As featured in The Wall Street Journal, Money Magazine, and more!

Save Money at the Gas Pump

If you’ve stopped at a gas station lately, you might have been shocked to see the price on the big signs. Even if your gas station charges a different amount for credit card users than for cash customers, sometimes called a “cash discount” even though it’s the cash price that’s competitive with other stations, the lowest prices are higher than ever.

According to AAA, the average gas price across the country is now $3.76 per gallon. It’s not a record, but it’s getting close. Blame it on Obama, Bush, Iran, or Saudi Arabia; it doesn’t change the situation. The best we can do as consumers is to do our best to reduce our reliance on gasoline for transportation.

Gas Pump Fuel | crowt59Here are a few tips for saving money on gas.

  • Use technology to save money. Smartphone apps can tell you the locations of the gas stations with the best prices along your path. With this information, you don’t need to drive out of your way, wasting fuel, to get to those low-cost stations.
  • Use the best gas rewards credit cards. If your spending is in check, use credit cards that offer the best rewards for fueling your vehicles. If you can get 5% on your gas spending, you could have an advantage over people paying cash, but you’ll have to compare that option with the stations that offer a cash discount.
  • Maintain your car properly. Use a trusted mechanic, watch the performance of your tires, and keep your car clean and empty. Small changes in your tires and vehicle weight can affect your gas-mileage, so keep your car running efficiently.
  • Travel less. Work from home more often. If you’re shopping for a new job, consider mass transportation or car-pool options. In the last year, since working from home, I still drove 10,000 miles. That’s down from 14,000 miles over the prior year. The year before that, I drove 15,000 miles.
  • Consider a more efficient vehicle. While I generally don’t consider it a good idea to replace a perfectly functioning car just for efficiency, if you’re shopping for a new car, it may be worthwhile to buy something partially powered by electricity. This isn’t the best plan for all drivers, and the cost vs. benefit calculation often takes a while for the increased cost of these vehicles to break even through savings on gas.
  • Plan your trips efficiently. If you can combine your errands requiring transportation rather than venturing out several times each week, you can save gasoline and money. Plan your routes in a way that reduce the total number of miles driven rather than retracing your path.
  • Use an investing strategy to hedge against gasoline price increases. It may seem counter-intuitive when your plan is to reduce reliance on gasoline, but by investing in the oil industry, you benefit when companies profit from higher gas prices. If, however, companies don’t increase their profit with higher prices, then you’re stuck paying for higher gas without a strong investment to compensate.

About a year ago, I asked if shizennougyou readers were ready for gas prices of $5.00. That level as an average is starting to look like a reality for the near future. While some commentators often remind Americans that people in other current countries often pay much more per gallon than those of us lucky to live in the United States, it’s not exactly a comfort to people who have built their lives around the ease of transportation.

What are your tips for saving money on gas?

Photo: crowt59

Published or updated March 7, 2012.

About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of shizennougyou. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

replacing a functioning car with a more efficient one almost never saves money (don’t forget insurance will cost more too). People don’t realize how little money, even a huge increase in mileage, actually saves. So lets say your perfectly functional beater is worth 3K – you see gas prices going way up and want to get a new car instead of maintaining your beater. The beater gets an average 24mpg (going a bit high on this, because most people with ancient cars that run forever are driving honda/civics/etc not sports cars). Your possible new car gets 40mpg. You drive 15k miles/year. Right now at 3.76/gallon the beater costs $2,350 in gas, the new car would cost 1410 – savings 950/year great! But the new car costs 23K + increased insurance. Even minus the trade in value of the beater you are looking at MANY years to break even. Even if the gas apocalypse happens and gas prices double to 7.52/gallon – you are only then saving $1900/year – still years and years to break even. Even if you got that same car recently used for a good discount (lets say 15k), with the apocalypse you are still looking at like 5-6 years just to break even.

That being said, if you are car shopping anyway – obviously opting for a more fuel efficient model will save you money.

Reply to this comment

avatar 2 lynn

I feel we’re running out of options for saving at the pump. We save for personal use, then ‘they’ find a way to increase the price to keep the same – or more- money going into the coffers. When I was younger, I fell for it. The first time was purchasing a new gas stove for a rebate and lower cooking costs. When that ploy was complete, the price of natural gas went sky high. I conserve because it’s a beneficial thing to do. I don’t fall for the ‘save a few bucks’ thing anymore, though – there’s always a reason such things are promoted.

Reply to this comment

avatar 3 Anonymous

oh yeah and at current prices – even 3% back usually wins over cash

Reply to this comment

avatar 4 Anonymous

The best way to save at the pump is to drive more efficiently. Doing so can make for a 20% difference. There are many websites about hypermilining but the simple keys to driving efficiently are…

– Maintain a steady speed on the highway, no step on the gas let go, step on let go. Use cruise control if you like but a steady foot can beat it.
– Accelerate somewhat slowly, no jackknife starts
– Coast when you know you’ll be slowing down for a light. This is more efficient than staying at full speed and slamming on the brakes at the last minute for a red light, only to idle longer waiting for green
– On cars with automatics, if you know the light is going to be long, put the car in neutral and then don’t forget to put it back in drive before it turns green
– On trips with multiple stops, drive to the farthest spot first to let the engine warm up to be its most efficient sooner
– Plan routes with right turns instead of left turns since right turns on red mean less time stopped at a light.

Reply to this comment

avatar 5 Anonymous

– One more tip is to keep momentum going around turns. Don’t slow down too much. As long as you’re not going too fast for road conditions, it’s safe, saves gas and is more fun!

Reply to this comment

avatar 6 Anonymous

completely agree here, but more because most people are morons and slow down at curves thus creating more traffic (also don’t slow down because you are passing a truck and are *afraid* of it – if you don’t want to drive properly, don’t get a license).

Reply to this comment

avatar 7 Anonymous

there are a whole host of psychological things that go on while driving…two cars…both going slightly under the speed limit, pacing each other – 5000 cars behind them trying to pass…what gives with that.

Reply to this comment

avatar 8 Anonymous

except that I like to *drive* saving 10% on gas costs simply isn’t worth it for me to not jump out at the green light like it’s a race course:)

Reply to this comment

avatar 9 Luke Landes

Great tips! The concepts of hypermiling are good to keep in the back of your mind while driving until they just become automatic.

Reply to this comment

avatar 10 Anonymous

Yeah, I’ve tried before, I’m just too into driving to do that…also I find I get nearly the same (albeit crappy) mileage either way – used to get around 25.5mpg on long all highway trips…with extremely judicious use of the brakes/etc maybe manage 28mpg.

Reply to this comment

avatar 11 Anonymous

I’m into driving too. Once in a while I “open it up” but for the most part, I like to save gas while driving. I can appreciate my vehicle’s ride and handling without wasting gas.

I also forgot to mention that tracking fuel economy is the best way to understand how your habits affect your mpg. Also, some newer automatics temporarily disengage the transmission and essentially put the car in neutral for you when you are stopped.

Reply to this comment

avatar 12 Anonymous

– Drive a stick shift. Saves money on the price of the car, saves weight, and you can be more fuel efficient with it

Reply to this comment

avatar 13 Anonymous

I used to work in the auto industry on powertrains and you’ll be surprised to know that manuals do not always get better fuel economy than automatics. In the city, manuals are generally better but on the highway, automatics generally don’t require the engine to rev as fast so they save more fuel. There are new types of automatics and with software, the shifting has been optimized to be better than a human. Also, on some cars, automatics and manuals cost the same.

Reply to this comment

avatar 14 wylerassociate

I do a couple of things:
1) use apps like gasbuddy to find lower prices
2) I am a sam’s club member so I usually buy gas from them
3) I drive a normal speed on the road and avoid driving fast to conserve gas.
4) I try to drive less each week so a full tank of gas can last me a couple of weeks.

Reply to this comment

avatar 15 Anonymous

Get a card like the PenFed Cash Rewards Card. You get 5% cash back instantly on your gas purchases. 5% back on $3.50 gas is 17.5 cents. That’s a significant savings every time you fill up.

Reply to this comment

avatar 16 shellye

I shop at a grocery store that offers gas rewards. In the past it was .10 per gallon discount for every $100 spent. Since I have kids in the house, reaching that was usually no problem, and that total was pre-coupons. Recently, though, I was “randomly selected” to be part of a “Fast Track” gas rewards program, where I get .30 per gallon discount if I spend $100, so the savings are even better for me. I think the grocery store charges a bit more for their items, but I’m a pretty strong couponer, so I feel like I still get good deals on the groceries. My hubby uses a Costco credit card that he gets 4% rebate for Costco purchases. We save those checks for when we need to buy large items or bulk. I guess since you have to buy gas anyway, it’s good to have some kind of reward to offset the expense. We’re also just driving less, too.

Reply to this comment

avatar 17 Anonymous

I usually end up buying gas station gift cards at the supermarket. I suppose it does benefit them since I’ll end up doing at least some grocery shopping there, but I do enjoy the ‘triple dip’ oppertunity.
1) I use an AMEX preffered, so 6% cashback
2) Additional gas discount points from the supermarket
3) Cash prices at stations that charge more for credit (If I do end up at one)

Reply to this comment

avatar 18 Ceecee

Hess in NJ does not charge more if you use a credit card. My neighbor and I have started carpooling to the grocery store. I’m getting my bike in shape for warm weather. Every little bit helps!

Reply to this comment

avatar 19 Anonymous

I usually avoid stations that charge different, hate the practice mostly because I drive in based on what end up being false advertising to me (as a regular credit card user). Sure I usually get enough cashback to make up the difference, but it still ends up being a bad deal compared to the average price.

As an interesting note for anyone who might stop at ExxonMobil station. It’s been my experience at least that using their SpeedPass keyfob gives you the cash price at stations where it’s different. Naturally mine’s tied to my gas card, so best of both worlds there.

Reply to this comment

avatar 20 Anonymous

If working from home is not an option – and filling up regularly is a must – these tips can really help. My favorite part of this post is that the tips are a bit out of the norm, which is good to see.

Reply to this comment

avatar 21 Anonymous

Another idea is to buy gas early. If you hear on the news that gas prices are going up that day, look on your way home. If you see some gas stations haven’t raised their price yet, but some have for that day, and you are not on empty but on less than 1/2 of a tank, go ahead and fill up.

Reply to this comment

avatar 22 Anonymous

Good tip. I do that all the time. Often, one station has just raised prices and others are still low. That means it’s time to fill up.

Reply to this comment

avatar 23 Anonymous

You mentioned it briefly in “travel less”, but obviously, the single best way to avoid paying more at the gas pump is to drive less. The key is to start using a bike to get places. If it’s under 3-5 miles, why drive? Especially when the weather is nice…

Signing up for a daily driving commute will also add significant dollars to your gas budget. We spent $316 on gas in 2011 (not including driving trips — it was $777 in 2010 including all driving trips). Now, we both work part-time from home and live within 5 miles of almost everywhere we need to go, but we also bike almost everywhere: to pick up our son from school, go out to eat (which isn’t that often), go to the library, go to the gym, and to pick up groceries. As a side benefit, our whole family is really fit. A lot of people say this isn’t possible, but when you make it a priority, it can be.

At the very least, if people started biking/walking more to do shorter errands, it would make a huge difference in gas consumption and the environment. I see people driving short distances every day and I don’t think they really realize how much it is costing them.

Reply to this comment

avatar 24 Anonymous

Drive less and buy some energy stocks like Chevron or Shell. :)

Reply to this comment

avatar 25 Anonymous

Gas has been over $4. a gallon for a while here in CA. ($4.39 last week for me). I learned a little bit in 1974 oil problem. About 5 years ago I lucked out by buying a boring “tin can” Kia imported by Ford- so it has a Ford nameplate. In a few years my 40 mpg car has become not only a financially beneficial car, but is getting better mileage than almost any new car. But very few want to go “small” or “old”.

Reply to this comment

avatar 26 Anonymous

Petrol prices here in Western Australia fluctuate wildly across the week. Run low on the wrong day of the week and it can cost you 10c per liter extra. There is however a local government initiative called Fuel Watch that publishes gas prices on a daily basis. With an iPhone app you can also find he lowest fuel n your area, it will also tell you tomorrow’s price so you know whether to wait.

Reply to this comment

avatar 27 qixx

I think the best means of saving at the pump is take shorter trips. If possible live near where you work. Or another way to think about it is work near where you live. I have never had a job that required me to get on a freeway to get to work. Not only does this save me gas but also time and stress.

Reply to this comment

avatar 28 Anonymous

I’m sure glad I found a way to save 6% off gas.

Reply to this comment

avatar 29 Anonymous

I’m always checking the GasBuddy app on my iPhone when I’m in a new area to see who has the lowest prices. Since prices have spiked up recently I’m filling up at Sam’s Club when I’m near one.

Reply to this comment

Leave a Comment

Note: Use your name or a unique handle, not the name of a website or business. No deep links or business URLs are allowed. Spam, including promotional linking to a company website, will be deleted. By submitting your comment you are agreeing to these