Top 10 Habits that can increase your fuel economy

Okay, we’ve talked about these gasoline/fuel economy habits many times before, but with the cost of gas still over $3.50 a gallon at many pumps around the country, we figured it was time to write about them again. Enjoy.

First, you should definitely drive slower. The simple fact is that as your speed increases, the “drag” on your car or truck increases as well. For example, if you drive 62 miles an hour rather than 75, you can actually reduce the amount of fuel that your car uses by nearly 15% just because of reduced friction.

When it comes to speeding up and slowing down, neither is good to do in excess. Basically what you need to do is anticipate traffic, traffic lights and stop signs in order to accelerate and brake moderately. This can increase your fuel economy by nearly 20%. This in turn helps you to increase the amount of money in your checking account.

Keeping your tires properly inflated is one of the easiest things you can do to save money at the gas pumps. Simply check the level recommended by either your vehicle manufacturer (in the instruction manual) or the company that manufactured the tires that you purchased to replace the original, factory tires. This can help increase your fuel economy from 1% to 3%.

While the jury is still out on whether or not using the AC increases or decreases fuel economy, it’s definitely well known that having your windows open at highway speeds increases drag and decreases your fuel economy upwards of 10%.

If you can avoid long idling times, especially over one minute, you will definitely save money as idling the car for longer than 60 seconds uses more fuel than stopping and then restarting it.

One of the best things you can do to increase your fuel economy is simply to have your car or truck serviced regularly. Things like dirty air filters, low fluid levels and spark plugs that aren’t functioning correctly will get replaced if you maintain your car correctly.

Another great way to save gasoline is to use cruise control.  If you can maintain a constant speed over a long distance, your car or truck will definitely use less gas.

Keeping the amount of junk in your car to the minimum is also a great way to save on fuel. The heavier your car is the more gas it will use,  so make sure to take out anything you might have put in there over the winter to give you better traction and just don’t drive around with a lot of stuff in your car.

Finally, the very biggest and best way to save money is simply to purchase a car or truck that is fuel efficient.

OK, now you’re all set again.  Don’t make us repeat ourselves for a while if you please, and happy motoring.

The Diverse Market of Alternative Fuel Vehicles

A new infographic from British motor retail dealership Motorparks analyses the diverse market that exists with alternative fuel vehicles.

The visual charts the recent successes of both electric- and hydrogen-powered vehicles, which have seen their popularity peak over the past few years and shows that petrol and diesel are no longer the only options people have when purchasing their next car.

As well as looking at the recent history of electric and hydrogen vehicles, the visual also points out that both of these concepts can trace their origins back to the early years of the 19th century.

For more details, view the entire infographic below:

The future of Alternative fuels - v2 (3)

Why You Should Open an Offshore Savings Account

Offshore banking has long been an ominous and mysterious thing, often thought of as bank accounts for the super rich or secret spies. In reality, offshore banking is utilized by everyday folks like you and I. A very simple definition of offshore banking is simple, it literally means to hold a bank account outside of your home country. If you live in the US then it means you have an account in a country outside of the US. Most countries that offer offshore banking tend to have favorable tax laws that make them low cost operations and thus favorable for banks to operate. Favorable tax laws are sort of a two-fold benefit. The first benefit is that offshore savings accounts tend to enjoy higher interest earning rates because of the lower operating costs. Second, the favorable tax laws usually mean these countries are tax havens for outside investors. They can safely store their money in a favorable tax environment and often times pay less in taxes than they would in their home country.

Being a favorable tax haven is nice, but it is certainly not the only benefit of offshore banking. Consider that you can hold your savings in other types of currency. Holding all of your money in your own domestic currency leaves you open to a lot of risk. We diversify our investment portfolios and other asset holdings, why wouldn’t we want to have a proper mix of currencies as well? Over the past few years we have seen currencies like the US dollar strengthen significantly and other currencies like the Euro and Pound have a reverse in fortunes. Just a few years ago the opposite was the case. This easily illustrates why you need to have an even basket of currencies.

Another benefit of offshore banking is that it is easier to invest in local stocks and real estate when you have a financial presence in that country already. Due to a mixture of laws and regulations, most local governments are more lenient on people that have accounts in the country they are trying to invest within. In the US, if you want to purchase real estate and try to use money from another country as a down payment you can often be rejected or pay additional fees. However, the regulations and restrictions are far fewer if you hold savings in the US already.

As you can see there are many benefits to be had with offshore bank accounts!

Top 5 Tips for Buying the Right Boat for summer

Summer is fast approaching and with it the urge to get out on the water, whether that water happens to be a lake, river or the ocean, and take advantage of all that mother nature has to offer.

The best way to do that is with a boat, if your budget can afford it, and today’s blog will help you to do just that and purchase a boat that fits your budget. Enjoy.

1) Your very first task should be to visit a large boat show. Boat shows are truly the best place to see a large number of different types and styles of boats, as well as different sizes, so that you can see all of the different prices, options and so forth. Having all of this information will allow you to make a much better decision on which boat/engine combination to purchase. A boat show is also an excellent place to meet lots of boating experts who can guide you in your decision.

2) Take your time. A boat is a large and expensive purchase and something you will likely have for many years. If you take care of it well, you may also be able to pass it onto your children. Point being, take your time making a decision on what type of boat to purchase so that you’re satisfied with that decision for the next few years (at least).

3) If you’re new to boating, definitely look into taking a boating safety course. The simple fact is this; while it might steer like a car, a boat handles much differently than an automobile and, if you don’t know how to handle it correctly, you could easily cause an accident or worse.

4) Keep in mind that their are a lot of additional costs when it comes to owning a boat. If you don’t have somewhere to keep it, you will need to either rent a space in a storage lot or a “slip” at a marina, both of which are relatively expensive monthly costs. Also, if you purchase gasoline from a marina, you can expect the price to be at least 30% higher than at your local gas station. Boating accessories like water skis, fishing rods, life jackets and so forth also will add to the cost, sometimes significantly.

5) If possible, take a test drive. Referring back to #2, a boat is something you will hold onto for many years. That’s why, whenever possible, you should definitely take it out for a test drive to make sure that you like the way it handles before you make your purchase decision.

And there you have them, 5 excellent tips that should help you to make the right decision when on a new boat. We wish you happy and safe boating!

2015 Will be a Great Year for Road Trips!

Consider this; during the Memorial Day weekend of 2014, gas prices were an average of $3.58 a gallon across the United States. This year? $2.35 a gallon!

According to cheapest gas station finding app GasBuddy.com, gas prices will even be lower then they previously forecasted for this summer. Their senior petroleum analyst, Patrick DeHaan, says that “Both numbers would represent the lowest summer prices in a decade”, referring to the estimated $2.45 a a gallon predicted by the Energy Information Administration and the $2.40 that GasBuddy predicted.

All around the United States drivers have been saving money over the last few months thanks to seriously lower gas prices. In fact, in a recent survey, nearly 20% of drivers reported that they were saving between $20 and $30 every time they filled their gas tanks, which can add up quite quickly.

Mr. DeHaan says that “The summer of 2015 will see the national average come in at a seasonal level we haven’t approached since 2005”,

The only bad news is that, as far as gasoline savings are concerned, the only place that most consumers will be able to reap the benefits is when they fill up their automobiles at the local gas station. As far as airline prices there won’t be much of the break because most airlines buy their fuel ahead of time.

That being said, the good feelings that most consumers have about these extra low prices that we’re seeing at the pumps of these days won’t soon fade as they are expected to stay below $2.40 through the end of Labor Day.

So, if you’re planning a trip this summer and it’s within driving distance, it’s going to be one of the cheapest summers in a decade to get there! Go ahead, pack up the family and hit the road!

Why are oil and gas prices dropping and will the trend continue?

For the first time in almost 4 years the price of a gallon of gas has fallen below $3.00 on average across the nation, according to AAA. While consumers certainly aren’t complaining about the lower prices at the pump, many are still concerned that it will only be short-lived.

Bob Darbelnet, the CEO of AAA, said in a recent press statement that “The steep decline in gas prices has helped to make driving less expensive for the vast majority of Americans use their car every day,” adding that “many Americans are spending $10-$20 less to fill up the cars on every trip to the gas station compared to what they paid during the summer driving season.”

So when gas prices fall, people pay less money for gas at the pumps. Thank you for that keen insight, Captain Obvious.

Some of the factors that are helping to drive the price of gasoline lower were looked at recently by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) and, according to them, one of the reasons is that the domestic production of oil in the United States has grown from 5.6 million barrels per day to 7.4 million barrels per day.

The EIA is also projecting what they say is going to be “rapid production growth” through the end of 2014 and into 2015, but admitted that the pace and duration of America’s oil production boom is uncertain.

Amy Jaffe, the executive director for energy and sustainability at the University of California, Davis says that “I don’t think consumers are out of the woods,” in terms of what’s going to happen with gasoline prices.  Jaffe added that “I think we could  see very high gasoline prices again in the next couple of years if something went wrong in the Middle East, for example.”

It seems that, even though Halloween has passed, Ms. Jaffe and Mr. Darbelnet are both still trying to win the prize for best Captain Obvious costume.

Luckily both are optimistic that the prices will continue to fall due to the combination of historic production levels right now in the United States along with a number of new, renewable energy technologies. These new technologies will, if things go well, deliver cheaper and more sustainable supplies of power more dependably.

In fact, once a breakthrough in technology is finally found regarding batteries, as far as their cost and efficiency, Jaffe believes that alternative power like wind and solar will come into its own and give the oil industry a run for its money. She even went so far as to say that, at some point in the future, many communities will voluntarily remove themselves from the local electrical grid and rely on their own alternative power instead.

That being said, the fact is that oil, and the gas prices that depend on it, is geopolitical. It’s impossible to say that consumers don’t have any more worries about the cost of gasoline going back up.

The good news is that, according to Jaffe and other experts, the price of a barrel of oil is going to drop to around $50 in the near future, and prices at the pump will subsequently fall even lower. So, for the time being at least, American consumers have something to be happy about at the gas pumps.

Beware of Faulty Gas Pumps

Normally when you swipe your credit or debit card at the gas station, you expect that the pump is going to work correctly and give you the gas that you paid for. With gas prices hovering around $3.50 a gallon across the country, the last thing anyone wants is to have to pay extra because of a pump problem, but that’s just what a gentleman in Kansas City faced recently when pumping his gas.

Haley wasn’t too happy after he stopped for gas at a station at North 13th Street and Quindaro Boulevard in Kansas City, KS, earlier this spring.

Haley says the pump jumped 10 cents before he even squeezed the handle.

“They said, ‘we’ll give you your dime back,’ or whatever, but I said, ‘that’s not the point,'” Haley said.

Haley said he reported it to the station. The clerk offered a refund, but nothing was done to the pump.

“People will see me and share with me different places where it happens to them, it’s probably not just one place where it’s happening,” Haley said.

That was when Haley contacted KCTV5 investigative reporter Eric Chaloux to look into the matter.

KCTV5 News made two trips to the station to purchase gas at the same pump that was giving Haley problems.

During one purchase, the pump jumped 4 cents. The next visit days later, the pump jumped once again by 4 cents.

Chaloux went into the gas station to alert the clerk to the pump jump problem.

“I just used your pump 1, and it jumped before I pumped any gas in,” Chaloux said.

The clerk said he would let his boss know and kindly offered a refund for the pump jump.

At the time KCTV5 was at the station, there wasn’t a bag placed over the problem pump.

Therefore, KCTV5 filed a complaint with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, the agency that oversees fuel station inspections.

An investigator was later dispatched to the station, and determined that it was a worn valve at the end of the nozzle that caused the pump to jump.

“They (valve) don’t go all the way shut, which allows product to drain out of there. When the next person comes along, they turn on the device. If the hose has been drained a bit, it records a sale,” said Lewis Hutfles, an inspector with the Kansas Division of Weights and Measures.

With high gas prices, drivers want to make sure what they pay for makes it into their tank.

KCTV5 discovered that it depends on where people live as to how often an inspector checks a pump for accuracy and quality.

If drivers fill up in Johnson or Wyandotte counties, the state has a private contractor who inspects all the pumps within 12 months.

For the rest of the Kansas counties around the metro, an inspector only checks the pumps once every 18 months. There are eight inspectors, including five state workers and three contractors, to inspect the state’s 31,804 pumps at 1,980 gas stations.

The National Conference on Weights and Measures found that during July 2010 through June 2011, Kansas inspectors found a number of miscalculated pumps.

If those corrections had not been made, consumers would have spent nearly $2.3 million on gas they never received.

For the state of Kansas to close a gas pump, there is plus or minus of a six-cubic inch tolerance of gas that basically breaks down to around half a cup of fuel either extra or short before it is shut down.

“I mean it’s pretty strict, and it’s amazing they do hold it, there are some that do need to be calibrated from time to time,” Hutfles said.

In Missouri, gas pumps are checked more often. Under state statue inspectors check every pump, once every six months.

A Missouri Department of Agriculture spokeswoman told KCTV5 that the state has an out-of-tolerance pump rate of 1.94 percent with 64 percent in favor of the consumer, for an estimated additional value of $1 million per year for the consumer.

After Haley’s experience, he feels that every consumer needs to be on alert at the pumps for any possible problems.

“Vigilance is important for the consumer,” he said. “The consumer really has to pay attention wherever you are.”

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

“I’d seen videos on the Internet before where this happened, but I always thought it was fake,” said Josh Ishmael, who lives in Olathe. What Ishmael is referring to is that his pump wasn’t actually working and pumping gas, but the meter was still going and charging him more money. Ishmael said that it wasn’t charging a lot but that the meter was still counting up. As he put it “74 cents is still 74 cents.”

Good point.

Ishmael took a video of the ‘pump shenanigans’ and sent them to a local TV station, KCTV5, who took the video to the owner of the station for an explanation. The owner refused to talk on camera but instead went out and check the pumps personally, finding that the nozzle for the regular gas worked fine but that the E85 gas nozzle indeed was functioning incorrectly. He then made a promise to get the pump ‘checked out’ and bagged it so that no other drivers could use that particular pump.

Unfortunately, what happened that gas station in Olathe, Kansas is something that’s happening at other gas stations around the state, and the country. In other parts of Kansas for example, including Johnson and Wyandotte County, a reporter for KCTV5 found that gas pumps are inspected once a year as opposed to the rest of the state where they are checked every 18 months. This more frequent checking helps to make sure that the pumps are functioning correctly and are charging customers correctly as well.

There have been various reports from around the country about gas station owners actually tampering with their pumps in order to give less gasoline and get more money, but in this case it seems that the pump was actually faulty. However, in many states the top complaint being made by consumers this summer has to do with accuracy of gas pumps, followed closely by fuel quality problems.

All of which means that, even if you find the cheapest gas station in town, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the gas pump while you’re pumping your gas. That will help you to make sure that it’s functioning correctly and actually giving you the right amount of gas for the right price.

The Top Gasoline Saving Tip, Revisited

Unless you’ve been living on a desert island and haven’t been surfing the Internet for the last decade or so, you’ve no doubt seen dozens of articles about how to save gasoline when driving your automobile. In fact, you’ve probably seen a few of those right here on this blog.

Today’s blog isn’t more of the same, per se, but instead a simple reiteration of the very best gasoline saving tip that most people aren’t using.

For example, you’ve no doubt already heard that speeding, jackrabbit starts and letting your engine idle for long periods of time are very wasteful, gasoline-wise. But, here’s the one thing that wastes the most gas; changing speeds.

Here’s a fact; every time you increase speed you use gasoline and, every time you hit the brakes to slow down at have to accelerate again, you use even more. (Duh, right?)

What most drivers don’t realize however is that they waste even more gasoline than they should by speeding up more than they should and then, almost immediately, using the brakes more than they should as well. The reasons for this happening are various, including tailgating, not doing enough to see what’s coming (i.e. red lights) and speeding up as you approach a red light instead of using your car’s momentum to take you to the next stop.

Think about it; how many times have you seen someone speed past you as you approach a red light, only to slam on their brakes and have to slow down abruptly? That nasty little habit is wasting a huge amount of gas, especially when driving in the city.

Simply put, the more you have to use your brakes, the more gas you’re wasting, because you could have used your car’s momentum to get there instead.

Getting to the red light faster and then having to stop abruptly makes no sense whatsoever if you think about it, because it doesn’t get you to your final destination any faster. It’s not all that good for your brakes either, because the more you have to use them the faster they wear down and need to be replaced.

So there you go. Changing speeds is the most wasteful habit when driving, and learning how to use your car’s momentum to your advantage is the best way to save gasoline.

It might take some getting used to, especially if you’re a nervous driver who’s always in a rush, but if saving gasoline is your goal, learning how to use your car’s momentum is the key to achieving that goal.

Top 5 Tips for Purchasing a Used Motorcycle

Riding motorcycles is an excellent pastime/hobby and, for many, a way of life. On the other hand, for most it is definitely not a necessity but instead a luxury and, for those of us on a budget (i.e. most of us), purchasing a new bike should be done as carefully and cautiously as possible.

With that in mind, here are the Top 5 Tips that you should keep in mind when purchasing a used motorcycle so that you get the best cycle for your money, and have the least troubles down the road (pun intended).

Tip #1: When you test drive any motorcycle, make sure the engine’s cold.

The reason for Tip #1 is simple; a motorcycle that’s been running and it is “warmed up” will crank up much more easily then a cold engine will and, consequently, might hide a lot of tuning and engine issues. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t purchase a motorcycle that doesn’t crank up right away, only that you should certainly ask about lowering the price a bit because, if it needs to be tuned, that’s going to cost you extra money.

Tip #2: The more money being asked for the motorcycle, the more questions you should ask as well.

If you’re looking at an older motorcycle at an excellent price, asking a million questions might seem quite rude because, let’s face it, you pretty much know exactly what you’re getting and you’re getting it at a great price. On the other hand, if the price is quite high, you have all the rights in the world to ask as many questions as possible before you spend your money, and should ask those questions before making a decision.

Tip #3: Ask a mechanic to take a look at before purchasing

Just like with an automobile, you should take your motorcycle to an excellent mechanic, (someone you actually know would be a great idea if possible) and get their opinion before making a purchase. Unless you’re an expert mechanic yourself, they’ll be able to point out possible (or actual) problems that you should know about.

Tip #4: Do your research

It takes practically no effort at all today to research something online. Unless you know a brand/model/year of motorcycle very well, researching it online to find out if that model/ brand/year was a good one or not is definitely a good idea, and may save you a lot of misery.

Tip #5: Check with the DMV in your State

Calling the DMV to verify the current titleholder’s name, and making sure that they’re the actual owner/titleholder, is a must. You can also find out how much it will cost to register your motorcycle and, more importantly, make sure it’s not stolen.

Coming Soon to a Pump Near You: Natural Gas

For the last hundred or so years Americans, as well as the rest of the civilized world, have relied on gas powered vehicles to get around. Although there are a number of biofuel programs attempting to lower our gasoline consumption, the fact is that the United States is still overwhelmingly dependent on gasoline.

Several companies however are developing new vehicles that run on natural gas. Called NGVs, they will help Americans to use a type of fuel that is less costly, leaves a smaller environmental footprint and has more energy content than gasoline.

The driving force behind using natural gas is, most obviously, price. A 1 gallon equivalent, meaning enough natural gas to have the same energy as 1 gallon of gasoline, is just about two dollars per gallon, making it the second cheapest fuel source besides electricity. That puts it well below biodiesel, ethanol and diesel and gives it a price that you have to go back over 10 years to match.

Price is a key reason that many commercial trucking fleets are turning to compressed natural gas (CNG) in droves, and, while there is certainly plenty of work that needs to be done before NGVs represent a larger share of the United States commercial transportation fleet, it represents an opportunity to greatly lower the cost of shipping goods across the country.

Nearly one in every five transit buses in service today around the country already runs on natural gas and 2000 are already being used in Los Angeles County, saving over 300 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions every single day and over 600,000 per year. This has also reduced particulate matter by nearly 80% in comparison to buses that run on diesel fuel

Another reason that compressed natural gas is such an excellent alternative is that it has a much higher energy content than gasoline. For example, while “premium” gasoline usually has an octane rating of 91, CNG is usually around 130, which is rather impressive if you think about it. It also gets better fuel economy than gasoline even though the technology hasn’t even been perfected yet.

Lastly and, for lovers of the “green movement”, possibly most importantly, is the fact that compressed natural gas leaves a much smaller environmental footprint than gasoline. When compared to other petroleum-based fuels, natural gas;

  • Lowers particulate matter by nearly 77%
  • Reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by almost 94%
  • Has 55% less volatile organic compound emissions
  • Reduces carbon monoxide emissions by almost 90%
  • Has 29% less greenhouse gas emissions

All of these factors make natural gas vehicles a natural, if incomplete, remedy for the problems caused by gasoline powered vehicles. It will take a number of years until they really take over the market but, when you consider the efforts being made to change the infrastructure of the chain from natural gas drillers to suppliers and automakers, that day is fast approaching.

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