Drivers still care about car costs

February 10, 2015 10:29 AM

When gas prices started dropping toward the end of 2014, many drivers thought it was just a lucky happenstance. However, these expenses kept falling - and motorists continued reaping the rewards. With more money to spend on everything from auto tune ups to vacations, people should have a lot of discretionary income, but that's not stopping them from worrying about car-related costs. 

Prices are up in February
In AAA's most recent report, the organization noted that the average price of a gallon of gas continued to increase in February. As of Feb. 9, the national average was $2.18 per gallon, which marks a 12 cent increase since last week. However, it is still much less than at this time last year, when consumers were coughing up approximately $3.29 per gallon. 

This slight increase was expected by many experts. According to AAA, the second month of the year usually marks the start of steady price growth leading up to summer. Oil production is also lower around the world as many refineries schedule maintenance, which decreases supply and raises demand. 

Still, there are deals to be found. AAA reported that five states have averages below $2 per gallon, and 39 are under the $2.25 mark. The only region to post an average price above $3 is Hawaii. 

Drivers embrace low costs
Although the average expenses are still lower than in recent years, drivers aren't quite ready to open their wallets. The National Association of Convenience Stores recently released a report noting that drivers are willing to go above and beyond to find cheaper gas prices.

Approximately three-fourths of drivers say price is the No. 1 factor they consider when deciding where to buy gas. More than 3 in 5 people said they would drive an extra five minutes to save 5 cents on a gallon of gas. Additionally, about 72 percent stated they would restrict themselves to cash only for the same savings, and two-thirds said they would participate in a loyalty or rewards program for discounts. 

"It doesn't matter whether gas prices are $4.00 or $2.00 per gallon, consumers still want to find the best price possible," said Jeff Lenard, NACS vice president of strategic industry initiatives. "Retailers are constantly fighting to attract price-sensitive drivers to their stores, especially given that 35 percent of gas customers say that they also go inside the store after fueling." 

Save money with maintenance
One of the best ways to save more on gas - regardless of national averages - is to ensure a vehicle is operating at maximum fuel efficiency. Properly inflated tires can have a massive impact on this, so drivers should be sure to check the wheels regularly. This is also a good time to examine the tread and guarantee no extra energy is being wasted. 

There's still more motorists can do. Avoiding idling is a must, as is splurging for any needed auto repair. Preventative maintenance and a timely response to any issues can prevent simple bugs from blossoming into significant and expensive hiccups. 

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