Are you searching for ways to cut your everyday expenses? With gas prices averaging $4.49 per gallon ($5.39 on the West Coast) in July 2022, fueling your car can take a big bite out of your budget. Fortunately, you can save money on gas by using gas apps to find low prices, maintaining your vehicle and mapping out efficient travel routes. Use the following strategies to spend less on gas.
1. Download a Gas App
Gas apps let you search for low gas prices near you. If you're a AAA or Geico customer, check out their mobile apps. Others to consider include GasBuddy, GasGuru and iExit. Waze and Fuelio aren't gas-specific apps, but do offer crowdsourced information about gas prices.
2. Use Fuel Rewards Programs
Many gas stations, including Shell, BP, Exxon, Murphy USA and Speedway, have rewards programs that can reduce your gas costs. Joining is typically free. Some rewards programs offer a direct discount at the pump; others earn points redeemable for discounts.
3. Earn Discounts When You Grocery Shop
Many grocery store rewards programs include discounts on fuel. Typically, you earn points for each $1 in grocery purchases and can redeem them for discounts at participating gas stations. You may earn extra points on certain days or for making certain types of purchases (such as gift cards).
Supermarket gas rewards often expire at the end of the month, so read the terms of the program to get the most from your membership.
4. Join a Membership Club
Membership stores, including Costco, Sam's Club and Walmart Plus, sell gas at discounted prices. You must be a member to qualify, but depending on your fuel usage, the savings could more than cover the cost of a membership.
For instance, Costco gas prices are typically five to 25 cents lower than the average gas station's, according to Consumer Reports. A basic Costco membership is $60 annually. Purchase 474 gallons per year at Costco (the amount used by the average U.S. driver) and you could save over $50 once you deduct the cost of the membership.
5. Drive Less
Save on gas by choosing alternatives to driving whenever possible. Try walking, biking, carpooling or taking public transportation. Asking your employer if you can work from home all or part of the time is another way to spend less on gas.
Driving less could save you even more by lowering your car insurance costs. Many insurance carriers discount premiums if you drive 10,000 miles or less annually; others have a pay-per-mile insurance option.
6. Stop Idling
Idling contributes to air pollution and wastes gas. Turn off your engine when stopping for longer than 10 seconds (such as waiting at the drive-through window, ATM or school pickup zone). Turning the car off and starting it up again uses less fuel and causes fewer emissions than idling.
Do you still let your car run to "warm up" on icy winter mornings? Stop, and you'll save on gas. Modern vehicles only need to run for about 30 seconds on cold days before they're ready to drive.
7. Drive Safely
Unsafe driving not only increases your chance of having an accident, but also hurts your gas mileage. Stay within the speed limit and avoid aggressive moves such as braking suddenly or accelerating rapidly. Aggressive driving can lower your gas mileage by as much as 40%, according to the Department of Energy.
Bonus: Many insurance companies offer premium discounts if you demonstrate safe driving behaviors.
8. Choose the Right Car for the Job
Do you have more than one vehicle? Check which one gets the best gas mileage, and whenever possible, use that vehicle. For example, you might use your SUV to drive your teenage daughter, her four teammates and all their gear to hockey practice. When running a few errands by yourself, take your gas-saving hatchback.
9. Perform Regular Maintenance
Maintaining your vehicles helps boost your gas mileage. Worn-out spark plugs or belts, lack of fluids, a clogged air filter or brake and transmission problems can all affect your car's fuel economy. Keep your tires inflated to the correct pressure as listed in the car's owner's manual. Have your car serviced according to the manufacturer's recommendations, even if you don't think it needs it.
10. Map Fuel-Efficient Routes
Hopping in the car every time you need to do an errand wastes gas. Consolidate tasks to minimize trips and you'll save fuel. Use GPS apps to map out a fuel-efficient route that avoids backtracking, heavy traffic and other gas-wasters.
And, whenever possible, plan your nonessential trips during lower-traffic times. You'll save a lot of gas if you're not stopping and starting at every light.
11. Use Air Conditioning Wisely
Using your car's air conditioning can slash your fuel economy by over 25%. However, driving at highway speeds with your windows down hurts fuel efficiency too. The Department of Energy recommends keeping your windows down on surface streets. Once you hit the highway, turn the A/C to the highest comfortable temperature. When your car is parked, keep it cool with window shades so it will cool down faster and waste less gas.
12. Stop Spending on Premium Gas
Premium gas may sound like an investment in your vehicle, but it could also be an unnecessary expense.
Check your car's owner's manual for the recommended type of gas. Unless the vehicle requires premium gas, AAA research shows, you can safely trade down to a lower grade of fuel without damaging your car or affecting its performance.
13. For Hybrids Only: Use Economy Mode
Do you have a hybrid vehicle? Many hybrid cars have an economy mode you can switch on to improve fuel economy. You can also reduce gas costs by keeping your plug-in hybrid's battery charged. A fully charged battery uses less gas and more electricity, saving you from having to fill up as often.
The Bottom Line
Buying your gas with a rewards credit card is another way to offset rising fuel prices. These cards earn points, travel miles or cash back on each purchase. Many rewards cards offer rotating rewards categories that change quarterly. Each quarter, you can earn higher rewards percentages for purchases in that quarter's categories, such as groceries or fuel. Some rewards credit cards also offer sign-up bonuses that deliver extra points, miles or cash back for spending a certain amount on the new card within a set time period.
When using a rewards card, be careful not to overspend just to earn rewards. You'll typically need good to excellent credit to qualify for a rewards card. Before applying for cards, check your credit report and credit score to see where you stand, and take steps to improve your score if necessary. Experian CreditMatch™ matches you with rewards cards that fit your credit profile, so you're more likely to get approved—and start earning rewards.