As of April 2022, the price for a gallon of regular gas averaged more than $4 nationwide. That’s up more than a dollar a gallon from April of 2021. But that’s just the average: There’s a wide disparity in prices across the country. Residents of California are paying the highest prices in the country (at around $5.75 a gallon), and those buying gas in Missouri are paying the least (around $3.65 a gallon). Experts are flooding the airwaves and our social media feeds offering explanations as to why gas prices are soaring. Typically, they name the war in Ukraine and higher demand as the world continues to resume normal operations following slowdowns related to COVID-19. However, for many people and families, the reasons behind the increases aren’t nearly as important as the impact that soaring gas prices is having on their wallets and budgets. Many Americans are dependent on their cars to get them to work and school, and these prices are having real effects on people’s lives. But the good news is that there are ways you can still save money on gas, even in the face of rising prices at the pump.
One easy way to save money is to make sure that you’re buying gas at the cheapest gas station available to you. The most effective way to do this is by using an app like GasBuddy or GasGuru (iOS/Google Play) to find the cheapest gas station along your route. These apps can help you identify the best place to stop and fill up before you leave for a big trip or just make your daily commute to work. Waze and Google Maps also offer frequently updated prices at gas stations along your route. Experts say that leaving major highways and focusing on stations located on side streets can also help you find lower prices. You can test out different routes in apps like Waze to see how much gas prices differ along the way depending on which road you take to reach your destination.
Change How You Buy Groceries
One way to save money buying gas is by switching up how you buy your groceries. National chains like Kroger and Safeway offer gas points for buying groceries. Typically, you get $0.10 off per gallon for each $100 spent at the store and can take up to $1 a gallon off of your gas purchase at a time. Sometimes, it’s possible to earn double rewards by purchasing gift cards or shopping on certain days. Be warned, though, that the gas points usually are grouped by month and expire after a given point. Still, it can be an easy way to save on gas simply by making necessary grocery purchases.
Warehouse stores like Costco and Sam’s typically offer cheaper gas to their members, so you may want to add one of these places to your shopping routine. According to GasBuddy, gas sold to members of warehouse shopping clubs is typically between 5 and 25 cents cheaper per gallon than gas sold by other stations in the area. It’s important to remember that these stores charge annual membership fees, though, so you’ll need to calculate if the gas savings would offset this expense. It’s also important that the warehouse store is along your normal route. Spending extra time or money driving out of your way would cut into your savings. A store that’s inconvenient or out of the way might also result in you paying for a membership but rarely using the gas station, which would definitely be wasted money. If a membership makes sense for you, though, there are ways to join for less than the listed prices on the warehouse clubs’ websites. Check with your employer’s HR department: Some companies offer memberships as an employee perk. It’s also possible to find deals on memberships on websites like Groupon.
Plan Your Drives
Another way to save money on gas is to make some tweaks to your driving routine. If you have a co-worker who lives nearby, ride together and split the cost of gas. If your kids have to be driven to school or extracurricular activities, set up a carpool with nearby classmates to reduce the amount you spend on gas (and even the amount of time you spend in your car!). Instead of running to grab milk, plan your grocery shopping for the times you’ll already be near the store for other reasons. By grouping your trips and running errands grouped together by location, you’ll cut down on your miles driven and the amount of gas used. Also, whenever you’re stuck waiting for your kid to get out of karate class or your carpool buddy to get in the car, turn off your engine! Idling burns a lot of gas. When you crank the car, everyone should be inside the vehicle and buckled in and the navigation system should already be set.
Consider How You Pay
Some gas stations charge more for using credit or debit cards. When filling up at those gas stations, it makes sense to pay with cash so you don’t spend even more money filling up your car. However, at stations that don’t charge more for using plastic, consider using a rewards card. Credit cards like Discover offer cash back, allowing you to earn even money back on your gas purchases. Since you have to spend the money anyway, it makes sense to get some of it back, right?
Check Your Car
Having improperly inflated tires lowers the gas mileage of your car. The proper pressure for your car’s tires is listed on a sticker located on the door jamb of the driver’s door and in the owner’s manual. It’s also a good idea to check your gas cap. A loose or ill-fitting (or even worse, missing) gas cap can cause gas to evaporate. Another easy way to improve gas mileage is by lightening your load. Clean out your trunk, and remove any bike or luggage racks you’re not using. Added weight means that the engine requires more gasoline to operate.
How fast you drive can also affect your gas mileage. Wind resistance is linked to speed: The faster a car is moving, the more wind resistance it has to work against, which requires the engine to use more gas. Slamming on the brakes and fast acceleration also make you use more gas than steady driving. So don’t drive over the speed limit (which will help prevent costly speeding tickets, too!) and consider using your vehicle’s cruise control setting to maximize fuel savings.
Regular vs. Premium
Many people buy premium gas (which carries a premium price tag) because they assume it’s better for the long-term functioning of their car. If your vehicle’s owner manual specifies higher-octane fuel, it’s absolutely worth paying the extra money for premium fuel. But if your car’s manufacturer doesn’t specify using high-octane fuel, you’re probably wasting money. Edmunds tested using premium fuel in a wide variety of cars for which premium fuel wasn’t specified by the carmaker, and only one of them, a 2011 Chevrolet Cruze LTZ, performed better when high-octane fuel was used. So if your car’s manufacturer didn’t specify premium fuel (and you don’t drive a 2011 Cruze), you can save up to $0.30 a gallon by filling up using regular-grade gasoline.