By Josh Huntsman
Gas prices in Utah continue to rise but are still some of the lowest in the country. Currently, Utah’s average price per gallon is about $3.37, making it the third cheapest in the country behind Montana and Wyoming. California, however, has the second highest prices in the country at $4.21 per gallon, only behind Hawaii.
This spells bad news for people like Darrel Bassett, a Cedar City salesman who makes bimonthly trips to Los Angeles for his job.
“It costs about $60 to fill up in Utah, but it’s more like $85 or $90 in California,” Bassett said.
Bassett is not alone in his predicament of paying high gas prices. Many residents of Southern Utah make trips to California and other states for business on a regular basis, including Barb Hardgrave, who makes deliveries almost monthly to the Bay Area in California from her home in Panguitch.
“It’s the cost of business, but it’s a high cost,” Hardgrave said. “I absolutely can’t afford to ship (products) commercial, so I drive them up myself.”
Both Hardgrave and Bassett found if they fuel up in Nevada, where the average cost per gallon is currently $3.74, they save money by skipping a California fill up all together.
“I kicked myself when I realized how easy a solution it was,” Bassett said. “I fill up in Utah before I leave, then fill the tank in Las Vegas on the way out and back in.”
Dave Malark, a Provo mechanic who helps people save money on gas, says there are many options to help people save gas, even if they can’t find a cheaper price at the pump.
While Malark says proper vehicle upkeep, including maintaining properly inflated tires, correct alignment and a tuned engine, is the most important and effective method to increase gas mileage, there are other steps drivers can take to stretch their fuel dollars.
Use cruise control.
Malark says drivers can expect up to 15 percent better gas mileage by letting the on-board computer decide when to accelerate and brake when driving on the freeway at a constant speed.
“Most modern cars are designed to save fuel, so the best thing we can do is sit back and let it do its job,” Malark said.
Ease up on the pedals.
Going from zero to 60 in less than ten seconds can feel great, but you’ll pay for it at the pump. “If you just take it easy, you can increase fuel efficiency by 30 percent easily,” said Malark, who suggests drivers only press the gas pedal in an inch if possible and double the time it takes to accelerate.
“If you hit 60 (MPH) in about 20 seconds, you’ll feel like a snail, but you’ll save a ton of money on gas,” Malark said. “30 percent is very significant.”
Some newer cars have real-time feedback that encourages drivers to take it easy. Hardgrave said her new Honda has colored bars on her dashboard that glow green when she’s being efficient and blue when she’s wasting gas.
“It trains you pretty quick,” Hardgrave said.
Malark said similar devices can be purchased and installed in most cars manufactured after 1996 in order to reap the benefits.
“If you can see realtime miles per gallon, you see how much a quick acceleration can cost as opposed to a nice, slow acceleration,” Malark said.
Keep the car clean.
Every 250 pounds of weight reduces fuel efficiency by one mile per gallon.
Take advantage of technology.
Use smartphone applications to discover the cheapest gas prices in the area.
Avoid high-octane fuel.
Don’t use high-octane fuel unless it’s specified by your car’s owner manual.
Reduce idle time.
It uses less fuel to turn off a car and turn it back on than it does to idle for 30 seconds or more.
Know when to fuel up.
Statistically, gas prices are lowest on Wednesdays and Thursdays before 10 a.m. Avoid filling up on weekends or holidays.
Don’t buy expensive fuel additives or “magic magnets” that claim to increase gas mileage; they don’t work.
Keep pickup tailgates up.
Have gas prices affected the way you travel or how often?