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Kalama Hines
Features Editor

Forty-five dollars. The weekly cost, for a full-time student, to drive from Hayward or Tracy to Las Positas and back, when getting 20 miles per gallon.

That may not seem like much, but added up over the course of a semester and you get nearly $1,000. One grand, per semester, on travel to and from class.

Then you start adding up other trips — $2 round-trip to your favorite restaurant for dinner and $6, per day, for work.

All that on the typically soluble income of a community college student — it won’t take long for the burden to take its effect.

What if you shave $40 a month off your gas bill? Free up some cash to take your significant other out to a movie. Perhaps catch a baseball game with your friends. Maybe splurge on a pair of shoes.

It’s possible, but the answer is not what you think. Scouring the land for the cheapest gas isn’t how you lower your gas bill.

If you want to get real results, buy good gas with better efficiency.

Looking to dump less money in the tank, I embarked on a year’s research project. The goal was to find which gas stations provided the best value.

The number on most people’s mind when buying gas is the price. But that’s an overrated concern.

Saving 10 cents per gallon, in a vehicle with a customary 16-gallon tank, is a mere $1.60 when you fill up. So you’re talking the difference between $66 and $64.40.

The real goal is to fill up the tank and have it get you further, therefore having to spend less.

People tend to rely on the miles per gallon (MPG) given by their vehicle. That number is achieved with the most basic and lightest model. And it doesn’t account for additional factors, such as air conditioning.

This research experiment took place in a two-wheel drive, half-ton truck — it has a fuel capacity of 22 gallons and an estimated (MPG) of 15 to 20 miles. The air condition was always on and the speed limit was rarely eclipsed.

Several Livermore area gas stations were tested. I filled up three times and maintained near-identical driving demands.

Driving out three full tanks from each station provided a good picture of how long I could get from filling up at each station.

That winner was Safeway. Yes, the grocery store gas.

A full tank from Safeway churned out to 320 miles, an average 16 miles per gallon. That was slightly more than Chevron, which came in at 306 miles per tank. However, Safeway’s gas was nearly 30 cents per gallon cheaper.

Shell was my gas of choice before this experiment. But Shell wound up fourth with 286 miles per tank, behind Costco (298).

Not surprising: Arco was in a distant fifth at 259. But what do you expect? Arco is cheap. But that’s probably Lipton tea with a little petroleum mixed in.

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