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How to save at the pump as gas prices soar

When people see how easy it is to boost their car’s fuel economy, they’re often surprised to find it can become an interesting game — and a financially rewarding one. While you may not be able to entirely escape soaring gas prices, there are several strategies you can implement in your everyday routine to help you save money.

1. Use a gas price app

If you do only one thing, this is it. A recent study by GasBuddy concluded that convenience — going to nearby or familiar gas stations — was the biggest money-wasting culprit. Shopping around on a gas app will quickly show you the cheapest gas in your area or along your intended route. While GasBuddy is perhaps the best-known gas app, there are others available. And you can filter the results to show the price of different fuel grades and which stations offer diesel.

2. Join a fuel rewards program

Grocery store loyalty programs have been and continue to be a great way to save money on gas. And now even gas stations are getting in on the game and offering their own gas rewards programs.

3. Pay with a credit card that offers a good rewards program

Getting extra cash back or points for gas station spending is great because you reap rewards for money you would spend anyway — and big gas spenders will rack up more rewards than average. Some cards also offer rewards on anything bought at a filling station, while others specify their gas rewards are for pay-at-the-pump purchases only. But remember, if you are using a credit card, pay off the entire balance or the interest will wipe out any gas price savings.

4. Slow down & drive more efficiently

This might be a non brainer, but driving at slower speeds can save you money. It may increase the length of your trip so consider how much longer you’ll spend driving if you’re cruising at 50 mph versus the speed limit on the highway. Additionally, speeding up quickly and braking suddenly can reduce fuel efficiency. Using cruise control can help improve fuel efficiency. 

5. Combine errands as much as possible

Combining errands into one trip saves you time and money. Your fuel economy is worse when your engine is cold than when it is warmed up. So, several short trips taken from a cold start can use twice as much fuel as a longer, multipurpose trip covering the same distance.

Trip planning can reduce the amount of time you drive with a cold engine. It can also reduce the distance you travel.

6. Maintain a healthy vehicle

Get regular maintenance checks to avoid fuel economy problems due to worn spark plugs, dragging brakes, sagging belts, low transmission fluid, or transmission problems. Fixing a serious maintenance problem, such as a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve mileage by as much as 40%. Other things you can do include:

  • Use the grade of motor oil your car’s manufacturer recommends. Using a different grade of motor oil can lower your gas mileage by 1%-2%.
  • Inflate your tires to the pressure listed in your owner’s manual or on a sticker that is either in the glove box or driver’s side door jamb. This number may differ from the maximum pressure listed on your tire’s sidewall.
  • Don’t ignore the check-engine light—it can alert you to problems that affect fuel economy as well as more serious problems, even when your vehicle seems to be running fine.

7. Switch to a fuel efficient vehicle

Are you looking to make a bigger and lasting change? Switching from a car that gets 20 MPG to one that gets 30+ MPG amounts to $1122 per year (assuming 15,000 miles of driving annually and a fuel cost of $4.49). That’s $5,612 extra in fuel costs over five years! And fuel-efficient models come in all shapes and sizes, so you need not sacrifice utility or size.

Bottom line

While it’s unclear how long high gas prices will stick around but getting a gas rewards credit card, enrolling in a gas loyalty program, hunting down cheap gas and making tweaks to how you drive could all help you save dollars when filling up your tank.