Summertime means more miles on the road for many people — especially now that the masses are staying away from plane rides and choosing to take outdoor staycations instead. I never liked vacations much growing up. However, I’m warming up to staycations in the surrounding areas. I’m also starting to enjoy camping with the family (although I’ve only tried cabin camping and having a trailer delivered to a camp site so far). All of this means that a certain amount of driving is required. Unfortunately, gas prices always rise during the summer. Even worse, they are likely to keep on rising now the economy seems to have moved past the shock stage at the onset of the pandemic. It always makes sense to employ as many tactics as possible to keep the amount you spend on gas as low as possible. Here are eight ideas that can help you save money on gas this summer — and all year round.
Properly Maintain Your Car
Your car runs more efficiently when it is properly maintained. Yes, that means it uses less gas too. Keep your car clean and make sure you perform all of the recommended maintenance. Regular oil changes, as well as changing dirty filters and caring for other systems, can keep your car in better working order. Properly inflated tires can also help, as there is more rolling resistance when tires are flat. Don’t neglect getting your wheels alignment done as well. The last thing you want is for the wheels to keep pulling to one side slightly while you are trying to go straight ahead.
Adjust the Way You Drive
Consider driving defensively. This means that you accelerate gradually, rather than stomping on the gas just to slam on the breaks on the next red light. Using cruise control when you are on the highway can also help lower your gas usage. And don’t speed. Your fuel economy typically drops off rather steeply as you go over 50 mph (80 km/h). You are simply wasting more gas the faster you drive.
If you are competent at driving a manual transmission, you can improve your gas mileage by using a higher gear for longer periods of time, especially if you are going up and down hills.
Pay attention to the way that you drive. Combined with the way you maintain your car, a gentler driving style can result in gradual gas savings that really adds up.
Save Gas Even When the Car Isn’t Moving
Some people like to leave the car idling for long periods of time. Don’t be that person. The AC may feel nice in the summer heat, but you are wasting gas. And your car isn’t even moving. Not to mention the extra emissions your spewing into the air. In some jurisdictions, idling your car for too long is actually illegal. Just pack a cold drink or crack a window. You also shouldn’t turn the car on to warm it up in the winter for too long either. Modern engines don’t need more than a minute or so. If you care about fuel economy, don’t make this mistake. It just isn’t necessary.
Plan Your Trips
Planning your trips is so obvious, when you think about. Yet it’s probably the least practiced method of saving gas. It’s super simple, too. Try to get your groceries done on your way back from work. Pick up that package at the post office when you’re running out to drop the kids off at school. The goal is make as few trips as possible. Sometimes, it might even be worth it to go to a slightly farther store if you can get everything there in one trip. That means you won’t have to restart the car or zigzag all over town to finish your errands.
Everyone’s situation is different. But I bet everybody could spend less on gas if they tried to minimize the routes they need to take.
Discounted Gift Cards
You can often buy discounted gift cards at various gas stations. You often have to buy a good-sized amount, such as $50 or $100. However, it could come with a discount of 2.5% or 5%. On a $100 gift card, that could mean as much as $5 in free gas. So, you get a $100 card, but only pay $95 for it. That’s not too bad. You’re going to use $100 in gas eventually. Just be careful, since you don’t want to buy a card that expires soon. Or one that isn’t what it appears to be. If something unexpected happens, make use of the guarantees that online discounted gift card websites usually have in place by contacting their support department.
For most of us, credit cards don’t immediately bring up images of saving money. However, they can save you money on your gas if you do it right. Get a rewards card that gives you a high amount of cash back on gas. Many cards offer higher rewards on specific spending categories, whether it be travel, food, or gas. This can really help offset what you pay at the pump.
Consider getting a branded card from a company like Shell or Exxon. You might end up with a discount on each gallon of gas. Just make sure that you pay off the balance each month and be otherwise responsible with your card. If you don’t, the interest you pay will overwhelm any savings and rewards.
Join the Gas Station Loyalty Programs
I often get gas from my local Shell station. So I joined their free loyalty program. By punching in my membership number at the pump, I get a discount of five-to-ten cents per gallon. That works out to roughly 1.5% to 3% in savings. When I grew up in Canada and routinely got gas at Esso, I used their membership card too. It would earn me points that could be redeemed for all sorts of discounts. I always opted for free car washes, since that was the most beneficial to me. You can also redeem them for snacks or gas gift cards, if you save enough.
Did I mention that all these membership programs are free to join? It’s literally free money! Yet I almost never see anybody around me use these benefits. Join me by joining their loyalty program! You’re going to buy the gas anyway. You might as well get a little bit back.
Use Apps to Find the Best Prices
Web or mobile apps are available to help you find the best gas prices in your area. Whether you are on vacation, going through a new town, or just want to know which local gas station has the cheapest prices on your way to work, apps like GasBuddy and many others can help you save every time you fill up.
Gas prices within the same block can be as much as 10% different at times. Looking up the best price ahead of time and going to that station can make a big difference. You can make a serious dent in your gas usage with a small amount of adjustment.
Practice what you learned today and you’ll be well on your way to spending much less on gas. What are your best tips for saving money on gas? Feel free to let us know!