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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

How to Save Money on Gas

Sky-high gas prices will make you wince when you fill up the tank. The White House has announced that it's releasing a million barrels of oil per day to stave off the rising prices, and some states are working on temporary solutions, but it's likely that you won't see the numbers at the pump drop for weeks. 

There are very few things any single individual can do to address the systemic causes of rising gas prices, but you don’t need to stop buying Starbucks (or withhold medical treatment for your pets) to save some money on gas. Our tips can’t magically solve capitalism, but they may help you save a few bucks.

Check These Apps

There are a few ways to compare real-time gas station prices. Both Waze (iOS, Android) and GasBuddy (iOS, Android) are free, relying on users to keep station-specific gas price information up-to-date and accurate. GasBuddy offers additional insights into nationwide and global trends. A quick peek before you head out to fill up could make a big difference in your final total. Depending on your location, it might even be worth crossing county or state lines to refuel.

Regardless of where you decide to grab gas or what kind of car you're driving, adjusting your driving habits on the way there could also help you save in the long run. A few maintenance checks on your vehicle can help improve your gas mileage. Make sure to get regular tune-ups and that your tires are properly inflated. Accelerating slowly and coasting more will conserve fuel while you're driving, as will driving at or below the posted speed limit. Try to time trips so you bypass rush hours, since traffic jams and stop-and-go city driving can lead to wasted gas. 

WIRED reviewer Matt Jancer, a longtime vehicle expert and enthusiast, says to make sure your air filter is clean or new, as it can affect gas mileage, and keep your fuel system clean. (I use Lucas UCL every 3,000 miles or so.) At low speeds, open windows instead of air conditioning will help improve your overall fuel economy. These additional tips from the American Automobile Association may also help.

When you fill up can potentially make a difference. GasBuddy says Monday tends to be the cheapest day of the week to refuel, with Sunday coming in second.

Look for Rewards Programs

Most major gas station chains have rewards programs that are usually free to join. Something as simple as signing up for text messages can result in saving 5 cents or more per gallon. Many chains, like Shell and ExxonMobil, offer additional savings by using a payment method that links to your bank account, though getting locked into purchasing from one chain might be limiting.  

GasBuddy has its own savings card that links with your bank account—one option is free and the other costs $10 per month; we have not tried either of these services, but they're popular. The company says the cards work at most gas stations across the US, so it's likely better than a station-specific service.

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Other payment methods come with the benefit of fuel savings—and you might already be using one or more of them. Debit and credit cards as well as services like Venmo or Cash App usually have some type of reward, often offered through their respective apps or websites. These types of rewards can be in the form of a percentage back when you spend money at a certain store—including, potentially, gas stations. Sometimes, these benefits require “unlocking” or opting in, so check with your bank. (You can find these details in respective banking apps,) Stacking any of these benefits with the cheapest station prices is one of the surest bets for saving money. 

Being a member at Sam's Club, Costco, Kroger, and some other retail chains can pay off at the pump too. Some of these warehouse clubs have member-only gas stations with prices lower than anywhere else—though not always, and you need to factor in the yearly membership fees. 

Finally, it's worth considering discounted gift cards. Usually, a “cheap” gift card is a deal only if you were planning to spend the money anyway. In the instance of fuel, you can make sure to use every cent. Discounted gas station gift cards are available at CardCash and Gift Card Granny, though many have been out of stock recently. It's worth peeking if you're determined to save.

Limit Your Driving

The obvious way to save is to drive as little as possible. Consider public transportation, walking, or even renting a public bike or electric scooter to get to your destination if they’re available. (Read our Best Ebike and Best Electric Scooters guide if you want your own electric vehicle).

Consider carpooling for essential trips, or splitting the cost of an Uber or Lyft rideshare with a friend to make those fuel surcharges more manageable. You may be able to order items online instead of purchasing them in person. If you have to leave, try running multiple errands in one trip. 

If you find yourself determined to take a road trip anyway, these playlist-building tips will help make the drive a bit more bearable and take your mind off the pump.

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