As Tri-State residents get ready for the last-minute rush of holiday shopping and packing for road trips to visit family, AAA suggests there are a few chores they might want to make time for to help save money on gas for those long drives.
"Everyone most likely won't be doing everything" on AAA's tip list, said Christine Delise, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. But many of the tips for saving money on gas are simple things people can do on their own without going to a mechanic, she said.
The average gas price remained above the $3 mark in the Hagerstown area — at $3.01 per gallon on Wednesday — after hitting that mark two weeks ago, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.
On Wednesday, the average price in Maryland was $3.01 per gallon; in Pennsylvania it was $3.09; and in West Virginia it was $3.06, said AAA Mid-Atlantic spokeswoman Ragina Averella.
More Marylanders are expected to travel for Christmas and New Year's than a year ago, according to AAA. Of the more than 1.8 million Marylanders projected to travel at least 50 miles, about 1.7 million are expected to travel by auto. That's a 3.7 percent increase in auto holiday travel over Christmas week 2009.
AAA has issued some tips for saving money on gas this holiday season.
The further people have to drive, the more motivated they might be to have their car checked out before they hit the road, Delise said.
Many of the tips are common sense things that can be tackled with little effort, such as coasting to a stop at a red light instead of braking quickly, Delise said.
The tips are:
- Gently accelerate and ease off the gas as you approach red lights. The U.S. Department of Energy reports aggressive driving can lower a car's fuel economy by up to 33 percent, according to AAA. So try to avoid sudden stops and quick starts.
- Drive the speed limit. It's the law, but it also helps conserve fuel. The energy department reports that each 5 mph driven over 60 mph is equivalent to paying an extra 24 cents a gallon for gas. So leave yourself some extra time to get where you're going so you're not so rushed.
- Check the air in your tires. The Energy Department reports properly inflated tires can improve fuel economy by up to 3 percent, but all four tires are properly inflated on only 17 percent of cars.
- Plan errands in advance. Combining errands in one trip can save gas because starting a cold engine can use twice as much gas than a longer multipurpose trip when the engine is warm. Planning your route before you leave can make for a shorter drive.
- Keep luggage off the roof. AAA said a loaded roof rack creates extra drag that affects fuel economy, especially with long trips on the highway.
- Keep up with vehicle maintenance. A properly running car improves the chances for maximum fuel economy. Check the vehicle manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule or check with your mechanic.
- Find the lowest gas prices. Websites where you can check for gas prices include AAA's Fuel Price Finder in the For Your Car column at midatlantic.aaa.com; GasBuddy.com's MarylandGasPrices.com, and Automotive.com's www.automotive.com/gas-prices/31/maryland/index.html.
AAA also has a free app, AAA TripTik Mobile iPhone application, that finds the lowest gas prices.