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Close up of a gas pump attached to a car as it refuels at a gas station
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How to Save Money on Gas: 8 Easy Tricks

SmarterTravel

Gas prices at the pump are getting painful. In order to help soften the blow at your next fill-up, we’ve collected a number of tips from experts that can help you save money both at home and on vacation.

These small changes to your driving habits, combined with free reward programs, can add up to big savings on gas.

Plan Ahead

Close up of red and yellow pins on road map
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Getting lost, backtracking when making multiple stops, and not planning your refueling spot ahead of time—these are all small mistakes that can add up to a big gas bill. Nicole Petersen, a spokesperson for GasBuddy, advises, “Long or unfamiliar trips are the most common time that people waste money on gas, stopping at stations simply for convenience. Things like waiting until the next city over or crossing state lines can save you a lot of money at the pump.”

At home, Ellen Edmonds, Public Relations Manager for the American Automobile Association (AAA) recommends combining errands and getting everything done in one spot or shopping plaza if possible, in order to save on mileage.  

Even if you think you know the way around, mapping out our trip ahead of time (especially if you’re making multiple stops) can help you maximize your fuel economy. 

Increase Your Fuel Efficiency

Going faster might save you time on the road, but it will cost you at the pump. “Fuel economy peaks at around 50 mph on most cars, then drops off as speeds increase, says Edmonds. 

Simply slowing down your highway speeds by 5 to 10 mph can help to increase your vehicle’s fuel economy by as much as 14 percent, according to AAA.  

Pay extra attention to your driving behavior as well. Petersen recommends avoiding “aggressive driving habits like speeding, hard braking and fast acceleration, as they waste gas and can decrease efficiency by up to 40 percent.”

Avoid Idling

Line of cars idling in traffic
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At a standstill in traffic? Turn off your engine if it’s safe to do so (and if you’ll be stopped for longer than a minute.) “A car engine consumes one quarter to one-half gallon of fuel per hour when idling, but a warm engine only takes around 10 seconds worth of fuel to restart,” says Edmonds.

Skip Stops and Slowdowns

Some stops are unavoidable, but try to skip any unnecessary stops or slowdowns on the highway. According to AAA, this means:

  • Using “fast pass” or “express toll lanes
  • Avoiding rush hour when possible
  • Monitoring traffic on your route ahead of time and during the trip, and rerouting to a more efficient way as needed

Pass on Premium Gas

Close up of hands as person puts gas in their car
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Check what type of gas is recommended for our vehicle. If your car only requires regular fuel, splurging for premium will not improve fuel economy and will be a waste of money, warns AAA.

Shop Around for Gas

Plan ahead with your gas stops so you’re not forced to buy extra expensive fuel at the nearest gas station because you’re running on empty. Petersen says GasBuddy typically sees “14-30 cent ranges in gas prices even in small areas.”

There are a few ways you can find out gas prices without driving past stations and checking the signs.

  • Search “gas stations” on Google Maps, which displays prices for some stations 
  • Use the AAA Mobile App, which shows fuel stops nearby along with gas prices
  • Download the GasBuddy app, which displays gas prices on a map

Take Advantage of Loyalty Programs & Gas Cards

Now might be the time to take advantage of those loyalty programs you’ve been avoiding the signs for every time you fill up. These are free programs that give members rewards and discounts on fuel. Some examples include:

  • Fuel Rewards, an easy-to-use discount card valid at Shell stations
  • GasBuddy, a payment card that can save up to 25 cents per gallon at a number of different gas stations
  • BPme Rewards, which gives app users up to 5 cents off every gallon at BP stations
  • Exxon Mobile Rewards, simply sign up and then use the app, credit card or just your phone number at the pump to save 3 cents per gallon

Rent a Hybrid Car 

Hybrid car charging at a car charging station
Michael Flippo | Adobe Stock

Next time you book a rental car for your travels, make it a hybrid car. These vehicles are usually smaller and fall into one of the cheaper rental categories, plus will require significantly less gasoline than a regular vehicle which can result in huge savings on a road trip.

Almost all major rental car companies offer hybrid vehicles, however, most companies specify that the vehicle type “isn’t guaranteed” and you might wind up with a non-hybrid when you arrive.

If you want to guarantee a hybrid rental, try Turo, a car sharing site where you can pick the specific vehicle you want to rent.

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