Gasoline: Is it Possible to Save?

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Photo Credit: Ken Teegardin via Flickr

With the average price of gasoline soaring, you may be feeling the sting; but don’t lose hope for that summer trip just yet.  When I began this article, it was for the purpose of sharing places to find discounts on gasoline, then as I did some online research, I came across ideas for conserving fuel once you have purchased it. I’ve compiled the info from several reputable sources to help you save some money. Some you may already know, but I’l list them all anyway.

Obviously, some aspects of fuel costs you CAN’T change – cost of fuel, number of miles you have to drive, etc.  however in the midst of all these variables, there are still  a few things you can control.

 

Gas Price Websites and Apps:  Use a website/app to find out gas prices in your destination BEFORE you go.

Why would this information be important?  While the actual price for the gasoline doesn’t vary much, the state taxes DO.  Sometimes, crossing state lines will show a change of  .10 – .20  (or more) per gallon.  These apps will alert you to these spikes or decreases in fuel taxes, giving you the opportunity to choose what side of the state line you purchase your fuel.

Also, there are times when just getting out of a metro area will save you  from .10 – .30/gal.

Knowledge give you the ability to make good budgeting decisions.

There ARE Discounts for the Savvy Shopper:

  • Cash Discounts: Since businesses are charged to process credit card payments, they offer discounts to customers paying with cash.  This can be .03 – .10/gallon.
  • Cash Back for Credit Card purchases of gasoline:  These would be with your regular credit cards but the offers change quarterly (or monthly).  Check the websites for your cards.  Also, check the frequency they pay out.  Quarterly payouts will give you the most value for your dollar.
  • Gas Company Credit Cards MAY offer savings when you use their card:  They may begin and stop at different intervals, so do your research to find this savings!
  • Costco & Sam’s Club sell gas at a discount. Consider their annual fees as you determine if they will be a savings for you.  Experts tell us we need to drive more than 12,000 miles/yr. to come out ahead on these.
  • Wal-Mart Murphy’s gas stations offer a discount when you use a Wal-Mart gift card at the pump.  It’s an  immediate discount at the pump of  .03 – .10/gal.  There’s no waiting for a check to arrive.
  • WalMart Credit Cards offers an even greater discount when using that card.  Weigh the discount against the financial pitfalls of using a credit card.  If you don’t pay the bill completely when it comes in, the interest will negate any discount you might have gotten.  This is a nice discount, IF you use it wisely!!
  • Some hotels are beginning to offer gas cards to families who stay with them – to encourage families to travel in spite of higher gas prices. These will be advertised on their website.  Evaluate the costs of the hotel with the savings to make sure it’s really a good deal.  These offers come from higher end hotels.

NOTE:  Applying for multiple credit cards will have an effect on your credit score so make wise decisions in this area…chose carefully and sparingly.

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Photo Credit: futureatlas.com on Flickr CC Lic.

TEN Tips to Improve Fuel Economy    (Sources: Driving Skills for Life – Ford Motor Company; fueleconomy.gov; consumerreports.org)   ALL trusted sites!

  1. Slow down and watch speed – Fueleconomy.gov estimates that for every 5 mph you drive over 60 mph, you will spend an extra .20/gal on fuel. (decreases gas mileage)  Pumping the accelerator or jack-rabbit driving costs you money.Use cruise control (on flat roads ONLY) and aim for a constant speed when possible.
  2. Accelerate and brake smoothly – Accelerating smoothly and braking softly conserves fuel. Fast starts, weaving in and out of traffic and hard braking wastes fuel. Maintain a safe distance between vehicles to allow for more time to brake and accelerate gradually.
  3. Limit the idling when possible – Today’s engines don’t need a warm up before driving.  Even in cold weather, idling for 30 seconds is enough. When Consumer Reports left a Buick Lucerne idling/warming up for 10 minutes, it burned about 1/8 gallon of gas.  According to the CA Energy Commission, you can warm an engine just by driving it gently.  Idling in traffic is also a fuel waster.  For every two minutes a car is idling, it uses the same amount of fuel as a mile’s drive.  Certain GPS units study traffic trends and can help improve your route to minimize idling in traffic.
  4. Check your tires – Properly inflated tires (refer to your vehicle’s manual)  increase fuel economy.  For every 1  psi drop in pressure, gas mileage decreases by .3%, (fueleconomy.gov) The Toyota Camry,  according to Consumer Reports, experienced a 1.3 mpg loss in fuel economy when its tires were under-inflated by 10 psi.   NOTE:  This becomes even more crucial as the weather gets colder: For every drop of 10° F in temperature,  tires will lose one pound of pressure  (NPR Car Talk). Replacing a worn tire when  necessary could save you more than $100 a year in fuel as well.  (consumerreports.org)  Bottom Line:  Check the air pressure in your tires before heading out on a trip.
  5. Be kind to your vehicle – Proper maintenance will increase fuel efficiency
    • Keep the engine tuned-up
    • Keep wheels aligned
    • Replace air filters
    • Check and top off fluid levels
    • Replace worn shocks  (Personal Note:  The last time we did this, we immediately noticed a SIGNIFICANT increase in gas mileage.)
    • Replace the oxygen sensor   The sensor monitors the amount of oxygen in  the exhaust and adjust the air/fuel mixture accordingly. If it’s functioning improperly, the car will run poorly and waste gas  (as much as 40 % on gas mileage)  (fueleconomy.gov).
  6. Read & Follow Your Owner’s Manual:  Use the fuel recommended by the manufacturer to keep the engine performing efficiently.  Not all vehicles need the high-octane fuel with its extra additives. It’s .10 – .30/gallon more expensive so don’t buy it if your car doesn’t need it. The same thing applies to the oil.  Using oil that is too thick (wrong grade) will will cause the engine to function less efficiently.  The Federal Trade Commission suggests finding motor oil that says “Energy Conserving” on the performance symbol.
  7. Travel light – A fully loaded trunk will decrease gas mileage.  An extra 100 lbs in the trunk reduces a typical car’s fuel economy by 1-2% (approx. .04-.08/gal)  A fully loaded roof rack can decrease fuel economy even more – by 2-5%.  This Is Significant on a long trip!!  Even a decrease of a few pounds can make a difference.
  8. Selectively use the heater or air conditioning – Using heating or a/c only when you really need it will reduce the load on the engine. I’m not saying to be uncomfortable…I’m saying to THINK before automatically turning it on.  If temperatures allow, use the vent.  When you use the A/C, ALWAYS open the windows at first to blow out the hot air as this will decrease the “load” on the a/c and reduce fuel consumption. (avis.com)
  9. Close windows at high speeds – Don’t drive with the windows open at speeds over 50 mph. This increases aerodynamic drag and lowers fuel economy.  NOTE:  If weather allows, opening windows at speeds below 50 mph can increase gas mileage
  10. Limit the number of stops:  Several short trips taken from a cold start uses twice as much fuel as one trip of the same distance when the engine is warm.  (Federal Trade Commission)  Avoid an excessive  number of stops when possible.

Using these tips is not going to decrease your travel budget by GREAT amounts, but it might save you enough to splurge on something else later.   Every penny counts when you’re on a budget.  🙂

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