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Unexpected Benefits of Higher Gas Prices and Tips to Save at the Pump

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You don’t need to read the news to know that gas prices have gone up. Last week, Business Week reported a 30 cent increase in the average price of gas. This put the average price of a gallon of petrol at $3.73, with prices breaking $4 per gallon in some parts of the country. Some fear that higher gas prices could break the fragile recovery. And, of course, because basically everyone needs to use gas, increased costs can push the price of commodities higher across the board.

Unexpected Benefits of Higher Gas Prices

Higher gas prices are not without benefits, however. For example, the Harvard Business Review reports that paying 10 percent more at the pump leads to decreased traffic fatalities among younger drivers — to the tune of between 3.2 and 6.2 percent. Compare this to a 10 percent increase in the cost of beer, which only reduces traffic fatalities by a paltry 1.3 percent. In commenting on the 8 percent increase in the cost of gas so far for 2012, Smart Money noted other benefits of higher gas prices, including:

  • If you’re interested in picking up a gas guzzler down at the local dealership, pick one up when gas prices are up. On the other hand, if you want a small, fuel-efficient car, get one now.
  • Petrochemical companies become increasingly attractive investment options as the gas prices edge higher. Exchange-traded fund Energy Select Sector SPDR increased in value by nearly 20 percent during the fourth quarter of 2011.  If you aren’t investing in petrochemical companies, now might be a time to consider it.

How To Save At The Pump

Still, you’re going to want to save at the pump until you can offset the increased cost of gas with your great deal on an SUV or your petrochemical investments. Saving money on gas might not fill up your bank account, but it can save you enough noticeable amounts of money that you can spend other places, like going out for a meal with the family, paying down your credit cards or getting that new piece of furniture you’ve been drooling over. Ways to save money at the pump include:

  • Tires: There was a minor row when President Obama suggested this a few years ago, but who cares? It makes your car safer and saves you money. What else do you need to know? Maybe that under-inflating your tires by 10 psi means a 1.3 mpg fuel efficiency loss? When shopping for new tires, look for ones with a low rolling resistance. They don’t cost significantly more and will increase your fuel efficiency by 1 or 2 mpg.
  • Don’t Idle: If you’re going to be idling for more than 30 seconds, shut your car off. Starting your car uses up about 30 seconds worth of gas.
  • Combine Short Trips: Longer trips are more fuel efficient than shorter trips. This is because car engines run more efficiently when they are warm than when they are cold.
  • Go For The Cheap Stuff: Unless your owner’s manual specifically says that your car needs premium fuel, skip it. You’re not getting more efficiency, you’re just throwing 20 cents a gallon into the garbage. Consumer Reports described the difference in fuel grades as “imperceptible during normal driving.”
  • Don’t Cart Around Junk: If you’ve got a bunch of junk in the trunk of your car, get it out. All it’s doing is weighing your car down and making it less fuel efficient.
  • Tune Your Car: A tune up and other regular, routine maintenance will pay for itself in greater fuel efficiency.
  • Driving Tips: For maximum fuel efficiency, accelerate and break evenly. Keep your speed as close to 55 mph as possible — it takes more power to overcome the wind resistance and you can lose as much as 5 mpg for every ten mph over 55 you drive.

Getting the Most for the Least

Notice how many of the tips for saving money at the pump are just common sense things you know you should be doing anyway? Just paying a little attention to these areas will save you noticeable amounts. And remember, you aren’t just saving money, you’re also doing your bit to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and reducing carbon emissions. That’s something nearly everyone can agree on.

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