Different Ways to Save at the Pump
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And here with some advice about what you can do to combat those high gas prices is our personal finance contributor Michelle Singletary. She spoke with my colleague Alex Chadwick.
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
What's the number-one thing you recommend?
MICHELLE SINGLETARY (Personal Finance Contributor): Stop speeding. Listen, you know, you hear a lot of these tips and you might roll your eyes when you hear me tell you again, but I'm going to tell you the faster you drive, the more gas you use. Each five miles per hour over 60 is equivalent to paying an extra 10 cents per gallon for gas according to the Alliance to Save Energy. So slow down.
CHADWICK: Is it true that if you use cruise control while you're driving, at least over distances, that that's going to help you save money?
SINGLETARY: Absolutely. There's a wonderful Web site that I use personally for research, Edmunds.com, and they did a test. They tested all these sort of tried-and-true things, and one of them is that cruise control absolutely saves you money. In fact, you can improve the miles you get per gallon by as much as 14 percent by using cruise control.
CHADWICK: I would love the answer to this: I'm driving along on, say, a highway where I can do pretty decent speed. Is it cheaper to drive with the windows down, which creates air disturbance on the car, or to drive with the air conditioner, which must use more gas?
SINGLETARY: I'll tell you this question has caused lots of fights--men and women, buddies--and again, Edmunds.com tested some of these myths of car-saving tips and found that--You know what?--either way, the savings is the same, not much.
CHADWICK: You mean, all these years of being so cheap and not using the air conditioner just hasn't been worth it?
SINGLETARY: And you know I was right there hot with you, so I'm turning on my air.
CHADWICK: OK. All right. And more people are paying at the--buying gasoline with credit cards. Is that a bad idea, do you think?
SINGLETARY: As the price of gas goes up, so does the number of people who are paying with plastic. In fact, the National Association of Convenience Stores found that--they estimate that 70 percent of all purchases are now paid with plastic and there's a significant jump as the price of gas goes up.
The problem with that is is that if you can't afford to pay that bill off next month--and the reason why a lot of people are using their credit cards is because they can't afford the gas--that's going to dig yourself deeper in debt. So you need to resist that, and that may mean reducing how much you drive; it may mean joining a car pool, taking public transportation. But paying with plastic, if you can't afford to pay cash, is not the answer.
CHADWICK: OK. And you have a new idea. This is new to me anyway: car sharing.
SINGLETARY: It's a great concept. It's growing. There's two major companies that are involved in this, Flexcar and Zipcar. In fact, Steve Case, the co-founder of America Online, believes so much in this trend that he bought a controlling interest in Flexcar. And basically, car sharing is like time sharing, you know, vacation timesharing; you share a car. The difference is that you don't have ownership in the car, but you also don't have the fees that come along with parking or cleaning or maintenance. And here's the best thing about car sharing: You don't have to pay for gas. That is included in the fee that it costs to get the car.
CHADWICK: Michelle Singletary writes The Color of Money column for The Washington Post. She's regular personal finance contributor to DAY TO DAY.
Michelle, thank you.
SINGLETARY: You're so welcome.
BRAND: That interview by DAY TO DAY's Alex Chadwick.
NPR's DAY TO DAY continues. I'm Madeleine Brand.