My family is planning a long drive for Thanksgiving. What suggestions do you have for keeping the trip as inexpensive as possible? - Tim Traveler
Dear Mr. Traveler: After researching your question, I've come up with a few goodies that will help you in your travels.
• Always follow the "half tank" rule. Mechanics warn of gasoline evaporation when it's exposed to air. In other words, the more empty space in the tank, the faster it goes away. So your best bet is to fill up when the tank ticker reaches the halfway mark. (This is good advice anyway so you won't be caught on a dark road at night with an empty tank.)
• Are you a warehouse member at Costco or Sam's? If not, you're missing a great opportunity to buy gas more cheaply (usually). Costco normally is 10 to 15 per gallon cents less than "regular" gas stations. You'll pay for your membership fee over and over, even without buying products inside the warehouse.
• Use Google Map, MapQuest or a GPS when setting out for an unknown destination.
Avoid idling at red lights and making left hand turns while you sit waiting for the arrow to turn green. (Plus, you save some gas if the vehicle isn't idling.)
• Check your tires pretty far in advance of your trip. If you've a problem with a tire, why not order one online? Both www.discounttiredirect.com or www.tirerack.com offer a great-rated tire and often less than that offered by the dealer or service station, even with an installation fee.
• Check small repairs, like windshield wiper replacements. Go to an auto parts store that offers free installation if you buy the part from them. And even better, the part is usually much cheaper than purchased from the dealer.
Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears every Saturday. Email her at consumer watch@timesfree press.com.