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Thursday, August 18, 2022

20 Ways to Save on Gas

Gas prices have risen to new highs. Put fuel savings on overdrive with these tips to bring your gas budget back in line. 

Retirement portfolios are shrinking at the same time gas prices are going through the roof. If you are looking at a fall road trip, you may be thinking twice. Your monthly budget for fuel may have already doubled in just a few years. While you can’t stop the war in Ukraine or force OPEC to increase supply, there are plenty of strategies to get the most out of your dollars at the pump.

Let’s start by looking at driving habits.

  1. Watch your speed. Out on the highway, it pays to go a little slower. “Reducing your speed to 65 on the highway can increase fuel economy by as much as 15% to 20%,” says Patrick De Haan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy. In fact, a 2013 report found mileage declining over 50 mph, after which every increase of 5 mph costs you about $0.30 per gallon.
  2. Accelerate slowly, cruise more. Jackrabbit starts eat up gas, so accelerate gradually. Take advantage of hills to coast down and watch for red lights to coast to a stop.
  3. Use cruise control … usually. Cruise control can help even out your highway speed, and you can try setting it a few miles per hour slower than normal to save on gas. But turn it off in hilly areas, where you are better off gradually accelerating to maintain speed going up and letting your car coast as much as possible on the way down.
  4. Reduce heat and air conditioning. Both heat and air conditioning eat up fuel, so minimize use of both. If you’re going about 35 mph or under, it is more efficient to roll down the windows for cooling. Above that, drag makes air conditioning a better choice.
  5. Bundle your errands. Going on errands once a week instead of two or three times is obviously a better choice, so make a list and plan out your route instead of running out every time you need something.
  6. Share rides. Carpool, bundle errands with a neighbor, or take one car instead of two whenever you are able.

    Two Gasoline Myths

    1. You should buy gas in the morning, when fuel is cooler and denser. The science is right, but gasoline is stored in double-walled tanks underground where the temperature remains fairly steady. And even if the temperature were to change by 15 degrees or so, the difference in the amount delivered to your tank would be negligible.
    2. All brands of gas are the same. It’s true that all gasoline sold in the US has to meet performance standards, but Top Tier certified gas has added detergents and additives to remove engine deposits and improve fuel economy. AAA found that the $0.03 cents extra it usually costs is worth the money. Go to the Top Tier site to find the many stations that carry it.

    There are lots of ways to save at the pump itself.

  7. Don’t use premium unless you have to. In recent tests, experts at Consumer Reports found no increase in performance by using premium grade fuel versus regular in cars where premium is only “recommended” but not required. And those same experts said the intermediate grade of gas was invented by the industry to get consumers to spend more.
  8. Fill up on Monday. That’s usually the cheapest day of the week to buy gas, and Tuesday is runner up, according to a 2019 GasBuddy price analysis. Avoid Friday and Saturday when stations often increase prices.
  9. Use an app. Your smartphone can help you find the cheapest gas prices when you use an app that shows the price of gas at every station around you. UpsideGasBuddy, and Waze are popular free options. Waze has the benefit of offering navigation assistance, while GasBuddy has a free debit card that requires no credit check and saves you more than a gas credit card or a regular debit card. It also works at a host of stations. 
  10. Watch state boundaries. Often, you can save a bundle by buying gas on one side of a state line or the other. Check prices before setting out on a road trip and plan your purchases accordingly.
  11. Use a rewards credit card. Many credit cards will give you from one to six percent off your gas purchase. But only use a credit card if you pay it off faithfully every month. One to consider is the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature card that offers 5x points at the pump or charging station with no annual fee. 
  12. Use cash. Some stations have a lower price for cash customers. This price may or may not extend to debit cards, so check ahead of time. 
  13. Use gift cards. Sites like Raise and Gift Card Granny offer discounted gift cards, including cards for gasoline. 
  14. Join a rewards program for fuel. Many gas retailers offer their own credit card that will net you a discount on fuel. Just consider that it ties you to that brand, no matter the price or availability. For a more inclusive option, check out the GasBuddy debit card.  
  15. Get membership at a competitive retailer. Stores that offer groceries and gas abound, and so do their gas discounts to keep you coming back. Kroger brands (such as King Soopers) is a major player and it is free to join, but check grocery stores in your area to find the best deal. Costco offers great gas prices but consider whether the extra costs of the membership fee and traveling to the location are worth the savings value.

    Making your car more fuel efficient.

  16. Lighten the load. Every pound your car has to carry weighs on fuel efficiency. Remove that ski/bike rack seasonally and take off your storage box if you aren’t using it. Extremists may choose to remove the spare tire (and be prepared to dial AAA if they get a flat) or take out an extra seat.
  17. Check the tire pressure. Under-inflated tires can cost you about $0.03 per gallon, according to the US Department of Energy. Open your driver’s door to view a sticker with recommended tire pressure, and get free inflation checks at many tire retailers including Discount Tire, where the service is free no matter where you bought your tires.
  18. Check your gas cap. A bad seal or missing cap lets fumes escape, the equivalent of your gas money going into thin air. Get a new cap at an auto parts store.
  19. Use the correct oil. Using the wrong motor oil can ding you $0.04 to $0.09 per gallon, according to the US Department of Energy. Choose oil labeled “energy conserving” or “energy saving.” And switch to longer-lasting synthetic motor oil to reduce friction and improve gas mileage.
  20. Consider a hybrid or electric car the next time you buy. And if you want to up your cool quotient while improving fuel efficiency, go retro with a manual transmission. Long live the stick shift!