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How to lower the pain at the pump

  • Story Highlights
  • With gas hitting record prices, there are some tricks to ease the pain at the pump
  • Try to avoid the "rich" part of town for a fill-up, if you can
  • Stations with repair or body shops tend to sell more expensive fuel
  • Some say Wednesday morning is the best time to buy gasoline
  • Next Article in Living »
By Jen Haley
CNN
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(CNN) -- It's costing us more and more money to fill up the gas tank. And while that's unlikely to change anytime soon, there are some tricks to getting the most value per gas dollar.

With gas hitting record highs, people are doing anything they can to ease the pain at the pump.

"People are scared. It's hitting them right in the wallet," says Jason Toews, co-founder of gasbuddy.com, an online gasoline information site. "A number of people tell me their gas bill is more than their car payment. That's a foreign concept to a lot of folks."

Gasoline hit a record $3.28 a gallon last Sunday. Drivers in California pay more than $3.63 a gallon on average, and motorists in Alaska, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii on average all pay more than $3.40 a gallon.

But there are some things you can do to get the most out of the gas in your car's tank.

Find the cheapest gas stations in your area

"In most cities you can save between ten to fifteen cents a gallon by just knowing where to look," says Toews.

The difference between the most expensive gas station and the cheapest gas station is thirty to forty cents on average, according to Toews. Check out our hours for gallons calculator. »

Here are some general rules of thumb:

The richest areas of town often charge more for gas.

Gas stations near major highways often charge more for gas because land is generally more valuable in these locations, increasing overhead. Those higher costs are passed onto consumers. So before a road trip, fill up at your local station.

If you must fill up near the highway, try stations near state border lines which tend to price their gasoline aggresively, according to GasPriceWatch.com, a gasoline information Web site.

The type of gas station makes a difference

Service stations with auto repair shops or car washes often have more expensive gas, said Toews. They don't need to be as competitive since they profit more from the other services and rely on them to bring in gas business as well.

Don't Miss

You may also find good deals at gas stations affiliated with wholesale clubs. These retailers often sell cheaper gas as a way to get people in the door to buy their other products.

But bear in mind you may have to pay for a membership. Even if you don't want to join a wholesale club, you may want to check out other gas stations in the area. Sometimes the low gas prices these wholesale clubs offer force other stations in the area to be more competitive.

What time you get to the pump

Wednesday morning is the best time to buy gasoline according to GasPriceWatch.com. That's because prices usually move up for the weekend, after which they settle, hitting the low point by Wednesday.

And it makes sense to buy your gas in the morning when it's the coolest time of day. This is when gasoline is most dense. Gas pumps charge by the volume of gasoline, not the density, so in colder temperatures you'll get more for your dollar.

Driving style

Changing from an aggresive hard accelerating, hard braking, driving style to a more relaxed style incorporating gentle acceleration and cruise control on the highway, can improve fuel efficiency by as much as 35 percent, according to an Edmunds.com study.

A scan gauge can help determine the fuel efficiency of your car, according to Phillip Reed of Edmunds.com.

The device plugs into your steering column and helps you keep track of your fuel efficiency at any one moment. A scan gauge isn't cheap. It may cost you $150 or more. Check your local auto parts store or go online to find out more about these devices.

"If you knew that flooring it cost you 50 cents, would you do that? Is it worth it?" asks Reed. "If you knew that one acceleration could cost you 25 cents -- that could change your behavior."

Air cents

Think about your own car's aerodynamics. Even an empty roof rack creates drag. Loaded with luggage, skis or a cooler, a roof rack can reduce fuel economy by 21 percent, says Reed.

There's been a lot of debate about whether keeping the windows open or turning on the air conditioning saves more fuel.

According to Reed, air conditioning is more efficient at highway speeds, while windows are generally better around town at local speeds.

Use the right gas

Regular octane works just fine for most cars. However, when your car's manufacturer indicates premium gas is required, using a lower grade could damage your car, adversely affecting fuel efficiency.

But when premium gas is only recommended, not required, go for the cheaper, lower octane gas, says Reed.

Higher octane gas has only a marginal effect on performance, usually in the area of acceleration, according to Reed. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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