Pay less for gas: Simple ways to save money at the pump

Gas prices have fallen significantly since hitting a record national average of $5.02 per gallon on June 16, but are still 16% higher than this time last year. And California drivers are still paying over $5.50 a gallon, costing them about $18 more to fill a 15-gallon tank.

Increase in demand for crude oil in 2022 and decrease in supply due in part to the war in ukraine have both contributed to the continued rise in prices at the pump. While you probably can’t do much about global economic factors, there are a few simple steps you can take to save money on gas.

Read on for more details on price trackers, tips for improved energy efficiency, club memberships and more.

Follow local prices

GasBuddy is a well-known website for tracking gas prices in the United States and Canada. It also provides data for the US Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s gas tracking pages. The sites present information in different ways — try them both to see which you like best. GasBuddy is available on the web or through mobile apps for Android and iOS, though reviewers have raised concerns about its data tracking and privacy policies.

A row of gas pumps and a sign showing prices in the upper 300s

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Geico also provides a useful local gas station tracker: enter an address, city, or zip code along with a maximum distance zone, and Geico will return a detailed list and map with regular, mid-range gas prices. and premium as well as directions to the stations.

AAA provides gas price tracking in its mobile app (Android, iOS), just like Gas Guru (Android, iOS), and you can check gas prices in your neighborhood when using navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps.

Earn money back with gas cards and fuel reward programs

The main service stations offer credit cards and reward programs that give you a percentage back. Speedy Rewards offers a $25 gift card when you reach 500 points or 50 gallons of gas. At $5 a gallon, that’s 10% back on your gas spend.

Shell and BP claim you’ll save at least 5 cents per gallon with their respective reward programs, and ExxonMobil says you’ll get at least 3 cents off. Be sure to review the terms of each program to see exactly what percentage of your gas spend will earn you.

Supermarket chains also offer rewards programs: for every $100 you spend on groceries at Safeway or Kroger for example, you’ll get 10 cents off gas the next time you fill up. Kroger works with Shell and Kroger fuel centers, while Safeway’s program operates at Chevron, Texaco and Safeway stations.

Pay gasoline in cash

A GasBuddy screen showing lower prices for cash than credit

GasBuddy displays both cash and credit prices if there is a difference.

Screenshot by Peter Butler/CNET

The practice of charging less for gasoline to customers paying cash varies by region and individual gas station: in Los Angeles, several gas stations offer 20-cent-for-cash rebates, particularly for premium gasoline.

That difference can quickly add up: you could save $3 each time you completely fill a 15-gallon tank, or $156 per year if you fill it up weekly. (Just watch those ATM fees: if you pay $2-3 to get your money every time, you could lose money.)

Check your tire pressure

Making sure your tires are properly inflated can increase gas mileage by 3%, according to the US Department of Energy. At today’s prices, that could save you about 15 cents per gallon.

But 60% of car owners only check their tire pressure if a light comes on, according to the Jiffy Lube Vehicle Maintenance Survey. A tire pressure gauge can monitor the health of your tires and only costs around $10 to $20.

When tires wear to a depth of 1/16th inch, they are considered “bald” and should be replaced immediately.

A fuel-efficient trip recommended

Google Maps will recommend routes designed to save gas.

Screenshot by Cliff Colby/CNET

Map your route

Google Maps can also boost your miles per gallon by recommending certain routes that avoid hills and traffic, which ideally results in more consistent driving speeds. Fuel-efficient routes are available on Android and iOS mobile apps, although the feature has not yet rolled out to all users.

To enable fuel efficiency in Google Maps, tap the three dots on the directions screen, then tap “Route options” and enable the “Prefer fuel-efficient routes” option.

Other mobile fuel tracking apps like Fuelio and JerryCan suggest ways to improve your fuel efficiency as well as track gas prices at stations. JerryCan claims drivers using its app can improve their fuel mileage by up to 20%.

Try a club membership for discounted gas prices

Costco, sam’s club and WalmartMore all offer reduced gas prices to members. Walmart Plus charges 5 cents less at its Refuel Centers, plus access to all Sam’s Club locations. Memberships cost $13 per month or $98 per year, while Sam’s Club memberships range between $45 and $100 per year.

Costco fuel prices are almost always significantly lower than those at traditional gas stations, typically by about 5 to 25 cents, according to Consumer Reports. His June 10 gasoline price review found a 34-cent discount on Costco gasoline in Independence, Missouri, from the nearest commercial gas station. Costco memberships cost between $60 and $120 per year.

Attention: Due to record prices nationwide, gas lines at Costco became notoriously long.

Buy discount gas cards from resellers

Gift cards are a popular choice for easy giveaways, but as you’d expect, not all of those gift cards get redeemed. A variety of resellers allow consumers to hoard their unused gift cards or buy them at low prices.

Raise and Granny Gift Voucher are two sites that allow users to buy and sell unused gift cards from Chevon, Texaco, Shell, BP and other gas providers. As you might guess, most discount gas gift cards are sold out right now, but you can set up alerts for when new ones arrive.

Be sure to check the actual price discount and other specifics of any card – both sites also sell gift cards at retail rates, and Gift Card Granny also sells reward cards.

Become a master of energy efficiency

You can significantly reduce gas consumption by learning the basics fuel saving practices. Tips for saving gas while driving abound on the internet, and AAA has compiled some great tips. Here are some of the biggest savers:

  • Drive the speed limit, especially on the highway. Fuel economy drops sharply once you start driving over 80 km/h.
  • Release the acceleration. “Jackrabbit starts” – when a car is moving very quickly – is a big gas waster. Smooth acceleration will also allow automatic transmissions to upshift sooner, saving more fuel.
  • Avoid prolonged idling. You won’t get anywhere burning your gas. If it’s going to last more than 60 seconds, turn off your engine.
  • Minimize air conditioning. Even at high speeds, open windows are less detrimental to your fuel efficiency than air conditioning. Park in the shade or use a windshield to keep your car as cool as possible in the summer.
  • When driving around town, time traffic lights so you don’t have to stop and start. Similarly, take your foot off the accelerator as soon as you see a red light or near a stop sign. The less you brake and accelerate, the more fuel you will save.

Go even further with hypermiling

Hypermiling is the practice of maximizing fuel efficiency to the ultimate degree, from choosing routes that require less braking and accelerating, to clearing your trunk to reduce your vehicle’s weight.

Hypermilers can even park facing the sun when it’s cold to save energy spent defrosting their windshield, and in the shade when it’s cool to save on air conditioning.

In the video below, CNET’s Brian Cooley explains how drivers can adapt extreme hypermiling techniques to increase their own fuel efficiency.

Think bicycles, public transport and electric vehicles

Soaring gasoline prices provide a timely opportunity to wean ourselves off gasoline-based transportation. Cycling or using public transport more often will obviously help reduce your gas costs.

Likewise, if you can afford an electric vehicle, it will certainly reduce your gas mileage. It’s not just Tesla – Hyundai, Ford, Porsche, Audi and many other automakers are selling electric cars. Bonus: you’ll fight pollution and climate change while saving money.

Check CNET Cars list of the best electric vehicles to learn more about the latest and greatest electric cars.

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