Drivers will tell you: Gas is expensive. In fact, the average American family spends around $5,000 on gas annually.1 With many budgets getting tighter, squeezing a couple extra miles out of each tank could go a long way.
Want to spend less than that average? There are 2 main ways to save on gas: You can get better prices or use less fuel. Read on for money-saving tips that can give your wallet a rest.
Find the best price
1. Fill up off the beaten path
Stations in high-traffic areas, such as near major intersections, at highway rest stops, and close to shopping centers, can charge 25 cents more per gallon than those in less-trafficked places.2 So comparison shop and buy at less-expensive gas stations when possible. Search online for a website or app that tracks pump prices in your area. In most states, gas stations can change their price throughout the day, so check prices whenever you're about to fill up.
2. Don't wait until your tank is almost empty.
If you're low on gas, you might not be able to get to the station with the best prices. So always have enough gas to make it to the cheapest pump. Just don't go so far out of your way that you cancel out your savings by using too much gas to get to the affordable station.
3. Pay with cash or debit
Many gas stations charge less if you use cash or a debit card because it helps them avoid credit card fees. If there isn't a cash price listed outside, go inside and ask about it before you fill up. Paying with cash could save you 5 to 10 cents per gallon on average,3 which translates to a couple of extra dollars in your pocket for each fill-up.
4. Join rewards programs
Some gas stations have loyalty programs that could offer lower prices. Check local stations' websites to see if they have a program. Similarly, you could save by using a rewards credit card. Some can give you up to 3% cash back for gas station charges. You may also be able to score a deal if you fill up at a warehouse club station.
5. Aim to buy on Monday mornings
Gas prices can vary throughout the week, but they tend to be 2% to 4% lower on Mondays between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m., when demand is lower.4 Avoid filling up on Fridays, when gas tends to be the most expensive.
Use less gas
6. Ditch the junk in your trunk
Every extra pound that your engine has to move requires more fuel. So don't drive around with unnecessary cargo. Every 100 pounds lowers fuel efficiency by about 1%.5
7. Keep your tires inflated
Here, inflation is a good thing. Your gas mileage can improve by 0.6% on average, but up to 3% with properly inflated tires. Your fuel efficiency falls by roughly 0.2% for every 1-pound per square inch (psi) drop. Bonus: Well-inflated tires tend to last longer, saving you even more.6
8. Drive the speed limit
This is always the right thing to do. But here's another reason to slow down: Most cars' fuel efficiency plummets at 50 mph. In fact, every 5 mph over 50 mph is like paying an extra 30 cents per gallon.7 So drive slower—and save.
9. Pick the most fuel-efficient route
The fastest way may not use the least gas. Before you leave home, plan a route that avoids traffic. Frequent stops and idling can lower your fuel efficiency by 15% to 30%.8 Plus, who wants to sit in traffic anyway?
10. Get feedback from your car
Many cars show fuel efficiency in real time. This can remind you of how your driving behaviors affect your gas usage, improving efficiency by 6.6%, on average.9 If your car doesn't have this feature, you can install a third-party device.
Although saving a few cents per gallon doesn't seem like much in the moment, over a year it could add up to hundreds. Try these tips and you won't spend more on gas than you need to.