With gas taxes increasing in many areas and gas prices fluctuating at times, you might be wondering how you can save money on gas. There are two main ways to pay less at the pump:
- Get better gas mileage in your vehicle
- Find the best times and places to fill up in order to pay less per gallon
Let's start with getting more miles per gallon in your vehicle. Obviously, the easiest way to get better gas mileage is to buy a more fuel-efficient vehicle. However, that's not always an option. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to increase your MPG regardless of what you drive.
Tip 1 – Don't Drive Aggressively
Driving aggressively is one of the best ways to use more gas than you need to. Rapid acceleration, hard braking, and driving at high speeds consistently consume more fuel than driving more patiently. You can cut fuel consumption by up to seven percent for every five miles under highway speed that you drive. For example, if you start driving 65 MPG instead of 70 MPH. Hard acceleration also wastes gas. Instead, accelerate slowly from a complete stop. This also saves on your brakes as you won't have to hit them as much to slow down.
Tip 2 – Keep Your Tires Inflated
Under normal usage, car tires lose as much as 3 PSI per month. If you rarely check your tire pressure, you may have under-inflated tires within a few months. It's a good idea to check them every three to four weeks. Make sure to check them cold, i.e. after the vehicle has been sitting. The recommended cold PSI should be listed on your vehicle's door jamb sticker. Don't count on simply noticing your tires looking low. Modern tires may not show any signs of being under-inflated until they are near flat.
Tip 3 – Reduce Idling Time
Many modern vehicles have stop-start functions that shut the engine off to prevent them from idling for an extended period. If your vehicle doesn't have that function, you can still do it yourself by shutting the engine off at long stoplights or in drive-thru lines. If you're in the habit of letting your vehicle warm up for a long time before driving, it's ok to stop doing that as well. Most vehicles, even old ones, do not require significant warm-up time before driving. If your vehicle starts up at a high RPM, it should only take a few minutes to drop to a normal range.
Tip 4 – Check Your Gas Cap
Nearly 20 percent of vehicles on the road have cracked, damaged or missing gas gaps. Believe it or not, but a faulty gas cap lowers your gas mileage. It also raises your emissions by letting harmful fumes seep out during normal operation. If your check engine light is on and you don't know why–it could be your gas cap.
Tip 5 – Get a Tune-Up
A tune-up checks and replaces several items in your vehicle that might be contributing to poor gas mileage. It's a good idea to get a tune-up every year depending on how much you drive. Some of the parts that might be checked and replaced during a tune-up include the following:
- Engine air filter
- Fuel filter
- Oxygen sensor
- Spark plugs and/or wires
- Distributor cap and rotor
A dirty air filter, in particular, can be a culprit in reduced gas mileage. You don't need to wait for a tune-up to check and replace it either as it's one of the easiest things to do under the hood.
Now that we've covered the best ways to increase gas mileage in your vehicle, let's look at the ways you can save money directly at the pump.
Tip 1 – Grocery Store Promos
Many top grocery stores have promos for fuel points. Some give you points when you use your loyalty card to shop there, and some also give you extra points for buying gift cards at their stores. The usual method is to give one point for every dollar spent on groceries and sometimes pharmacy items. Gift card purchases usually garner two points per dollar spent. The points can then be used to get as much as one dollar off per gallon in many cases.
Tip 2 – Fill Up at Costco
If you're a Costco member, then you have to take advantage of Costco and Kirkland brand gasoline. Not only is it officially listed as a Top Tier detergent gas, but it's also consistently one of the cheapest places to fill up across the country. The price per gallon at Costco is very often at least 20 cents per gallon less than any competing gas station in the area. Put your membership to work and fill up more often at Costco to save money on gas.
Tip 3 – Use this Gas App
Another way to ensure that you're filling up at the best prices is to download a free gas app. One of the most popular ones is Gas Buddy. This app allows you to use your phone's location to find the prices of gas stations in your immediate area. You can then compare and choose the cheapest one. Prices are reported by users, so make sure to check how recent the report and whether it was for cash-only or credit. Gas Buddy also has a program that lets you link your bank information and use their free card to save five cents per gallon at participating stations.
Gas Buddy isn't the only app out there to help you save on gas. AAA and Gas Guru are two others, plus you can even get an app to track your gas mileage with Fuelly. Instead of using your trip meter and trying to calculate your gas mileage each fill-up, you can use this app to get your real gas mileage. This can help you modify your driving habits and increase your vehicle health.
Tip 4 – Don't Use Premium Gas
This tip comes with a caveat. If your vehicle owner's manual absolutely stipulates that it needs premium gas, then you can and should use it. If it says that premium gas is recommended, then you don't need to use it. If the manual says to fill your vehicle with regular octane gas, then you absolutely don't need to use premium gas. It's somewhat of a popular myth that premium gas gives you better gas mileage. However, this is only true in vehicles that require premium gas and maybe in vehicles that recommend it. For everyone else, you're simply throwing money away.
Tip 5 – Pick Good Times to Fill Up
Try to strategize when you fill up your vehicle. Try to avoid filling up right before a big holiday, during a big holiday or on weekends. This is when the majority of traffic comes to gas stations and the stations raise their prices accordingly. Another way to get more for your money is to fill up early in the morning or at night after the sun goes down. Gas is denser in cooler temperatures, which means you'll be paying the same amount of money for more gas.
Don't let higher gas taxes keep you from doing what you want to do! By following a few of these tips, you can not only save money at the pump but possibly keep your car in better health as well.