Gas hikes driving you nuts? Some tips to help

Gas prices are seen in Montreal on February 28, 2012. Near record high pump prices may cause some Canadians to rethink whether car ownership is worth the soaring cost of commuting. But for those who simply can't sacrifice their vehicles, a few smaller changes can save hundreds of dollars.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

TORONTO - With gasoline prices at the pump near record highs, some Canadians are rethinking whether car ownership is worth the soaring cost.

But for those who simply can't sacrifice their vehicles, a few smaller changes can save hundreds of dollars.

Julian Jean-Pierre, a 36-year-old landlord who moves a lot of furniture around Toronto to his rental apartments, says high pump prices have him wishing he could walk or use public transit more often, but that's just not realistic for him.

He says a big squeeze from high pump prices in the past few weeks is forcing him to cut back in other areas.

"I have less money to spend with my family and stuff. It seems like everyday I'm paying more and more," Jean-Pierre says.

"I'm saving my change more, collecting more pennies and emptying my pocket and trying to put that toward my disposable income."

Consumers in central Canada recently saw gasoline prices spike and analysts say that's not the end. Prices are expected to push higher to as much as $1.50 a litre before the summer.

That has budget-minded and debt-loaded Canadians worried about how cope with not only a spike in pump prices but the related effects on grocery, taxi and flight prices — among other changes consumers will have to deal with.

Here are some tips from Jim Davidson, gas savings expert and author of 75 Ways to Save on Gas:

— Reduce the number of trips taken by car: try cycling, taking public transit or an auto sharing program that includes the price of gas.

— Rethink the time of day you're travelling, is it worth the gas to sit in rush hour traffic for a bag of milk?

— Slow down! Most vehicles get maximum fuel efficiency around 93 kilometres per hour. "Every ten kilometres you go over 93, you're burning 10 per cent more fuel," Davidson says.

—Turn off the air conditioning/defroster unless it's completely necessary — it can use up to 20 per cent more gas.

— Service your car regularly, vehicles that are out of shape can use between 10 per cent and 35 per cent more gas.

— Pay attention to your tires, each underinflated tire can waste up to five per cent more gas. "Last time I tried to ride a bicycle with underinflated tires, It was really tiring, so it's the same concept," Davidson says. Make sure they are properly inflated, but don't overinflate either, he advises.

— Don't idle. Get off your car seat and walk in for that early morning coffee rather than sitting in the drive-through line.

Jason Toews, co-founder of gas price complication website GasBuddy.com, adds these tips:

— Do your research before you fill up. Gas prices can vary by as much as 10 cents a litre even within the same city. Websites like GasBuddy and others can point out the cheapest stations in a given region. "It's a huge savings just knowing where to fill up," Toews says, adding choosing the right station can save $20 or more each time.

— Plan a road trip route that goes through the U.S. "You're going to save money on gas by driving through the U.S. because it's roughly 33 per cent cheaper in the U.S. right now," Toews says.

— Flying is not necessarily the better option. Air fares are also affected by higher prices for jet fuel. Calculate the costs, which can be cheaper if you find a seat sale or book before new fuel surcharges kick in.

— Choose a more fuel efficient vehicle. Many Canadians are trading in their old gas guzzlers for smaller, more fuel efficient choices. Although a new car may seem extravagant, a decade-old pickup truck could be too costly to keep.

For example, he says, a round trip from Vancouver to Toronto (about 8,800 kilometres) in a Chevy Silverado pickup truck costs about $1,044. He says the same trip in a Toyota Prius car would cost about $438.