Rising cost of gas has some looking for extra work, limiting travel

13 June 2022

As gas prices across the Triangle approach $5 per gallon, drivers are more reluctant to fill up, leaving some stranded with empty tanks and other simply deciding to stay closer to home.

“I am thinking I need to stop driving as much,” Robert Rouse told WRAL News as he topped off his tank.

Phillip Locke said he’s been budgeting money and gas, only buying a few gallons at a time.

“Just enough to get through a couple of days and then I do it again,” he said.

With price fluctuating (but mostly rising) daily, Locke is taking a chance. And drivers who let their tank get too close to empty risk an even higher cost, according to Joey Menditto, with Benchmark Auto in Raleigh.

“You try to keep it above a quarter [tank] in most cars,” Menditto said.

Anything less can cause structural problems.

“The fuel actually keeps the fuel pump cool, and with the temperature outside and everything else you are going to burn the pump up, and it’s going to fail, and you are going to be on the side of the road waiting for the tow truck to come get you,” Menditto said.

A new fuel pump, he says, could run upwards of a thousand dollars.

Rouse has traded in much of his city driving for walking or biking.

“Once the gas prices got around $4.20, that’s when it significantly impacted my life and my lifestyle,” he said. “I am using my bike more frequently than I ever have.”

North Carolina’s average – $4.66 per gallon according to AAA – is 52 cents more than just a month ago, and $1.78 more than what we were paying a year ago. The price of diesel is even more painful: $5.76 a gallon, up from $3.07 a year ago.

Menditto reminded drivers that how they drive can impact how fuel efficient a car can be.

“Try to just ease into the throttle and use the brakes less,” he said. “Every time you hit the gas pedal you have to use the brakes, too.”

Read up on ways to save gas and check out these other tips from AAA:

  • Combine errands to limit driving time.
  • Shop around for the best gas prices in your community.
  • Pay with cash. Some retailers charge extra per gallon for customers who pay with a credit card.
  • Remove excess weight in your vehicle. Every 100 pounds taken out of the vehicle improves fuel economy by 1-2 percent.
  • Drive conservatively. Aggressive acceleration and speeding reduces fuel economy.

Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, said to expect prices to continue to rise until enough drivers change their habits to reduce demand.

North Carolina State University economist Mike Walden said, after the pandemic, drivers don’t want to be in the house all the time. They still want to get out, so they are trying to earn more money to pay for current gas prices.

Instead of filling up their tanks whenever they need to, instead, more drivers are setting a weekly gas limit.

Walden said experts are looking at how people are behaving with a new lens.

If you are thinking about a second job, think fast. Walden expects fewer job openings in the coming months due to the government trying to deal with inflation.

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