Pain at the Pump Published May 4, 2011 By Cory Carmichael 56th Force Support Squadron LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz -- Gas prices seem to be going up every day at the pump. However, despite how high gas seems to have gone, the price per capita income is not the worst in the nation? Alabama holds that "honor." Arizona's per capita income cost for gas is moderate compared with the rest of the nation. Despite not having the lowest or highest per capita income cost for gas, the rising costs are of great concern to most people. To keep gas costs down, there are actions people can take. Some may seem familiar; others may be new to consumers. Some of the most common recommendations are to keep tires inflated properly, avoid jack rabbit starts and stops, keep the auto's engine serviced regularly and combine trips to avoid extra trips. These things alone can add mileage and keep money in the pocket. But, there is more drivers can do. Check the owner's manual. Is it really necessary to use high test gasoline or is it just recommended? Drivers may want to try a lower test gas. Right now each step lower in octane will save about 10 cents per gallon. If the engine knocks or pings when trying lower octane gas, a higher octane gas may be needed. When gas prices are high, like now, independent gas stations generally have lower gas prices. Service stations with a particular advertised brand must buy their gas from that oil company. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the gas coming into Arizona comes from two sources. Most of the gas comes in a pipeline from Texas. The second source is from California. All of the oil companies receive fuel from the same fuel depots. It's dispensed at the depot to the oil companies who take it and add their particular blend of additives. Incidentally, the gas arrives with additives already in it; the oil companies add more of their own secret additives. This means the gas you pump at one station is identical to the gas pumped at another station, except for the additives. Independent service stations can look for the least expensive jobber to deliver their gas. Oil-company owned, oil-company leased or independent service stations with specific oil-company contracts must purchase their gas from that oil company. Usually during periods of high prices, independent service stations without oil-company contracts will sell fuel at the lowest prices, because they can shop around. During a period of low prices, the oil-company affiliated service stations will usually provide the lowest gas prices. It's all the same gas from the depot except for the additives, so know what you're paying extra for, in some cases as much as 18 cents per gallon more from the service station directly across the street. Something to watch out for at the pumps is inconsistent gas selection. At many gas stations regular fuel is selected at the left, plus fuel is selected from the center and high test from the right. At other pumps that order can change and, out of habit without noticing, a person can select the wrong octane fuel. Some gas stations also charge a flat handling charge that can vary from 25 cents to 45 cents on top of the price per gallon cost. To recoup the cost of the flat charge at a 2-cent per gallon savings, a person would have to pump 22 ½ gallons into their car to make up for the "lower" gas price. Few cars have tanks that large and would not get a deal at the lower 2 cents per gallon gas less station. Higher prices for fuel affect everything that relies on transportation to get to market, thus increasing the costs of most goods. For information on budget planning and other money-saving tips, call the 56th FSS Airman and Family Readiness Center at (623) 856-6550.