While we all probably know the basics about how to save money on gas — don’t crank the AC (as if that’s an option this summer!), don’t tool around town aimlessly (duh!) — here are some lesser known ways to cut the cost of gas this summer:
1. Buy discounted gas gift cards
Sites like PlasticJungle.com and GiftCardGranny.com sometimes sell discounted gas gift cards for gas stations like Shell, Gulf and Mobil. This means you could get a gas card worth, say, $100 but only pay about $95 for it. That’s $5 in free gas!
Sure, traffic jams, slow drivers in the left lane and rubberneckers may make you crazy. But “angry driving” — like rapidly accelerating — can cost you big, says Kelli Grant, the senior consumer reporter for SmartMoney.com. “If you peel away from a traffic light like you’re in the Indy 500, you’re going to pay for that,” she says. In fact, in a test by Edmunds.com, accelerating slowly from a green light and stopping gradually for a red light cut fuel consumption for someone driving a Land Rover by more than 35% and for a Mustang more than 27%. Furthermore, the study found that cruise control is the way to go on the highway: A Land Rover got roughly 14% better mileage using cruise control set at 70 mph compared to a driver cruising between speeds of 65 and 75 mph; for the Mustang, it was 4.5% better mileage.
3. Strategically time your trips to the pump
During a regular week, you want to fill up your tank on Wednesday or Thursday before 10 a.m., says Chris Faulkner, president and CEO of Breitling Oil and Gas, a Dallas-based independent oil and gas exploration and production company. The reason: “Gas prices rise on Thursdays in anticipation of weekend travel” and “10 a.m. is when most station owners make their price change for the day,” he writes. “Unless it is an emergency, do not buy gas Friday, Saturday or Sunday.” During the holidays, some experts say that prices could rise in anticipation of more drivers on the road. So, see tip #4 below for finding the best prices before you fill up this 4th of July.
4. Use your smartphone
Use the AAA Triptik or GasBuddy apps to find the cheapest gas in your area, says Grant. You can also use your smartphone (the Maps app on the iPhone, for example, shows you traffic) to check the traffic before you leave the house so you can avoid gas-wasting backtracking and idling.
5. Consider a gas rewards card (your grocery store might even offer one)
If you drive a lot, it may make sense for you to get a credit card that rewards you for buying gas. To see if one makes sense for you, check out NerdWallet.com, where you’ll enter in your spending, and it will recommend good credit cards for you. (NerdWallet.com also just launched a site to help you find cheap gas in the area.) However, it’s important to note that most rewards cards carry high interest rates, so unless you pay off your balance in full each month, these cards probably aren’t right for you (instead, look for a low-interest card). Furthermore, “grocery chains like Safeway, Kroger and Winn-Dixie offer gasoline rewards programs,” says Jim Toedtman, editor of AARP Bulletin, which publishes a list of gas saving tips. “Get friends and family to share the card so points pile up faster,“ he adds. However, it’s important to remember that the price at that gas station might not be the best price out there, so even with the savings it might not be the best deal, says Grant.