Pumped-Up Prices

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By Brian Funk, Editor

In 2008, the average Virginia family will need an additional $835 in their annual budget just to keep a car filled with gas, according to AAA Mid-Atlantic.

On Jan. 2, AAA reported a 33 percent increase in gas prices over the same day in 2007. Gas prices rise and fall throughout the year, but AAA encouraged families to budget for gas costs with the prices increases in mind.

In Galax, as of Monday, gas prices were around $3 a gallon.

Jim Alley of Fries was a bit shocked at the AAA estimate.

“I don’t see how people are going to make it,” said Alley, who stopped by a Galax service station on Monday. “It’s hard enough on people to buy a car or a a house.”

Alley said he doesn’t usually shop around for the lowest gas price. He’s loyal to the BP station near his home.

“If you do shop around, you’ll only find about a one-cent difference, anyway.”

With high prices squeezing many household budgets, AAA offers these tips on how to save gas:

• Keep your car in good shape by sticking to a routine maintenance schedule. Keeping tires inflated, moving components properly lubricated and ignition and emission systems operating properly will help ensure maximum fuel efficiency and extend the life of your vehicle.

• Consolidate trips and errands to cut down on driving time and miles traveled. When possible, combine them with your daily commute.

• Slow down. With most vehicles, fuel economy drops off significantly when traveling more than 60 miles per hour. As a rule of thumb, you can assume that each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon for gas.

• Avoid quick starts and sudden stops, as they waste fuel and are harder on vehicle components.

• Lighten your load by cleaning out the trunk, cargo areas and passenger compartments. A heavier vehicle uses more fuel.

• Don’t waste gas driving to a distant filling station to save a few cents.

• Avoid getting lost by mapping out your destination before you leave.

• Use the AAA Fuel Cost Calculator (www.aaafuelcostcalculator.com) to help understand and budget for the amount of fuel you are likely to use on a long-distance trip. After entering the trip’s origin and destination, and the type of vehicle being driven, the site calculates the miles driven, the amount of fuel that will be used and the cost. It also can tell motorists the difference in fuel costs for various vehicles, helping them to determine which vehicle is most cost effective to drive.

• For more information, visit www.aaamidatlantic.com.