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Saving gas
5 Tips: Ways to make a trip to the pump less painful.
September 28, 2005: 2:04 PM EDT
By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Remember when gas spiked to $3-plus a gallon after Hurricane Katrina? By this time next week, that could seem like the good old days.

Weather and energy experts say that as bad as Hurricane Katrina hit the nation's supply of gasoline, Hurricane Rita could be worse. Analysts are predicting Rita's aftermath could catapult gas prices to $4, even $5 a gallon.

In today's top 5 Tips we'll tell you how you can cut down on the cost of your commute.

1. Save from the start

If you're in the market for a car, it's a no brainer that you're going to pay more to gas up a large SUV than you would for a sports convertible. But there's an easy way to compare fuel-friendly cars. Go the Department of Energy's Web site at www.Fueleconomy.gov to compare fuel costs for different cars. The Web site will also list the most and the least gas efficient cars on the market.

Knowing how many miles per gallon you can get will save you a ton of cash. The difference between a car that gets 20 miles per gallon and one that gets 30 miles per gallon amounts to $550 per year. That's $2,200 extra in fuel costs in four years.

Keep in mind that no matter what size model the car is, the miles per gallon figure can still vary widely. For example, the same 2005 model compact car can range from 21 miles per gallon to 48 miles per gallon according to the Department of Energy. Here's a hint: If you want to save money on gas, go with the higher figure.

2. Be high maintenance

Clean out your trunk! There's no need to keep your golf clubs or your beach chairs in your car. Removing excess weight from your vehicle can improve your gas mileage. In fact, an extra 100 pounds of weight in your car reduces how many miles you get per gallon by two percent.

Don't forget to keep your tires inflated to the right pressure. Under-inflated tires can lower your gas mileage.

Replace clogged air filters on your car. This can save your car's mileage by as much as 10 percent. Your car's air filter keeps impurities from damaging the inside of your engine. Not only will replacing a dirty air filter save gas, it will protect your engine. This is especially true if you drive in cities. City driving means smog and soot. By the time some stranger has written "Wash Me" on your rear windshield, it's too late for your lungs, according to Edmunds.com.

3. Find a buddy

Not only can driving to work be a hassle, but it can be lonely too. So why not pair up with a fellow commuter and share some rides? Sign up for the free service www.erideshare.com to find fellow travelers who are looking to connect and share rides.

According to the company a forty mile total daily commute costs about $2,600 per year. Ridesharing with one other person can save you $1,300. Double the figure for an eighty mile total daily commute.

But make sure you're comfortable with your traveling friend. eRideshare members assume responsibility for their own safety. Your personal e-mail and identification remains private and members contact each other through anonymous e-mail.

4. Compare prices from home

Doesn't it always seem to happen that just after you fill up your tank, you find a cheaper gas station? It can drive you nuts. But here's how you can get all the info at your fingertips, without even putting your foot to the pedal.

Check out www.gasbuddy.com. This is a Web site that will list the lowest gas prices in your neighborhood. You may also want to check out www.gaswatch.org. This is an online service where gas "spotters" report on prices at local gas stations nationwide.

5. Show us the deduction

If you use your car for work, Uncle Sam has been a bit more sympathetic about gas prices. The internal revenue service has raised the reimbursement rate that you can claim on your taxes. The new rate is 48.5 cents a mile for the last four months of the year. That's 8 cents higher than the old rate.

The rate for figuring deductible medical or moving expenses increased temporarily to 22 cents a mile for the last four months of the year. That's up from 15 cents. The IRS normally updates the mileage rates once a year for the coming year.


Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. E-mail comments to 5tips@cnn.com.  Top of page


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