Spring on the Road

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Simple ways to save at the pump

The cost of fuel dipped in 2014, but drivers are still looking for ways to spend less at the pump. For many drivers, that means driving less. Driving less will save money, and doing so also reduces fuel consumption and contributes to fewer emissions entering the air, both of which can benefit the environment.

But many drivers are unable to drive less, as commitments to work and family require them to get behind the wheel more often than they might prefer. Such drivers may be looking for ways to reduce their fuel costs, and fortunately there are several ways to do just that.

• Reconsider your choice of fuel. Many of today's auto manufacturers now design their vehicles so they can run smoothly on regular unleaded gas, which is typically listed as "87 octane" at filling stations. That's important to know, as regular gas is often considerably less expensive than alternatives that are higher octanes. Many drivers may even choose regular unleaded, but opt for premium gas every third or fourth trip, feeling that the higher octane fuel every so often will increase performance of older engines. But many engines are designed to run smoothly and efficient on low-octane fuel, meaning it's unnecessary to choose premium gas, even if you only do so once in a blue moon. Read your vehicle's owner's manual to determine the best fuel for your car.

• Buy when the time is right. Prices at filling stations fluctuate on a daily basis, so unless your car is running on empty, avoid filling up when the prices seem especially high. Some patience may pay off with several dollars in savings, and those savings can add up to a significant amount of money over time.

• Become a less aggressive driver. Drivers with hectic schedules tend to be more aggressive when behind the wheel. But driving aggressively is unsafe and potentially costly. When driven at speeds that exceed 55 miles per hour, vehicles lose fuel economy. According to the California Energy Commission's Consumer Energy Center, driving 55 miles per hour instead of 75 miles per hour can reduce fuel costs by as much as 75 percent.

• Remove unnecessary weight. A car trunk might seem like a great place to keep your golf clubs, and it may be tempting to leave that roof rack on top of your car after a recent camping trip, but such unnecessary cargo in or on your car makes it harder for the car to get from point A to point B. That forces the car to consume more fuel. Unless your immediate plans include hitting the links or hunkering down at a nearby campsite, remove unnecessary weight from the car so your next trip to the gas station is less expensive.

The cost of fuel can make trips to the filling station into costly excursions. But drivers willing to reconsider conventional wisdom and change their driving habits can save substantial amounts of money over time.

Maryland Pennysaver