When it comes to summer travel, spending money at the pump is not fun. Thankfully, the average cost of gasoline is hovering somewhere around $2.45, which is significantly less than it has been in years past. In fact, did you know that the average cost of gasoline has been falling every year since 2012? It’s true! Despite the lower cost per gallon, there are several things you can do to save money at the gas pump.
This one is pretty straight forward. The less you drive your car, the less gas you will go through in any given period of time. Depending on where you live, it may be possible to walk or bike to where you need to go. If not, is there public transit that could get you there? Keep in mind that there are still costs involved in riding public transportation, so make sure the cost is less than your savings on gas. If walking, biking, or taking the bus isn’t an option, you can always carpool! If you live near your coworkers and work similar schedules, take turns driving each other to work. This is also a great way to pass the time spent in the car.
Maintain your car
There are two easy things to check to improve your fuel efficiency – tire pressure and cabin air filter. Having underinflated tires can decrease your gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi you are under, according to the US Department of Energy. You can find your car’s proper tire pressure in your owner’s manual and typically the manufacturer’s sticker on the door of your driver side.
If your engine air filter is clogged with dirt and dust, it causes your engine to work harder, which reduces your fuel efficiency. Replacing your old filter with a new one can improve your fuel efficiency, which therefore means fewer fill-ups. Have yours checked at every oil change.
If you’re gas cap is missing or the seal is bad, you may be allowing as much as three gallons of gas to evaporate each month. Not only is this wasteful, but it also pollutes the air. Remedy this by purchasing a new cap. This will cost you next to nothing and could help you save approximately $60 a year.
If your local grocery store offers discounts on fuel, take advantage! It’s easy to earn fuel points for every dollar spent at a grocery store. You gotta eat and your car needs gas. It just makes sense! If you are driving a lot, you may benefit from a credit card that rewards you for buying gas. But beware, these credit cards often have high interest rates so unless you pay off your balance every month, it might end up costing you even more in interest.
Change how you drive
When you are in a hurry, it may seem like the best way to get where you need to be is to accelerate quickly. Stopping and accelerating too quickly can actually end up using more gas, resulting in more fill-ups. Driving aggressively can lower gas mileage by 33 percent on highway and 5 percent around town, according to the EPA. When you are getting up to speed, take it easy on your accelerator. While you’re at it, coast more too. Conserve gas by coasting when you can by taking your foot off the gas a bit earlier and planning your turns and stops. Another benefit of driving less aggressively is that it is safer for everyone.
Avoid idling. It may not seem like it’s the case, but allowing your car to idle for more than a minute uses more gas than restarting your engine. Stuck in a long fast food line or a busy light, turn off your engine.
Your cruise control is a great way to drive without using more gas than you need to. A test conducted by Edmonds.com showed that cruise control saved an average of seven percent on fuel usage. Just make sure not to use it if the pavement is wet, as this can be dangerous.
Use AC less
When it’s hot, it’s hard to ease off the AC and roll down the windows instead. If you are driving on the freeway (at speeds of 45mph or more), you will use less gas if you use AC as the wind drag makes the car less efficient. When driving slowly (especially in stop-and-go traffic), it is more fuel efficient to switch off the AC and open your windows.
Find the cheapest station
Not all gas stations are equal. Every neighborhood has stations that are price leaders and sometimes these stations even offer gas for close to cost or at a loss (loss leaders). Why do they do this? To get you into their stores to buy higher margin items. Though there are sometimes membership fees associated with these types of stations (ex: Costco, Sam’s Club) so keep that in mind when calculating the total cost.
If you get off of the freeway, chances are you have seen a slew of gas stations nearby. These stations are often pricier than those that are further down, so if you find yourself needing gas after exiting the freeway, give yourself some distance and you may be able to save yourself 10 cents or more per gallon.
Another tip that may help you avoid paying too much at the pump is to time your fill-ups. “Gas prices rise on Thursdays in anticipation of weekend travel” and “10 AM is when most station owners make their price change for the day” says Chris Faulkner, CEO of Breitling Oil and Gas. It is also a good idea to avoid stopping at a gas station on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday unless it is urgent, as this is when prices are often highest.
Buy a fuel-efficient car
Now we get that this may not always be achievable, but if the time does come that you need to purchase a new car, make sure you get one that gets good gas mileage. Though, keep in mind that oftentimes the premiums you pay at the dealership for hybrid vehicles are often greater than the amount you would save on gas. However, if possible, it is better to purchase a car than an SUV, van, or truck.