The Center For Debt Management
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Penny Wise or Pump Fuelish?

The high price of gasoline doesn't have to bust your budget. According to the Federal Trade Commission and the American Automobile Association (AAA), what you spend at the pump depends on how you drive and what you use to fill your tank.

Most automobiles produced in the 1990's operate efficiently on low octane gasoline. In addition, with proper care, newer model cars can be driven farther between standard maintenance and tune-ups, racking up additional savings. Here's how you can fuel better driving habits and make fewer trips to the pump:

  • Choose the right octane gasoline for your car. Octane ratings measure gasoline's ability to resist engine knock. Check your owner's manual tofind out what octane your engine needs, then buyit. Resist the urge to buy higher octane gas for"premium" performance: Most cars don'tneed a high octane gas to perform properly andefficiently. The AAA's experts say that about five percent of the cars sold in the United Statesrequire premium gasoline, yet premium gasaccounts for 20 percent of all gasolinesold. Moreover, the organization says, premiumgas sells for an average of 17 cents more per gallon than regular gas.

  • Keep your tires inflated to the proper levels. Properly inflated tires provide lessroad-resistance and can improve fuel efficiency.Check your owner's manual for the guide toappropriate inflation levels. This information isusually available on the jamb of thedriver's-side door.

  • Keep your engine tuned. Make sure that youchange the oil and get tune-ups according to themanufacturer's recommendations.

  • Drive smart: Stay within posted speed limits. Driving at high speeds, especially on longdriving trips, uses more gasoline. For example,driving at 65 miles per hour (mph), ratherthan 55 mph, increases fuel consumption by 20 percent. Further, driving at 75 mph,rather than 65 mph, increases fuel consumption byanother 25 percent."Jack-rabbit" starts and stops also are"fuelish."

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