Stretch your dollar with gas prices increasing

The roads will start to get busier as many plan to travel for the Memorial Day weekend.

While going on vacation, travelers are probably thinking of ways to stretch that dollar with gas prices increasing.

The average price of gas is $2.87 and AAA is helping everyone to get the most out of every penny spent.

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Drive smart

Easy does it. Accelerate slowly and smoothly instead of racing away from a stop sign or traffic light. Accelerating uses more fuel than any other type of driving, wastes gas and increases pollution. One second of high-powered driving can produce nearly the same volume of carbon monoxide emissions as a half hour of normal driving, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.

Drive sensibly. Generally speaking, the faster you go, the more fuel you burn, because aerodynamic drag increases exponentially with speed. Drive at a steady speed as much as possible; aggressive driving also can lower your mpg by up to a third, according to the EPA. For example, a car that gets 30 mpg at 55 mph will get only 25 mpg at 70 mph and 22 mpg at 80 mph. Consider moving to one of the slower freeway lanes—doing so is also less stressful. You won't lose much time by slowing down, either. A 60-mile trip driven at an average speed of 50 mph will take only 12 minutes longer than the same trip driven at an average speed of 60 mph.

Anticipate slower traffic and traffic lights. When you see stopped or slowed traffic or a red light ahead, take your foot off the accelerator and coast. Zooming up to the light and then slamming on the brakes wastes fuel and is hard on your car's suspension and brakes. Cars use very little fuel when coasting, and if you're driving a hybrid, battery-electric vehicle, or fuel-cell electric vehicle with regenerative brakes, coasting typically will recharge the battery, further improving your mileage. Leaving plenty of space between you and the car in front of you allows you to drive in a relaxed manner and is safer, too.

Put it in "Eco." Many newer cars (for example, the Hyundai Sonata and even the Corvette Stingray) have an "Eco" mode, which enables you to save fuel when you drive. Pressing the Eco button basically does two things: It changes the shift points so the transmission shifts earlier, keeping engine revs down; and it changes the way the throttle pedal responds, so you have to press it down farther to get the same response you would if you weren't in Eco mode. These two features increase fuel economy at the expense of performance. Many hybrids also have an EV mode, which enables drivers to use only electricity for power, though usually only for a few miles at low speeds. The electric-only range for plug-in hybrids is greater, usually 15 to 50 miles.

Avoid rush-hour traffic whenever possible. Stop-and-go driving burns more gas, increases pollution, and is generally more stressful than driving during off-peak hours.

Steady as she goes. Studies have shown that driving at a steady speed is much more fuel-efficient than continuously varying your speed. When you drive on the highway (especially on level pavement), use cruise control when it's safe to do so.

Avoid needless idling. When you get out of your car, turn it off rather than leaving it idling. Letting your car idle for more than a minute uses more gas than turning it off and starting it again, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. Park and walk into a fast-food restaurant or bank instead of using the drive-through.

Use your air conditioner wisely. Driving with the windows open increases aerodynamic drag, which increases the faster you drive. Air conditioning use in newer cars can reduce gas mileage by about 5 percent (even more on older cars). To cool off on warm days, open your windows when you're driving under 45 mph; close them and turn on the air conditioner at higher speeds.

Maintain your vehicle

Pump it up. Keep your tires properly inflated, which reduces rolling resistance. For every 3 pounds below recommended pressure, fuel economy goes down by about 1 percent. The correct inflation information is on the driver's doorjamb, inside the glove-box lid, or in your owner's manual. Tires normally lose 1–2 pounds of pressure a month, so buy a good tire gauge and check the air pressure regularly.

Get the junk out of your trunk. Reducing extra weight in your car can save up to 2 percent in fuel economy for every 100 pounds you remove. Take items such as golf clubs or other sporting equipment, tools, clothing, coolers, etc., out of your car's trunk when you're not using them.

Ditch the rack. Carry bulky items in the trunk whenever possible instead of on a roof rack. If you do use a roof rack, take it off when you're not using it. Roof racks increase aerodynamic drag and can reduce fuel economy even when not being used.

Roll easy. When it's time to buy new tires, ask about low- rolling-resistance tires. They have stiffer sidewalls, so they save energy by flexing less. A University of Michigan study showed that using low-rolling-resistance tires could save 1-2 mpg, or about 32 gallons of fuel a year, based on about 11,000 miles of driving. That equates to about $72 in annual savings, with gas priced at $2.25 a gallon. Check with your mechanic or dealer to find the proper ones for your car.

Track your fuel economy. Many new cars display current mpg on their instrument panel, or download an app (type in "fuel economy calculator" to the search function). If your mpg drops suddenly, find out why and fix the problem.

Lifestyle choices

Check out a rental. Consider renting a fuel-efficient car for vacations and long trips, putting the wear on a rental car instead of your daily driver. Similarly, consider renting a pickup truck instead of buying one if you need a truck to haul things only occasionally.

Plan your route efficiently and combine trips. Doing this will save gas, time, and wear and tear on your vehicle. Use your navigation system or the map on your phone to plan the most efficient route.

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