While the cost of fuel is a bit lower than it was when the average price for a gallon of regular gas crossed $5.00 in the second week of June 2022, it’s still far above the prices from a year ago. For many of us, finding ways to save money on gas is absolutely essential. That’s particularly true as inflation keeps pushing the cost of other goods and services upward. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to save at the pump. The following nine tips can help you keep some extra savings in your wallet and keep your budget on track.
1. Take Advantage of Fuel Apps
Fuel apps offer a simple way to find the cheapest gas stations on routes you commonly drive or road trips you’re planning to take. By checking a fuel app regularly – even if your tank isn’t empty – you can capitalize on lower prices when a low-cost gas station is nearby. While the difference may only be a penny or two per gallon in some areas, it could be $0.10 or more in others, so it’s worth opening the app often to find good deals.
2. Research Your Road Trip
If you’re driving a long distance, apps to save money on gas can help, of course. However, you may want to do a little more digging to plan your fill-ups more strategically.
In some cases, gas prices vary dramatically across state lines because of differences in the tax rates, making fueling up on one side a much more wallet-friendly choice. Additionally, fuel stations near freeways are often more expensive than those that are a bit out of the way. The same can go for gas stations in big cities versus smaller towns. With this in mind, you’ll want to explore gas stations a little off of your route to see if you discover a better deal.
3. Look Into Fuel Rewards Programs
Various fuel rewards programs are available to help you save at the pump. Many gas station chains have their own options. Plus, grocery stores often offer rewards points that convert into savings when you’re filling up.
Every program has its own rules and accrual rates, so it’s important to research them carefully. Additionally, each option typically only works at specific chains, so see if there are suitable gas stations along your normal route to make using the rewards convenient.
4. Pay With Cash
In some cases, gas stations actually charge two different prices for a gallon of gas. There’s the price for using a credit or debit card and the price for paying in cash. Using a card comes with processing fees for the station, so some retailers charge higher prices for card transactions to offset the costs. As a result, paying in cash results in a savings, often around $0.10 per gallon.
Plus, if you use a card, a gas station might place a hold of as much as $175 on your account. Depending on the card in question, that could significantly lower the amount of money you have available until the charge clears. By paying in cash — or going inside and prepaying for a specific dollar amount on a card — you won’t encounter the inconvenience of that hold.
5. Stick With Lower Fuel Grades
Unless your vehicle specifically requires mid-grade or premium gas, stick with regular to save at the pump. In late June 2022, the average price for regular unleaded sat at $4.88 per gallon. Mid-grade averaged out to $5.30, while premium was $5.60. That means you would’ve paid $0.42 or $0.72 more per gallon if you filled up with mid-grade or premium.
While that doesn’t sound like a significant difference, it does add up fast. With a gas tank size of 12 gallons, you’d pay an extra $5.04 to $8.64 per fill-up. If you drive a larger vehicle with a gas tank holding 16 gallons, the difference is closer to $6.72 to $11.52 per fill-up. If you’re filling up once per week, that totals out to $262.08 to $599.04 extra per year, depending on fuel grade and gas tank size.
6. Try a Rewards Credit Card
Some credit cards offer points or cash back on fill-ups at gas stations, giving you a way to potentially save or acquire points you can turn into gift cards to stores you already use. However, this option is only a good idea if you can pay off the card balance in full every month. Otherwise, the interest could offset any earnings.
7. Carpool When Possible
Carpooling is a classic way to reduce fuel costs. If you live near a coworker with a similar work schedule, see if they’d be interested in carpooling to save fuel. You can either split the cost of gas or alternate days as the driver, depending on what’s easier.
If you normally drive your children to school and other parents in the area do the same, you could arrange for a carpool there, too. It may even be worthwhile to partner up with neighbors when you head out to shop — any opportunity to split gas costs can help your budget.
8. Keep Your Tire Pressure in Check
Incorrect tire pressure impacts your fuel efficiency. When you ensure your tires are properly inflated, the average gas mileage improvement is 0.6%. However, the difference could be up to 3% in some cases. Plus, proper inflation improves performance and increases the life of your tires compared to over- or under-inflated tires. As a result, this helps you save on maintenance costs, too.
9. Fill Up on Monday or Tuesday
Fuel prices fluctuate during the week, and the cheapest days to fill up are usually Mondays and Tuesdays. Again, this may only shave off a few cents per gallon. However, if you consistently choose lower-cost days, the savings add up over time.
If Mondays and Tuesdays aren’t convenient, simply do your best to avoid filling up on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Gas prices are often higher on those days, so it’s better to avoid them.