Ways to save on gas this summer

If you drive regularly or are planning a road trip this summer, your wallet can take a beating at the pump.

The number of cars hitting the roads this Memorial Day weekend will rise 1 percent to 1.5 percent over last year, says Lori Jo Simmons, travel manager in the Charleston area for AAA Carolinas. The good news is that the prices have dropped about 30 cents since this time last year and AAA predicts they will continue to inch down.

“As long as there’s not a hurricane in the Gulf or any violence in the Middle East,” she says. “Those are things that change the price per barrel.”

Hurricane or not, here are some tips to save on fuel this summer.

Getting regular oil changes and keeping your tires inflated will help any vehicle get better gas mileage, Simmons says.

Simmons suggests servicing your car about two weeks before a road trip in case anything needs to be tweaked or changed.

Even emptying the trunk can help. Getting rid of an extra 100 pounds of weight will improve fuel economy by as much as 3 percent, says Darin Allison, local facilities operator for AAA.

Changing your air filter every 10,000 miles or as needed can save $270 a year, Allison says. One quick way to check it yourself, he says, is to hold it up to the light: If you can see light through it, air can get through it; if you can’t, then you need to change it.

Gradual takeoff, maintaining the speed limit and avoiding quick stops- and-goes also can lower fuel usage, Simmons says.

Also, slowing down will not only keep you from a costly speeding ticket but can save you on gas. Each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional 30 cents per gallon, according to Fueleconomy.gov.

The American ExpressCard and Costco Membership Card in one, which doesn’t charge an annual fee to Costco members, offers 3 percent cash back for the first $3,000 in annual gas purchases (after that, 1 percent) and 2 percent for travel and more.

Grocery stores also are offering gas discounts. For example, Bi-Lo has its Fuelperks program (www.bi-lo.com/fuelperks) and Publix often offers $50 gas cards for $40 when you buy $25 in groceries.

Email Shannon Brigham at charlestonsavvyshopper@post?andcourier.com. Visit www.post?andcourier.com/savvyshopper to follow the Savvy Shopper blog and more. Follow @chssavvyshopper on Twitter or find us on Facebook.