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apr 23

Pain at the pump...and a new way to cut costs

Gas prices continue to soar above $2 a gallon. [Correction: This sentence has been updated since posting. See details at the end of this post.] This morning, the AP reports that the average price for self-serve regular has hit $2.87.

In other words, the average driver is paying $1.38 more per gallon now than they were in April 2003. That means that drivers like you and me will spend roughly $760 more on gas this year than we did four years ago, assuming we buy 10 gallons of gas a week. Yowzah!

Here's a tip on saving money when you hit the road for a long trip:

You already know that gas stations along major highways often mark-up their prices. But you may not realize that it's easier than ever to find stations selling cheaper gas. This year, several online mapping services, such as Mapquest and AAA.com, started letting users print out driving directions that mark the locations of gas stations on maps--and say what the latest gas prices are at those stations.

Want the details?

Mapquest recently added gas stations--and their prices--to its service. Find it by clicking here. If you prefer Google Maps, consider using this "mash-up" Google map here.

AAA has begun to let nonmembers use its online mapping tool to find the cheapest gas stations for any road trip. AAA has long offered printable maps and driving directions, but now it has added the locations of gas stations--and even the per-gallon prices for gas at these stations. AAA's online service is fast, free, and easy to use. Visit AAA's main website, click on the TripTik link, and then enter your zip code and itinerary. The site will fetch turn-by-turn driving directions, detour suggestions, and other travel information. Next, look at the top left-hand corner of the screen and click on the button that says Show. From the drop-down menu that appears, select Gas.

Now you'll see gas stations along your route when you scan your online map displaying turn-by-turn directions. If you wave your cursor over any gas station icon on the map, the recent per-gallon price for gas at that station will appear. (AAA, like Mapquest, uses daily data from OPIS, a service that collects and provides fuel price data.) Click on the gas stations that will make the most convenient pit stops. The website will add those gas stations to your printable map.--Sean O'Neill

Correction: Oops! This Just In's readers (including Stuart, via email) have pointed out that I was wrong to say that gas prices continue to "soar above $2 a gallon in many states" in my Monday post "Pain at the Pump. Turns out there's apparently nowhere in the U.S. where gas is for sale for less than $2 a gallon. I made the error by looking at reported gas prices at GasPriceWatch.com that were less than $2 a gallon in Minnesota, Oklahoma, and Kansas. But it turns out those prices are outdated, which I should have seen, given that the website reports the dates on which the prices are reported. I regret the error. Today's lowest price nationwide is $2.41 per gallon in High Point, N.C., and the highest is $3.89 per gallon in Needles, Calif., according to GasPriceWatch.com. The national average is now about $2.91 per gallon, higher than the $2.87 per gallon (according to a survey of 7,000 stations) that This Just In reported earlier in the week.

Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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