Listen up. Feeling the cash crunch of high gas prices?
As you look for ways to ease the pain, don't buy products that claim to increase your gas mileage, such as devices for your car or additives for oil or gas.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, advertising for these products has increased as gas prices have gone up. But even for the few devices that have been found to save gas, the savings have been small.
Be skeptical of any advertising claim that a device is approved by the federal government, the FTC says, because no government agency endorses gas-saving products for cars. And although some claims tout savings of up to 25 percent, the Environmental Protection Agency has not found any gas-saving product that significantly improves gas mileage. The EPA hasn't tested all the products, but you can find information on what has been tested at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/consumer.htm.
Some of these products could damage a car's engine, officials say. Some could cause substantial increases in exhaust emissions, and installation of such devices could be considered illegal tampering. Better to look for other ways to save money.
Here are a few:
1. Compare prices of local gas stations without leaving your home. A number of Web sites allow you to plug in a ZIP code or city to do some comparison shopping.
AAA's Fuel Price Finder, at http://www.aaa.com, is based on prices from the Oil Price Information Service, which culls information from credit card transactions at some 85,000 gas stations nationwide. You can enter your city and state or ZIP code to get prices and station locations.
You can do a similar search through MSN.com's local gas price finder, http://autos.msn.com/everyday/gasstations.aspx. This database also uses information from the OPIS network.
Gasbuddy.com's gas price comparison tool uses information from its own network of gas price information Web sites.
Gas prices can change quickly. Don't forget to check the prices at the exchange gas-station on base. Gas may not be cheaper on military bases, as many readers have observed firsthand. The exchanges base their prices on surveys of stations in the surrounding communities, and they also must pay taxes on gas.
"Keep your eyes open for low fuel prices, but don't waste gas driving to a distant filling station to save a few cents," AAA spokesman John Townsend said.
2. Consider carpooling.
3. Slow down. Townsend says you can generally assume that each 5 mph more than 60 mph costs an additional 20 cents per gallon of gas. Avoid quick starts and sudden stops, and use cruise control when possible.
4. Do some comparison shopping online before driving to various stores, or make purchases online.
5. Use a credit card that gives you a rebate on gas purchases — but make sure you pay off the credit card each month. Otherwise, interest charges will add even more to the cost of gas. If your credit card offers a 5 percent rebate on gas purchases, you'll save 15 cents off a gallon of gas that costs $3. Before you gas up, make sure the station doesn't charge more if you use a credit card. If so, use cash.
6. Stick to a routine maintenance schedule, making sure your engine is tuned, oil and filters are changed regularly, and tires are properly inflated.
Check the owner's manual for recommended motor oil and gas octane levels. Your car may require a less expensive grade of gas.
7. If your family has more than one car, drive the one that is most fuel-efficient.
8. Combine trips, perhaps running errands on the way to or from work.
9. Lighten up. Remove excess stuff from your car to avoid using more fuel.
10. Avoid unnecessary idling. Turn off the engine if you expect a long wait.
11. Before you start the engine, ask yourself whether it's really necessary for you to make that trip that day.
Get in the habit of being a good gas consumer even when prices go down. When we all do a little to become less dependent on oil, it adds up.
Got it? You're good to go. Just try going on foot.