8 Ways to Save at the Pump
Whether it’s a weekend road trip or a daily commute to the office, the cost to fuel up your car can be a big budget drain. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways for you to save at the pump. Here are eight tips to help you spend less on gas, no matter where you’re heading.
1. Skip the premium fuel (unless you have to)
Some car models require premium fuel, but some only recommend it. If you’re not sure which camp your car falls into, check to see what your owner’s manual recommends—if it doesn’t indicate that your car is “premium required,” then switch to using regular grade fuel, otherwise you’re spending more on fuel than you really need to.
2. Pay attention to prices
Most of us shop around before making a purchase, but when we’re buying gas (more often than not), we’re inclined to stop at the first station we see. The few cents per gallon difference between the nearest station and a station farther down the road may not seem that important, but those pennies do add up over the course of a year of fill-ups.
The first way to save is simply not to let your gas tank go empty. When you wait until the last second to fill up, you’re stuck with the prices at the nearest station. Filling up early lets you find the lowest price. It’s also wise not to let your fuel get too low on a regular basis as it could cause problems with your fuel pump.
If your objective is to find the best price in town, this can be as simple as keeping your eyes open on your normal commute—but keep in mind gas prices can fluctuate throughout the day, so the lowest price in the morning won’t necessarily be the lowest price in the afternoon. The easiest way to keep up with fluctuating gas prices is to use an app like GasBuddy, which shows prices at nearby stations. It’s a surefire way to get the lowest cost, no matter where you are.
3. Drive at a sensible speed
While getting to your destination as quickly as possible may seem arbitrary to this subject, it’s not. If you have a tendency to drive with a lead foot, you may want to rethink your driving strategy—because faster driving speeds mean fewer miles per gallon. Drive sensibly and stick to the speed limit if you want to save money!
4. Avoid hard acceleration and deceleration
Slow and steady really does win the race. No matter how fast you’re driving, pushing the engine to accelerate quickly burns more fuel. Accelerating hard when you know you’re going to have to hit the brakes seconds later at a congested intersection is terrible for your gas mileage. Don’t do it!
Cruise control can be a big help keeping your speed even, and it can make a huge difference on long highway trips.
5. Reduce your drag
Cars are designed to be aerodynamic, meaning by reducing air resistance, your car can zip along with efficient, streamlined ease—all the while using less power and fuel. But sometimes our practical needs get in the way of the car’s design and we add luggage racks and bike mounts—or maybe we just enjoy driving around town with the windows rolled down.
All these actions change the way air moves around the car and affects drag, especially at high speeds. The solution? Don’t do any of these things unless you really need to: take the bike rack off when you’re not hauling your bike and keep the windows rolled up when traveling at faster speeds.
6. Avoid idling
If you’re going to be idling in traffic for more than a few minutes, it’s a good idea to turn the car off. Otherwise you’re burning fuel without moving an inch—which is terrible for fuel economy.
This is also a big reason you want to avoid traffic where you’re sitting still but it’s not practical to park and turn the engine off. If your regular route has heavy traffic, finding an alternative could mean serious savings. Look for a new route or, if possible, consider shifting your commute earlier or later in the day to avoid the worst traffic.
7. Click for economy
Some newer cars will have a special mode for fuel economy, often activated with a green button labeled “eco” or “econ.” How much these settings actually do for your car will vary depending on the make and model, but they can optimize fuel efficiency. Expect performance to suffer in economy mode, but that’s the trade-off for better fuel efficiency.
8. Get a rewards credit card
If you don’t already have a rewards card, your gas bill is a good reason to consider one. This is one of our favorite ways to save because all you have to do is use your card to pay for all your daily purchases, including gas—and voilà. Savings done!
There are many types of credit card reward programs to choose from; therefore it’s important that you do your research first before you decide which reward card program is best for your spending lifestyle.
Save on Gas with PenFed
Regardless of the reward program you choose, the concept is fairly straightforward: for every dollar you spend on your card, you’ll either be earning point or cash rewards.
To make the most of a rewards card, look for one that gives extra points for gas purchases, like the PenFed Platinum Rewards Visa Signature® Card (which rewards 5 points per dollar spent on gas at the pump) or the PenFed Platinum Cash Rewards Visa® Card (which rewards 3-5% cash back on gas purchases).