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There’s no getting around it: Gas is expensive. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that in 2019, most American car owners spent $2,094 on gas, an amount that works out at over $40 per week.
It makes sense, then, that most of us want to reduce this expense as much as possible. The good news is there are plenty of ways you can save money on gas. From cutting the amount you spend on fuel, to using less in the first place, here are some of the best ways to save money on gas.
Save Money on Gas at Stations
The key to saving money at gas stations is to look for the best price available, and then take advantage of the various rewards and cash back deals. Here are nine methods you can use.
1. Use Gas Station Rewards Programs
Many gas stations have rewards programs which let you earn points every time you fill up.
Typically, you’ll either receive points that you can spend on fuel at a later date, or you’ll get a few cents off each gallon every time you buy. While the discount per gallon isn’t much, it can result in significant savings over time.
Here are three rewards programs from popular gas stations:
- BPme Rewards is an app-based rewards program. You save $0.05 per gallon for the first month. After this introductory period, you’ll keep saving $0.05 as long as you spend $100 or more each month.
- Exxon Mobil Rewards offers $0.06 in points per gallon for Plus members who fill up 8 gallons or more three times a month. Regular members receive $0.03 in points per gallon.
- Shell Fuel Rewards provides at least $0.05 off per gallon. You can also receive discounts by using the card at partner stores. For example, if you link your Dunkin’ Donuts Perks card with your Fuel Rewards card, you will save $0.10 per gallon after your fifth drink purchase.
The great thing about these kinds of programs is that anyone can sign up and you won’t need to pass a credit check.
When choosing a program, don’t just get the one that offers the best savings. Make sure that you also consider the price of gas at the station and how easy it is for you to access the brand.
2. Use Rewards Credit Cards
Using a rewards credit card is another easy way to save every time you fill up because many gas stations have cards that give discounts. Here is an example of the type of discount you can get from popular gas companies:
- The Shell Credit Card gives you $0.10 off per gallon every time you fill up at participating locations.
- Chevron Texaco provides up to $0.10 off per gallon when you use the Techron Advantage Visa card.
- The BP card offers $0.10 off per gallon at participating BP and Amoco stations.
Each card typically has an introductory offer that provides much larger savings for a short period of time. For example, BP offers $0.25 off for the first 30 days. They may also often have non-fuel-related benefits that you should consider when choosing a card.
3. Earn Free Gift Cards to Buy Gas
Another way to save at gas stations is to use survey sites to earn gas station gift cards in your spare time.
Survey Junkie, Branded Surveys, and Swagbucks give you points for filling out surveys which you can swap for vouchers once you reach the cash-out limit. Completing a survey on these sites typically pays from a few cents to a few dollars.
The best thing about them is that anyone can sign up, and you can take surveys whenever you have a spare moment, either on your phone or desktop.
4. Use Apps to Find the Cheapest Pumps
Gas stations often have slight price differences, even within the same area. Finding the cheapest gas stations near where you drive is an easy way to save money on fuel.
GasBuddy lets users search for the price of gas nearby. You can also search for gas stations in other areas, which makes GasBuddy a good tool to use when you make longer trips.
Waze is a car-sharing and traffic app. Its map has a useful feature that shows the price of fuel in nearby locations.
5. Get Cash Back for Gas Purchases
Upside is an app that lets users collect cash back when they shop at partner businesses. You can use the app to get cash back from several gas stations, including BP, Shell, and Phillips 66.
The app is super easy to get started with. Just download it, sign up, and then search for offers nearby. When you pay, use a credit or debit card, and the app will provide instructions for how to claim your cash back. (This will typically either require checking in or uploading a receipt.)
Any cash back you earn is added to your Upside account. You can cash out either via PayPal credit, check, or digital gift cards. Be aware that there is a $1 fee if you cash out under $15 and request a PayPal deposit, or cash out under $50 and request a check.
6. Get Gas Early in the Week
The day you buy fuel can affect the price you pay. GasBuddy (the fuel comparison app mentioned above) analyzed gas prices from 150,000 stations across the U.S. and found that gas is typically cheapest on Monday and most expensive on Friday.
Before you switch to buying gas on Monday, be aware that there are differences depending on which state you live in.
Tuesday is the cheapest day in many states, while Wednesday is cheapest in Hawaii, and Sunday is cheapest in Utah.
While the price difference isn’t huge between days, GasBuddy said that people who currently only buy gas on Friday could save $20 to $30 per year by simply switching to Monday.
7. Get Gas First Thing in the Morning or Late at Night
The time of day you buy gas can also affect prices. In the report mentioned above, GasBuddy said prices often increase in the afternoon. This makes Monday on your way to work potentially the best time to buy fuel.
A Time article from 2012 backs up this claim. It says that gas station managers usually check competitor prices between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., which means if gas prices are rising, you may see increases in cost around midday.
8. Skip Premium Gas
The U.S. Energy and Information Administration says premium gas is, on average, $0.60 more than regular gas and $0.25 more than midgrade gas. This means switching to regular is an easy way to save a significant amount of money.
For most drivers, there is little reason to use the more expensive fuel. The New York Times says that putting premium gas into an engine that only requires regular has no benefits to either the car or the environment. They found that even if drivers get more miles to the gallon from premium, the extra distance will not usually make up for the increased cost.
The only time it is worth it is if your car specifically requires premium gas, which may be the case if your car is a premium, high-performance vehicle. If you want to be sure, check out your car’s manual, which should specify if it needs premium fuel.
Things get complicated if your car manual recommends premium fuel but doesn’t require it. Autolist explains that if premium fuel is recommended, it means your car can operate on lower octane fuel without risking engine damage, but you may see a small drop in performance.
If you are still unsure, contact your car’s manufacturer.
9. Use Cash to Buy Gas
Many gas stations provide a cash discount to avoid hefty credit card processing fees. The discount will typically be about $0.05 to $0.10 per gallon, although it can be more. If you have a credit card that offers discounts or cash back, you’ll have to do the math to decide if this is worth it.
Save Money on Gas While Driving
While getting cheaper gas is great, using less in the first place is perhaps the best way to save on your fuel costs. Here are nine methods to save money on gas while driving.
10. Carpool with Others
Carpooling with one other person can cut your gas costs in half, and the savings only increase as you add more people.
Think about any trips you make on a regular basis, and try to find other people making the same journey.
Consider looking for people in your area who commute to your office (or one nearby). Even if you have to go slightly out of the way each day, the savings could be worth it.
11. Plan Routes in Advance
Planning your routes in advance is an easy way to save fuel, as you can find the shortest route to where you are going or avoid areas with a lot of traffic that result in your car using fuel inefficiently. Knowing where you are going in advance also means you’ll take fewer wrong turns, which can lead to you driving less miles in total.
Google Maps is your friend here, as the app makes it easy to plan your trip ahead of time. You can even search for directions between two places and explore multiple automated routes to get the best one.
12. Watch Your Idle Time
Idling is when your car engine is on, but you aren’t moving — like when you are stuck at traffic lights, when you leave the car on while waiting for someone, or if you like to warm your car up before you leave. Even though you aren’t going anywhere, idling still burns fuel. The exact amount you use will depend on your car. Smaller, more efficient vehicles typically use less fuel than large ones when at a standstill.
Argonne National Laboratory estimates that a compact sedan uses 0.16 gallons of non-diesel fuel while idling with no load. While this isn’t a lot, if you spend a lot of time driving, it can add up.
13. Use Cruise Control When Possible
Using cruise control in appropriate situations can save you fuel because it reduces the number of wasteful speed changes you make. Cruise control is effective in situations when you want to travel at a steady speed on level ground or if you’re on a road with long and steady ups or downs.
Cruise control is less effective in regular conditions as it can’t react to the roads in the way a human can. On regular roads, you’re better off using some of the other tips in this article to increase fuel efficiency.
14. Reduce Your AC/Heating Use
Your car’s air conditioner and heater are both powered by gas, meaning you’ll be able to drive further on the same fuel if you limit how much you use them.
It’s worth noting that AC is by far the biggest culprit when it comes to burning gas. Energy company Endesa says air conditioning uses between 0.2 and 1 liter of fuel per 100km (or approximately 62 miles) you drive. On the other hand, heating systems use “very little.”
15. Accelerate Slowly
Stomping on the accelerator pumps more gas into the engine, which inevitably results in the car burning more fuel. Instead, accelerate gradually to burn less fuel. While you’ll get up to speed a bit slower, the real-life difference in your driving time is likely to be minimal.
16. Avoid Abrupt Stop-and-Go
Cars use fuel in an inefficient way when in stop-start traffic. While there are plenty of situations when congested roads are unavoidable, by staying away from them as much as possible, you’ll not only reduce stress and wasted time, but you’ll also drive more efficiently.
17. Watch How You Brake
When you brake, you waste momentum and energy already created by your engine. Try to avoid this by keeping distance between you and the car in front, and by trying to anticipate when you might need to come to a stop. You can then take your foot off the accelerator and coast to a standstill instead of slamming on the brakes.
18. Refuel Before the Gas Light Comes On
Many of our money-saving tips in the first section require actively choosing the cheapest time and place to fill up your car. This is much harder to do if you always wait until your tank is almost empty, as you won’t have the gas available to choose the best spot.
Getting stuck without fuel and having to pay someone to come out to fill your tank is even more costly. Make sure this doesn’t happen by filling up early.
19. Reduce Unnecessary Car Load Weight
The heavier your car, the more gas it uses when driving. Cut your costs by removing excess weight from your vehicle. Golf clubs in the trunk, permanently installed roof boxes you don’t use, and general junk lying around the back seats can all affect your fuel efficiency.
Save Money on Gas by Maintaining Your Car
This is oftentimes ignored by many people, but maintaining your car can reduce the amount of fuel it requires.
20. Maintain Proper Tire Pressure
According to The U.S. Department of Energy, under-inflated tires reduce your gas mileage by around 0.2% per 1 psi drop in air pressure. This can add up if your tires are significantly under inflated.
To find your tire’s optimum air pressure, check for a sticker in the glove box or for instructions in the car’s manual.
Keeping tires properly inflated will also reduce wear, meaning more time will pass before you have to buy new ones.
21. Keep Your Engine in Check
A well-tuned engine burns gas more efficiently than one in bad condition. The U.S. Department of Energy says that fixing a car that has failed an emissions test will typically improve its mileage by an average of 4%. This can go up to 40% if the issue fixed is more significant. The exact savings you get will depend on what is wrong with your engine.
22. Use The Correct Oil for Your Car
Another tip from the Department of Energy is: Always use the recommended grade of motor oil in your car. Doing so can result in gas mileage improvements of around 1% to 2%. While this isn’t much, when combined with the other tips we’ve listed, it adds up. You can find your car’s recommended grade of motor oil in your driver’s manual.
Pro Tips to Save Money on Gas
Sometimes, the best way to save on gas is to buy a new vehicle. Driving a car that gives better miles per gallon will not only save money on fuel, but it’s also better for the environment.
If saving money is important, you need to be sure you’ll get enough savings on fuel to offset the cost of the car.
23. Get a More Fuel-Efficient Vehicle
Some cars are gas guzzlers that are expensive to run no matter what you do. If you really want to increase your savings, consider switching to a more energy efficient vehicle.
The impact on your wallet can be huge. Swapping a car that gets 20 miles per gallon for one that gets 30 miles per gallon could save hundreds of dollars per year.
24. Get a Hybrid Car
If you want to go one step further, you can purchase a hybrid car that supplements its fuel use with electricity.
Using a hybrid car is cheaper than using an equivalent gas vehicle. Whether you will save enough to make opting for a more expensive hybrid version worth it will depend on:
- How much you drive.
- The cost of fuel throughout the period of owning the car.
- The price difference between hybrid and non-hybrid versions of the same car.
Assuming you are planning to keep the hybrid car for the long term, it should be possible to make the savings back.
25. Get an Electric Car
Electric cars are the cheapest to run by far in terms of fuel costs. CapitalOne says you’ll get an average savings of $800 per year by charging your car rather than buying gas.
The exact amount will depend on gas and electricity costs in your area, as well as how much you drive.
Electric cars are typically more expensive to buy than similar gas cars, so whether the savings on fuel are worth it will depend on your specific circumstances.
Even with the above savings, most of us will spend more on gas than we’d like. But by making some changes to the way you drive and buy fuel, it is possible to significantly reduce the amount you spend.
Assuming you aren’t going to buy a new vehicle, carpooling is the best way to save money. If you can share your commute with one or two other people, your overall costs will decrease significantly.
If this isn’t possible, then look at other ways you can save money on each gallon of gas you buy. Take some time researching the cheapest places to buy in your area. Consistently getting a small reduction in overall costs will result in big long-term savings.
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Ricardo is an entrepreneur, investor and personal finance nerd who enjoys spending time with his family and friends, travelling and helping others achieve their financial goals. Ricardo has been quoted as a personal finance expert in several online publications including Healthline, Bankrate, GOBankingRates, MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, U.S. News & World Report, Forbes and USA Today.