How can you save money on road trips when gas prices skyrocket?

The price of gas seemed to be going to achieve escape velocity and go into orbit recently... For those of you not into NASA jargon, that's gas at more than $5 a gallon. Even now, when the upward pressure seems to have eased, it can still be a shock to the credit card every time you fill up the tank. Which does force us to wonder whether we should abandon the idea of a driving vacation. Just think back to the time when we were young, we could jump in the car and drive off on a whim. It only cost a few dollars to drive several thousand miles. Now it can cost one-hundred dollars to fill up one tank. That's a big change but one we have to keep in perspective. In the 1990s, a gallon of regular gas would cost you $1.36. Today you would expect to pay about $4.30. In 1990, the average worker earned about $20,000. In 2012, the same worker would be earning about $40,000. So although gas price has gone up three-fold, average incomes have doubled. It's still more expensive to put gas in your tank, but not quite as bad, particularly when you consider modern vehicles are far more fuel efficient than they were twenty years ago. So where does this get us?

If you are going on a road trip, you should look carefully at the make and model of the vehicle you propose to rent. Ask for vehicles with good storage space for all the additional "stuff" you need to carry, but with the best mileage you can find. Instead of renting an SUV that goes through a tank of gas like it's not having to pay the bills, you could take less "stuff" and rent a hybrid. For those of you who have never driven a hybrid, this can be an educational introduction. Within minutes you learn how difficult it is not to watch the real-time mileage reports. That really encourages the driver to learn how to make driving the most economical activity in the world. Then there's how you buy the gas. Look around the credit card offers for the best cash-back for fuel. In this, be alert. Some only show the headline percentage in big print but double the reward for use in buying gas and groceries. If you shop wisely, you can usually find cash-back offers of 5% so, if you were looking at gas prices of about $4.30 per gallon, the actual cost comes down to $4.03.

Talk to a number of car rental companies to find the most fuel-efficient vehicles available. Plus, while looking around for the best cash-back offers, also look for credit card providers offering the best insurance deals on rental vehicles. Beacuse the car rental companies are usually trying to sell you their own insurance... So pay by the credit card you've picked and refuse their insurance offers.

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