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Tips for saving on pump prices this Thanksgiving

  • Article by: JONATHAN FAHEY
  • Associated Press
  • November 21, 2012 - 3:18 PM

NEW YORK - Gasoline prices are the highest ever for a Thanksgiving weekend. Assuming you're not taking a sleigh over the river and through the woods to Grandma's, you'll want to save as much as you can on fuel.

There are two ways you can cut your gas tab, at least a little: Use less of it, and pay less for what you use.

Leave behind what you don't need. An extra 100 pounds reduces fuel economy by up to 2 percent, according to the Energy Department. Don't leave your car idling — it can use up to a half gallon of fuel per hour. And slow down. Fuel economy gets worse quickly at speeds over 50 miles per hour. Each 5 mph over 50 is like paying an extra 24 cents per gallon, the Energy Department says.

Your computer or smartphone can help you find cheaper gas while you drive, thanks to services such as GasBuddy.com. The service, which can be accessed on a smartphone application or on the Internet, reports gasoline prices at nearby stations. GasBuddy.com, which has 8.4 million users, gets its price information from users who enter fuel prices into the app after seeing them while driving by or filling up.

Users post prices to help other drivers, according to GasBuddy.com's Patrick DeHaan, and those who contribute can become eligible to win a $250 gas card. DeHaan says that 70,000 users supply data daily. Be aware that sometimes, especially in rural areas, the price given might be a few days old. But for stations in more populated regions, the price information is often up to the minute.

But don't get too obsessed about saving a penny or two a gallon — you might burn up your savings by driving an extra distance to find the cheaper gas.

Here's an example. A driver of a car that gets the national average of 23 miles per gallon notices that a station five miles from the one he's near is 10 cents a gallon cheaper. Sounds good, right? But the driver would save only $1 if he bought 10 gallons there, and he would burn 74 cents worth of fuel. Total savings: 26 cents.

DeHaan's rule of thumb: a driver must be saving at least five cents per gallon for every mile they drive out of their way to make it worthwhile.

Still, using GasBuddy.com or a similar service to plan your gas purchases can save you money. And you can realize significant savings on longer trips because prices vary over greater distances and you'll be buying more fuel.

Other gas price services include Gas Guru, which uses data from credit card swipes obtained through the Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express.

The Gas Prices Map App at the search engine Bing.com provides gas prices within a 5-mile radius of where a person is searching, also using data provided by OPIS.

The navigation app Waze uses real-time traffic updates from other users to help you steer clear of traffic snarls. It also helps you find cheap gas stations.

The Cheap Gas! app uses GasBuddy.com data, but also provides directions to the gas station you choose.

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