from your hotel or campsite. Organize stops so they're near each other and reduce retracing the same path. Also, plan trips so as to avoid congested times of day. Less traffic makes for smoother driving conditions.
-- Drive smart. Don't be idle too long. Don't waste fuel by sitting in drive-thru lanes--park and go inside. Also, don't let vehicles idle while waiting for someone. Idling uses more fuel than turning the engine off and back on again.
-- Choose an inexpensive, nearby vacation spot. Save that trip to Hawaii for next year after the economy has (hopefully) settled down a bit. Instead, take a weeklong trip to a state park or a theme park. Go camping and experience the great outdoors--and drive there rather than fly. Rising gas prices for your car usually also mean higher airfare tickets.
The views and opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily reflect those of College Central Network, Inc. or its affiliates. Reference to any company, organization, product, or service does not constitute endorsement by College Central Network, Inc., its affiliates or associated companies. The information provided is not intended to replace the advice or guidance of your legal, financial, or medical professional.