How to Save Money on Gas
There may come a time when no Americans will need gasoline to power their vehicles. But that time isn’t today, and until it comes, prices at the pump will be a big factor in why it’s expensive to operate our cars.
Since April 2020, when gasoline averaged under $2 per gallon nationally, prices have climbed dramatically. Although down from their June 2022 peak of $5 per gallon, they’ve risen again in 2023. The national average cost of a gallon of regular gas was $3.73 in the summer of ‘23, a 15-cent increase from the previous week and an 18-cent increase from a month earlier. The highest prices nationally were in the Pacific Coast and adjacent states, with California topping the charts at $4.95. The cheapest region is the Deep South. Mississippi had the cheapest average gas price, $3.21.
Gas Saving Tips
Since you will continue to need gasoline, it’s smart to figure out how to spend as little on it as possible. There are several ways to accomplish that. If you are willing to change your routines, driving habits and thought processes, you can reduce how much gas you burn and spend less.
Save Money at the Pump
By planning and doing a little research before buckling yourself in, you can fill your tank with the peace of mind knowing that you got the lowest prices possible.
Join a Fuel Rewards Program
Several national gas stations and grocery store chains offer fuel rewards programs to encourage brand loyalty. However, be sure to familiarize yourself with their rules about how much you can save and how much you must spend to utilize the rewards. Also, if the stores offering the rewards have few locations in your city, are you driving out of your way — and ultimately burning more fuel — to utilize these rewards?
Shop Around Using Apps
How many times have you filled your gas tank and, before you’d driven a few blocks, saw a station offering significantly cheaper fuel prices. To avoid that, use popular apps such as GasBuddy or Gas Guru. These are available on smartphones, and many are free. You can filter results by fuel grade and sort by distance and price, and you’ll get GPS-guided directions to the station you choose.
Plan Your Fill Ups
When you buy gas makes a difference. According to annual studies by Gas Buddy, Thursdays are the worst times to fill your tank because prices climb to meet demand from weekend travelers. Wednesday is the second-worst day. Gas tends to be cheapest on Sundays and Mondays. So, instead of waiting until your tank is almost empty to fill up, being strategic can save you money.
Pay With Cash
Some stations offer a lower price if you pay with cash instead of a credit card. The difference between the cash and credit price usually ranges from around 5-15 cents per gallon. The station may offer the same discounted cash rate when you use a debit card. Going inside and paying with cash also means avoiding skimmers that thieves sometimes place on gas pump credit card readers.
Choose Regular Grade Gas
Unless your vehicle has a high-performance engine that requires premium gas (which has an octane rating of 91 to 94), use regular (87 octane) gas. It is less expensive, and your engine will get little or no benefit from premium gasoline. Contrary to urban myth, premium gas does not provide better gas mileage. However, if your vehicle requires premium gas, don’t use regular to save money. Doing that consistently will damage your engine.
Tips to Make Your Vehicle More Fuel Efficient
Sometimes, the best way to save money on gas is by making changes and minor fixes to your vehicle prior to even pulling up to the pump. Here is a list of easy-to-do maintenance work that can help you stretch a few more miles out of each tank of gas.
Check Your Tire Pressure
Studies show that under-inflated tires result in one cent more of fuel being burned per mile as opposed to when the tires are properly inflated. If you drive around 350 miles on a full tank, that’s $3.50 you’re wasting between fill-ups. Be sure that you aren’t ignoring that pesky tire-pressure indicator if you want to maximize your fuel efficiency.
Power Everything Down
Sure, when you turn the engine off, the AC stops blasting cold air, your phone charger shuts down and your GPS device goes dark. However, few know that you can save on gas by shutting all those devices down completely before turning your engine off. Upon restarting your vehicle, it takes more gasoline to restart vehicle if your air conditioner is cranked up high and your devices are already turned on. If they are in the off position when you start the car, it will take less fuel to crank the engine. Remember: Small steps along the way can ultimately make big differences.
Reduce Your Vehicle’s Weight
The lighter your vehicle is the less gas it burns. If your trunk or cargo space is filled with objects you seldom need to carry, store them elsewhere. This includes items like tire racks. Items like roof racks and carriers add weight and wind drag to your vehicle. A 2020 study by Consumer Reports found that a roof rack with a carrier dropped a sedan’s fuel economy by 19% and an SUV’s fuel economy by 13%.
Choose an Energy Efficient Vehicle
If you’re about to buy a new vehicle, strongly consider getting one with superior gas mileage such as a hybrid or electric vehicle. You’ll pay more up front, but you’ll save money as long as you own it.
Will the savings pay for the initial cost? According to a Consumer Reports study comparing hybrids to comparably equipped vehicles, the answer is yes. Fuel savings would make up the difference in less than four years, according to the study published in March 2023.
Saving with electric vehicles is a more difficult calculation. The average price of electric vehicles is over $61,000, which is $12,000 more than the industry average, although federal and some state tax credits reduce that. They make more sense in areas with high gas prices and lower electric rates, such as the West Coast.
Better Driving Habits to Save on Gas
Of course, how we drive is a big factor in saving or wasting gas. Pay attention when you slide in behind-the-wheel and how your driving affects gas mileage.
Following a few of these tips will produce surprising results when you see your gas charges at the end of the month.
Drive with Patience and Sanity
If you like to rev your engine at stop lights, race off the line and drive perilously close to the bumper of other cars, then your vehicle undoubtedly is guzzling gas.
If you have a lead foot and regularly drive 10-15 miles per hour over the speed limit so you can blow by the car creeping along in the left lane, gas efficiency is likely last thing on your mind.
If saving money on gas is important, take your foot off the gas when you can just coast to the stoplight. When that light changes, ease through the intersection and gradually build up speed. When you get on an interstate or turnpike highway, use cruise control to maintain a steady pace rather than the stop-and-go driving that sucks up so much gas.
Plan Your Trips
Instead of doing your errands on weekends or off days, try and knock them out in one trip before or after work. Use grocery stores, shopping malls, banks and gas stations along your route to work instead of making separate trips. During your daily commute, take note of gas stations with the best prices and shopping areas where you can run those errands without having to make out-of-the way trips later in the week.
Roll up Those Windows and Turn the AC Down
For years, there have been debates about which burns more gas — cranking the AC up or rolling the windows down. Sure, it takes more gasoline to run the AC, but it also greatly affects the drag on a vehicle when the windows are down, and the breeze is howling through your car. The thinking here is that you should run the AC as low as possible and keep your windows rolled up tight. It’s critical in hot summer months to avoid putting extra strain on the engine by blasting the AC full bore. Small steps like parking in the shade and utilizing full window visors can keep the inside of your car cooler so you don’t have to blast the AC. Ultimately, you should save cash on fill-ups.
Reduce Your Mileage
Just because you have a vehicle doesn’t mean you have to use it everywhere you go – or, at least, not by yourself.
Carpooling or joining others to use a ridesharing service like Uber or Lyft can also help you save on transportation costs. Ridesharing reduces wear and tear on your vehicle. If you live near coworkers, consider carpooling, with different people driving on different days. If you can walk, bicycle, or use public transportation, that means even more savings.
If your workplace allows you to work remotely – or if you can find a job that does – you can greatly reduce the amount of driving you do, which saves time and money.
About The Author
Tom Jackson focuses on writing about debt solutions for consumers struggling to make ends meet. His background includes time as a columnist for newspapers in Washington D.C., Tampa and Sacramento, Calif., where he reported and commented on everything from city and state budgets to the marketing of local businesses and how the business of professional sports impacts a city. Along the way, he has racked up state and national awards for writing, editing and design. Tom’s blogging on the 2016 election won a pair of top honors from the Florida Press Club. A University of Florida alumnus, St. Louis Cardinals fan and eager-if-haphazard golfer, Tom splits time between Tampa and Cashiers, N.C., with his wife of 40 years, college-age son, and Spencer, a yappy Shetland sheepdog.
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