SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – While the national average for gas prices is on a downward trend, South Carolinians are currently paying at least $1.20 more per gallon than this time last year, which can add up pretty quickly.

“We like to think that those high gas prices at least for now are in the rearview mirror as we continue to see crude oil prices fall,” AAA Carolinas Director of Public Affairs Tiffany Wright said. “That doesn’t mean that we won’t see a spike right before the holiday. That’s what we typically see during these summer driving months.”

Wright suggested drivers shop smart.

“Look for those cheap gas stations,” she said. “It does encourage the other retailers around those stations to stay on market and keep those prices relatively low because we know the market is very competitive.”

Where you fill up plays a role in what you pay. Gas stations right off the interstate are likely to be more expensive than ones farther down the road.

Wright said using an app to plan trips can help drivers better budget.

“AAA has one where you can map your route in advance,” Wright said. “We have a fuel cost calculator that you can get on and map your route in advance so that you can look for those gas stations that have those affordable prices.”

But there are also ways to save that are not so common:

  • Slow down while driving on the interstate.
  • Avoid idling in fast food lines or when waiting to get your prescriptions.
  • Consider signing up for loyalty programs at certain gas stations to roll back prices at least a few cents per gallon.

Gas experts also said excess weight in your car can slow drivers down. Every 100 pounds of unnecessary weight can reduce fuel efficiency by one or two miles per gallon, so leave things like bike racks or extra items at home for day to day travel.

Most importantly, keeping up with your car’s maintenance can also save you gas and money.

“You need to keep your oil changed, suggest keeping your air filter changed. Keep the air in your tires at the proper amount. Low air pressure will cause a drag on your tires,” Keenan’s Auto and Tire Services Owner Tony Keenan said.

Keenan said proper maintenance at the right timing is everything.

If your check engine light comes on, he said you need to get it checked as soon as possible. Any light that lingers could cost you financially and in gas miles.

“Older cars have fuel filters. That needs to be changed because a clogged fuel filter will restrict the fuel going into the fuel injectors,” Keenan explained. “Most of your gas has fuel treatment in it but it wouldn’t hurt to put a bottle of injector cleaner in it.”

Gas Buddy’s Head of Petroleum Analysis Patrick De Haan said to pay attention to what grade of fuel you’re putting into your car.

“If your car requires regular but you’re putting in anything better than that, like premium, you’re literally throwing money down a toilet. You’re burning it, and it won’t make any difference,” he said. “A computer controls many of the car engines today and the computer is programmed to run on regular. Putting in a higher octane does not change the way your computer’s programmed. It’s going to burn that fuel in the same way. There’s going to be no advantage. If your car requires regular, don’t fill up with anything else unless you enjoy flushing money down a toilet.”

And at times like these, De Haan said to consider gas prices when purchasing your next vehicle.

“A lot of Americans simply like riding higher or having a big vehicle, and it comes with a tremendous cost as gas prices are over $4 a gallon,” De Haan added. “You’re going to spend probably double what you do on fuel for a big truck than you would a passenger vehicle.”

While a truck might be useful at times, he said consider all that comes with owning a heavier vehicle that has a bigger engine to fill.