Now that you've spruced up, baby-proofed, buffed and toughed up your vehicle, there's just one element left to get you going -- the gasoline! In this ever-evolving world, it's getting easier and quicker to find the best prices for petrol.
Before you even go comparison shopping for gas, it's advised that you try some of these methods to give you more bang for your buck. GasBuddy.com has compiled a helpful list of 10 ways to up your car's fuel efficiency.
Among the tricks of the trade is "defensive driving instead of offensive driving," according to GasBuddy.com's senior petroleum analyst, Patrick DeHaan. "Americans are in a hurry," he says, but slowing down allows for better gasoline performance. According to the website, driving 62 mph versus 75 mph reduces fuel consumption by about 15 percent.
Other handy recommendations?
Don't ride the brakes. Excessive acceleration and then forceful braking can wreak havoc on a vehicle.
Service your auto regularly. This includes properly inflating the tires.
It's best to keep the windows rolled up to reduce wind resistance, but also try to use the air conditioner less.
Once those tactics are put to use, it's time to fill 'er up. Oil companies and consumer sites such as GasBuddy.com are aware of how dependent people are on mobile technology these days, so many entities have created applications for finding cheap gas prices. Whether you have an iPhone, a BlackBerry, an Android or another smart phone, there's an app for you. Most employ GPS tracking to find the closest filling stations to you, but from there, the options vary.
GasBuddy's free mobile program serves the basic function of locating nearby gas stations, with some added perks. "Our app is fairly in-depth," DeHaan says. You not only can find stations but also can get routed to a station. "If you're traveling, you can load up an interactive map to see whether prices are cheaper down the road."
This application -- which is now available for the iPhone, Windows Phone and Android -- also features carwashes and other related amenities.
Poynt, an all-encompassing free search program that also scours movie theaters and restaurants, offers its own gas guide.
"Gas prices obviously sit right in there because if you're out running errands and you're running low, there you go," says Poynt's Margaret Glover-Campbell, vice president of marketing and public relations. She believes the feature that sets Poynt apart from the competition is that one can search by radius and gasoline type, including ethanol blends and other alternative fuels. Poynt's application works with iPhone, Android, Windows and BlackBerry.
Gas stations themselves are coming out with locator apps. Murphy USA, which has more than 1,000 stores in 21 states, has a free program that offers instant coupons and allows comparison shopping with other companies. It is currently available for the iPhone and Android platforms.
Warehouse and club stores are increasingly offering discounted gas, too. According to SmartMoney.com, these retailers sell for about 10 cents less per gallon than regular gas stations. But is it worth the price of membership? DeHaan says it can be for certain people.
"If you time it right, the yearly membership will pay for itself by getting gasoline," he says. "If you need gasoline every week, you may want to look into it."
The SmartMoney article concurs. Those who would benefit most from membership are frequent commuters and families who buy hundreds of dollars' worth of groceries each month. In regard to the big names, a Costco basic membership costs $50 annually, and a basic membership at Sam's Club costs $40 a year.
Some supermarket conglomerates, such as Kroger and Safeway, also are getting into the gas business, minus the membership fees. One can garner further price reductions by swiping a club card, which is free to obtain.
Whatever kind of gas your car guzzles, there are multiple ways of finding a bargain -- which we're going to need as summer creeps near and gasoline prices begin to soar.