It’s no secret that the price of gas is continually rising. According to data from the Energy Information Administration, the national average for a gallon of regular gas in mid-January 2009 was $1.83. Three weeks later, the price was $3.44, and in 2012, the average price exceeds $4.00 in some areas.
With no estimated date in sight as to when prices will come down, consumers need to be smart about how to save on fuel costs before they reach the pump. Fortunately, there are many ways to save significantly – without requiring a great deal of effort on your part.
A few years back we looked at our monthly expenses and couldn’t believe how much we were spending in Diesel! There had to be a way to try and cut down what we were paying at the pump. Well I’m sure many of us are all wondering how to save money on Fuel right??!! Especially when you are heading out on a road trip, it is nice to try and save every penny in order to use that money on more FUN things along the way…..well this is what I found to help you along the way.
The first thing we did 2.5 years ago was sell my Tahoe and bought a Hybrid car…..that made an incredible difference! This option isn’t right for everyone as it is small and only holds my children and I (sorry Daddy you’re outta’ luck), but it is a great vehicle to tote the kids back and forth to school, for grocery trips, and if my husband has a meeting that is quite a distance from us. Still…..we have to have a bigger car so we can go on road trips (there are 5 of us total + all our stuff means we are a Suburban sized vacationing kinda’ family) and so finding a way to save on gas (especially for long road trips) was a goal of mine.
This is what I found!! There are many APPs and websites out right now that compare prices, locate the nearest gas station, and direct you to the one that will save you the most money on gas. Many of the websites and APPs are free to use (or just a few dollars) and will save you a lot more money at the end of the day….or trip for that matter. Here are some great ones!
With gas prices lurching upwards, however, the road trip is taking a toll on our wallets. Most families aren’t going to trade in their minivan for a hybrid car. Yet in spite of rising fuel costs, car travel is still by far the most economical and efficient ways to get around.
Luckily, there are steps you can take to use less gas. For example, by simply driving less aggressively you might be able to save as much as 37%. With that tip alone, the effective price of gas drops from $3.79 to $2.39. By incorporating some of the 20 changes below into your driving routine, you might not find the current outrageous price of gas to be such an impediment to your summer road trips after all.
So, how can you make sure a road trip fits your budget this year? Here are some tips:
1. Check Your Tire Pressure
Before you go, check your tire pressure to make sure it is at the manufacturer’s recommended PSI. This little tip will save you on MPG over distances.
2. Remove Excess Weight
Baggage is essential. But sometimes pulling the extra seats out of a minivan or getting rid of non-essentials saves you money on the road. Clear out anything not truly needed from your car.
3. Visit a Mechanic (not just an oil change)
Get an oil change and a tune-up. Ask a mechanic to take an overview of your vehicle before you head out. This can avoid costly repairs at shops along the way. Make sure your mechanic tops off your antifreeze, brake fluid and power steering fluid. He can also check your hoses, belts, and brakes for sign of wear. If you’re headed somewhere warm, ask him to take a look at the a.c. system. Since you’ll be staring out those windows for a long time, make sure your windshield wipers are good. Taking time to do this before you leave can save you immeasurable headache later.
4. Be Ready for a Breakdown
Do you have a spare tire? Make sure one is in your trunk for the unfortunate flat that may come along the way. Also, don’t forget to ensure that your spare tire is actually inflated. Do you have a jack in your trunk? Consider grabbing a rain poncho in case you’re stuck changing a tire in inclement weather.
Roadside assistance programs aren’t expensive, but they can prove invaluable. AAA offers such assistance as jump starts, free tows, and lost key assistance. Your car insurance company may be able to add this service to your auto insurance for just a few extra dollars a month. Look into this before you head out on your road trip.
5. Buy the Cheapest Fuel
Using an app like Fuelzee saves you money by finding you the cheapest fuel. When your fuel gauge gets low, make sure to search Fuelzee and find out where the nearest station is with the best price. Planning ahead for this can save you hundreds of dollars across a long trip. Fuelzee can even search for cheap fuel in any location, so you can check to see if you should get a fill up now, or in 200 miles. Find the cheapest gas stations from San Diego to Sarasota with this little app.
6. Don’t Speed
Each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed, but on average gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph. What does this mean? You can safely assume that for each 5 mph you drive over 50 mph you will pay an additional $0.25 per gallon for gas. Try to not speed. (It’s also safer and avoids the risk of paying big bucks for a ticket.)
Paying attention to fuel economy will only save you so much, however. Here are a couple of other great ways to save money on road trips.
7. Use Cruise Control
Turning on the cruise control helps you maintain a constant speed on the highway and, usually, will save you money on fuel. It also helps you feel more relaxed as you travel long distances.
8. Avoid Toll Roads
Use a GPS app like Google Maps, which lets you chose a route without tolls. Sometimes two routes are almost parallel and take nearly the same time, but can save you big bucks by avoiding tolls and turnpike charges.
9. Visit Free Attractions
There are tons of free attractions and great places to visit. Take the time to get a guidebook and research places to visit with free or low-cost entrance fees. Spend a day at your local library looking at guidebooks, and check out a couple for the trip. Museums, the beach, free music festivals, parks and historic sites are great options. Many museums offer free admission on select days. For instance, you can see works of art (from Van Gogh paintings to Egyptian tombs artifacts) for free at NYC’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
10. Save on Food
Pack a cooler before you go. Along your road trip, you may want to stop a local grocery store and grab sandwich stuff for lunches, long drive days, or day trips. Make sure to pack a cooler.
11. Stay for Free
Do you know someone along the way you could crash with? If you are open to crashing on a couch, let friends and relatives know where you’d like to go on your trip and ask for suggestions. Camping is also inexpensive or free. And if you’re up for an adventure, try staying with a free spirit host with Couchsurfing’s website.
Perhaps some of the most famous free stops you can make involve the streets themselves. Fromthe Pacific Coast Highway in California to the beautiful Grand Canyon, the sights along these iconic roadways range from historic to breathtaking. As you drive, explore the little towns along the way — each with its own memorable history, and special attractions. So, are you ready to go? Pick and date, and get started planning your next road trip now!
1. Drive Less
Between the rising cost of gas and the slumping economy, there are a number of reasons why people are driving less today. It’s not so hard to do either. Combine your errands into one trip to avoid repeat drives into town. Consider walking instead of driving for nearby pick-ups, or drag out that bicycle that’s gathering dust in the garage or shed.
2. Warm Up Your Car for Shorter Lengths of Time
If you wake up to a cold morning, don’t warm up the car for longer than 30 seconds (up to one minute if you must). If you idle the engine for more than a minute, you waste fuel and pump nasty greenhouse gas emissions into the air. Engines of modern cars do not require the extensive length of time that older models needed to warm up.
3. Buy Gas Early or Late in the Day
Purchase gas early or late in the day, especially during warm months. Gas is cooler earlier in the day, and more dense. As temperatures rise, gas density falls and you get less of it when you pump.
Also, buy gas early in the week. Prices typically rise between Wednesday and Saturday, but stay lower during the early days of the week.
4. Slow Down and Drive Steady
Driving fast may be fun, but it also increases drag, which increases fuel consumption. Driving just below the speed limit and driving smoothly (not accelerating quickly) uses gas more efficiently, so you may have to fill up a lot less often.
5. Monitor When and How You Brake
Braking excessively wastes gas and causes your brake pads to wear out quickly. Maintain a safe distance between yourself and the car in front of you when you’re in heavy traffic – that way, you won’t need to brake as often as if you were tailgating.
Also, by keeping a bit more distance between you and the car ahead, you can begin braking earlier, especially when approaching a traffic light. By not having to slam on the brakes at the last minute, you’ll improve the efficiency of your car and save gas.
6. Turn Off the Engine
If you’re waiting outside for your spouse to finish getting ready for your night out, or you’re waiting at a railroad crossing for the train to cross, turn off the engine. Idling is a major waste of gasoline, and contributes massive amounts of pollutants to the atmosphere.
7. Eliminate Wind Resistance
An open window increases drag and costs you fuel in the long run – so keep your windows closed whenever possible. Also, remember to remove unneeded car racks and carriers. If you normally drive around with a ski rack, bicycle rack, or luggage rack on your roof, take it off when it’s not in use to make your vehicle more aerodynamic.
8. Avoid Gas Stations Near the Highway
The first gas station that you encounter after a long stretch of highway will usually be pricey. If possible, plan ahead or drive a little farther toward the nearest town to find a cheaper station.
9. Don’t Wait Until Your Tank Is Almost Empty to Fill Up
If you wait until your tank is almost empty, you may be stuck paying for whatever gas you find conveniently nearby, as you won’t be able to search for the best deal.
10. Monitor Your Tires
Under-inflation causes tires to wear out faster and wastes gas. Properly inflated tires reduce friction and offer better gas mileage.
However, temperature changes can cause tire pressure to fluctuate by as much as two to three pounds per square inch (psi), so be sure to check the psi regularly – especially during seasons when the weather shifts drastically. You may also want to contact your car dealer to see if they offer free tire pressure check-ups.
Also, if you utilize snow tires during the winter months, be sure to replace them in the spring. Snow tires cause excess friction on dry surfaces, wasting gas.
11. Tune the Engine
Car engines need to be regularly tuned. A properly tuned engine uses less gas, so if you can’t remember when you last had a tune-up, it may be time to schedule one.
12. Change Filters
Check your filters regularly – especially if you live in a dusty area. Clean filters help to keep cars running more fuel efficiently.
13. Use the Correct Motor Oil
Be sure to use the proper motor oil. If you’re not sure which type your car requires, check the owner’s manual or do a search online. Using the wrong motor oil can cause the engine to work harder and waste gas.
14. Turn Off the A/C
As much as you may love air conditioning, it turns your car into a gas guzzler. Keep it turned off as much as possible. To keep your car cooler, park in the shade and roll the windows down a crack to circulate air.
Transmissions & Fuel Efficiency
15. Drive Manual
Manual transmission cars are more fuel-efficient than automatic transmission. If you drive one, shift up early and shift down late to save on fuel. Also, shift into neutral when the car is standing still to reduce the strain on your transmission.
16. Manage Your Speed
If you drive a car with automatic transmission, use cruise control to manage your speed and conserve fuel.
17. Choose the Best Route
Whenever possible, take the route with the fewest stop signs and traffic lights. The shortest route isn’t always the most fuel-efficient way to go.
18. Fill Your Gas Tank Near State Lines
When traveling, fill up near state lines if possible. Due to different tax rates, you may save a bundle just by crossing into another state. If you’re planning a road trip, do research ahead of time to see which states offer the best prices.
19. Consider Buying a Fuel-Efficient Car
Consider getting a more fuel-efficient car. Even several models of affordable non-hybrids can get 40 miles per gallon.
20. Download a Gas App
Using smartphone apps can really help you save at the gas pump – sometimes more than $0.20 per gallon. Several apps are not only available for the iPhone, but also for the Android, Blackberry, Windows phone, and others as well.
Fuel Finder – This APP is only a few dollars and will detect your location (will have to turn on your location first), and then when you touch the pin point near you it will display the price per gallon….fabulous!
MapQuest gas prices – We are all pretty familiar with MapQuest….now they have taken it a step further by showing you the nearest gas stations on your route and when you hover over the # of the station in question it shows you the price of gas there, love it! This is great when planning a long trip as you could pinpoint the cheaper stations and make plans to stop at certain ones along the way, thus saving you money and time!
AAA TripTik – This APP by Triple A locates gas stations along your route as well and shows you gas prices. Many of us have used AAA for years to plan the most efficient route for road and business trips, now they provide this gas comparison feature plus voice activated directions to your next destination.
Gas Buddy – This is a free APP that detects where you are (when you turn your location on) and shows you the nearest gas stations with the price of their gas as well.
Fuel My Route – This is a great online site where you put in where you are, your final destination on your road trip, and it pin points the best places to stop along the way that have the cheapest gas. Of course gas prices change slightly from day to day but if you do this right before you head out it should save you quite a bit.
Waze – Large community based traffic and navigation app where people share where accidents are. If you can avoid traffic and knowing the shortest route you will save $ on gas.
If you’re headed out on a road trip you might also like my post on keeping the kids busy on road trips here!
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!
2. Drive like a sane person
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 forSmartMoney.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 ofBreitling 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.