How to save money on gas is a common theme in the news just before every summer when gas prices tend to rise. Consumers are seeing gas prices creep higher, making $4 – $5 per gallon for gas a common sight.
There are many reasons why we see this occurrence every year. Besides being the most used oil product in the country, seasonal specific factors and recent events have contributed to higher prices.
By law, refineries have to change their gasoline formula in the spring to comply with air quality controls. Refineries seek “light sweet crude oil” for their low sulfur content and efficiency in producing gasoline, kerosene, and diesel. Due to the high demand for gasoline in the summer and worldwide production cuts, crude oil prices increase, causing gasoline prices to follow.
In order to combat the prices of light sweet crude oil, many refineries use “opportunity crude,” which consists of heavier and dirtier types of oil. These require more processing and cleaning, demanding more energy and creating more greenhouse gas emissions. In order to comply with federal and state clean air rules, refineries in California and the East Coast recently shut down for maintenance or because they were losing money. Gasoline prices spiked overnight when these plants closed down.
Taxes also make up a large part of the prices we pay at the pump. Between federal and state taxes, the average tax we pay for gasoline is 47 cents per gallon. Diesel fuel taxes run an average of 51.4 cents per gallon.
With such outrageous gas prices, how do you save money on gas?
While the most obvious solution is to buy a car with better gas mileage, this isn’t always possible. Let’s look at a few alternative methods that you can implement right now to save money on gas throughout the year.
Save Money On Gas Before You Drive
- Maintain your vehicle. You should always keep your tires inflated to the recommended tire pressure designated by your car manufacturer. The recommended tire pressure will not be the same as the maximum tire pressure you find on the side of the tire walls. Rotating the tires on an even schedule will promote even wear and will help maintain proper road grip. Make sure to clean out or change your air filter on a regular basis as well. Clean and unobstructed airflow to your engine will help it run more efficiently.
- Newer vehicles do not require a warm up period despite outdated advice you may hear. Just make sure to take it easy on the accelerator until the engine has warmed up a little.
- Trucks with an open bed should also keep their tailgates up. Driving with the tailgate down to save gas is a myth and actually reduces your gas mileage.
- Feel free to use your air-conditioner. Studies show that the use of the air-conditioner has a negligible impact on gas mileage.
- Clean your car. Do you really need all those tools in your trunk? Removing unnecessary items from your trunk (and anything strapped to the roof) will make your car lighter, reduce drag, and make your vehicle more fuel efficient.
- Plan ahead. If you can, plan your trips around peak traffic times. You should also plan your day in advance so you can complete all of your errands in one trip, saving time and money on gas.
- Use public transportation. If you have a well planned public transportation system, you can save hundreds of dollars every month just by taking the train, light rail, subway, or bus to work. If public transportation isn’t an option for you, consider carpooling.
Save Money On Gas While You Drive
- Take it easy on the pedal. Accelerating slowly and smoothly is less taxing on your engine and burns less fuel. It will also help reduce wear and tear on your brakes. Who wants to be the person that races to the stoplight anyway?
- Drive at a steady pace. Driving at the speed limit is a proven technique to save money on gas. You can save between 7% – 23% based on how fast you drive. Fuel economy starts to decrease after 55 mph, and declines sharply after 65 mph.
- Don’t idle. By letting your car idle, you are burning gas unnecessarily. Turn your engine off if you anticipate idling for more than 30 seconds when stopped. I do not recommend doing this when stuck in traffic. Traffic is unpredictable and conditions on the road change quickly. Your car needs to be on in order for you to react to any situation that may arise.
- Use a navigation system. Consider using a global positioning system (GPS) to help you find the best routes to reach your destination. A GPS will usually get you to your destination quicker, covering the shortest amount of distance possible. New GPS units also give you up to the minute traffic conditions to help shorten your commute time.
- Watch your neighbors. Leave sufficient space between the cars in front of you. Driving closely forces you to brake and accelerate more often, wasting gas. Following too closely also puts you at risk for a collision.
Save Money On Gas At The Pump
- Don’t fill up with fuel you don’t need. Use the recommended grade of gas for your car. If your car requires regular octane, filling up with premium will not improve performance. On the other hand, if your car requires premium fuel, don’t use regular in order to save money. Filling up with an inferior grade fuel will cause your engine to perform poorly and may cause permanent damage.
- Save money on gas with a gas rebate credit card. A gas rebate credit card can save you money, especially if you commute often. Most credit cards offer a (up to) 5% rebate when filling up your tank. The same credit cards usually offer rebates that you can take advantage of for other locations, like supermarkets.
- Don’t get sucked into surcharges and add-ons. Some gas stations require a surcharge if you pay with a debit or credit card. If this is the case, avoid the extra expense and pay with cash. Your gas rebate credit card won’t be able to make up the difference. Alternatively, some companies have their own gasoline branded cards that you can use to waive the fee.
- Don’t fall for the add-ons either. If you’re getting an unneeded car wash, sports drink, or toy mascot, you’re not saving a dime.
If you practice these methods on a daily basis, you’re on your way to save money on gas for the long run. Just remember to use common sense when you’re striving to be fuel efficient. Don’t go out of your way to a further gas station, only to pay a penny less per gallon.
Do you have any tips to share on how to save money on gas prices? I’d love to hear your advice or your story on how you strive to be fuel efficient.