3 Tips to Deal With Higher Gas Prices (Yes, They’re Going to Get Worse)

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Gas is expected to get as high as $4/gallon this summer, but consumers' options for saving money at the pump are as varied as their reactions to the price hike.

As gas prices have increased, so have consumers’ reactions:

  • A recent press release [PDF] from the National Conference on Weights and Measures (yes, it’s a real organization) says more of us are complaining about the accuracy of gas pumps: “Often, consumers give little thought to the accuracy of measurements on a scale, through a gas pump, or on a package label. However, when prices increase, consumers pay greater attention.”
  • A recent report [PDF] by the American Public Transportation Association says more of us are willing to hop a bus: “If regular gas prices reach $4 a gallon across the nation, as many experts have forecasted, an additional 670 million passenger trips could be expected.”
  • Recent press releases from Cars.com and General Motors show an increased interest in fuel-efficient cars: Cars.com says the gas price spike has spurred a 70-percent jump in interest in hybrids and a 21-percent jump for compact cars, while GM says its 2011 sales of 4-cylinder cars are already up 23 percent compared to four years ago.

With reactions all over the place, one thing is clear: Gas prices stink more than gas itself – and even the government admits it’s only going to get worse. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s [PDF], retail prices are expected to reach $3.70/gallon during the 2011 peak season – which starts this month – and there’s a 25-percent chance they could return to $4/gallon.

So, what’s a money-minded consumer to do? You have three options…

1. Ditch your car for a new one: If you can afford to replace your current gas guzzler with a more fuel-efficient car, there’s perhaps no better time than now. Not only are gas prices expected to get even higher this year, they won’t be any better next year either. The EIA expects prices to average $3.56 in 2011 and $3.57 in 2012. Fortunately, TrueCar.com recently released its “Top 10 Most Fuel-Efficient Hybrids and Non-Hybrid Vehicles” list [PDF]. If you want the most fuel-efficient hybrid, they say it’s time to buy a Toyota Prius (49.6 mpg for $23,810 MSRP); or the most fuel-efficient non-hybrid, a Hyundai Elantra (33.1 mpg for $25,031 MSRP).

2. Ditch your car for the bus: If you can’t afford a new car, perhaps it’s time to try public transportation. Check out the American Public Transportation Association’s fuel savings calculator. Putting a price tag on how much the bus could save you might make it a little easier to hop aboard. Once you’re ready to try it, use their map to find public transit systems near you.

3. Cut costs on your own: If you can’t afford a new fuel-efficient car and can’t (or won’t) use public transportation, there are plenty of ways you can cut back on gas while continuing to drive your current car. Money Talks News has mentioned these tricks many times, but one post is by far the most popular: Stacy’s 28 Ways to Save on Gas You Already Know – and Maybe One You Don’t.

Stacy Johnson

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