Prices at the grocery store and at the gas pump are two of the most common ways people gauge the cost of living. You don’t need to wait for the government to release inflation statistics when you can see the price of a single cucumber go up to 60 cents or watch the digits keep rolling past on the pump as fuel flows into your gas tank.
That’s why, when budgets are squeezed, saving money on gas is one of the first people look for savings. Here are our best tips for how to spend less on gasoline for your vehicle.
Use a free gas app
Several smartphone apps help you save money at the pump, including:
Gas Buddy. Probably the best-known gas-price app, it’s the one that Living on the Cheap tech writer Eric Rosenberg likes best for its ease of use.
Waze. If you already have this navigation app, you might find it convenient to use because it also has gas prices built in.
AAA Mobile app. If you’re a AAA member, you also have access to an app that lets you compare gas prices nearby.
Gas Guru. The app lets you see the cheapest prices along your route, letting you decide if you should fill up near home or closer to your work. It also lets you save your favorite stations, and you can filter your search by fuel type.
MapQuest. If you’re old enough, you may remember using “MapQuest” as a verb. Today’s app has some new features, like letting you compare gas-station prices.
GetUpside is a rebate app similar to Ibotta. Participating stations provide daily offers, and you’ll need to upload photos of receipts to get your rebate in the form of cash or discounts on services like car washes.
Learn from hypermilers
In case you haven’t heard of hypermiling, it’s the practice of using obscure driving techniques to save gas. The TV show Mythbusters tested hypermiling techniques and found a few that actually work; here are two of them.
Keep the outside of your car clean. If you’re looking to save money, do this yourself with a bucket of soapy water and rags instead of paying for a car wash.
Avoid left turns and busy streets. Mythbusters found that this technique worked with trucks but not with cars. (The idea is that you don’t waste gas while stuck in traffic or behind other vehicles waiting to turn.)
Other easy-to implement tips include:
Don’t use your vehicle as a storage unit. Take the junk out of your trunk. Carrying around that extra weight is costing you in gas mileage.
Back into a parking space or find one that lets you pull forward so that you don’t have to reverse out. Reversing out of a space when the engine is cold uses more gas than just driving straight out of it, according to one study.
You can find out more in our article about hypermiling and other gas-saving techniques.
Tell your kids to take the school bus
School buses are free transportation, but you wouldn’t know it from the lines of parents idling their cars outside schools each day. If there’s not a real need for your child to be picked up in a private vehicle (an appointment right after school, for example), don’t use your gas to do it. At the very least, arrange a car pool with other students in your neighborhood.
Use your discount club memberships for gas
Discount stores like Sam’s Club, Costco and BJ’s are known for often having the best gas prices in town. If that’s the case in your city, be sure to fill up your vehicle when shopping there or when your route takes you past the warehouse store. (And see our articles on whether Costco can save you money and how to save money at Sam’s Club.)
Some supermarkets also offer a discount on gas when you fuel up where you shop for groceries, especially if you have a loyalty card.
Consider getting rid of one or more vehicles
During the pandemic, my husband and I both were sent home from our office jobs to work from home. After a year of seeing my car literally sit in the driveway without moving, we decided to become a one-vehicle family.
I’ve since begun working for myself from my home office. My husband goes into the office three days out of five. We’ve done absolutely fine with just one vehicle between us.
At the beginning, we thought one of us might need to use a ride-sharing service or cab for occasional appointments, but it’s been more than a year and we haven’t ever had to pay for a ride anywhere. I make appointments and do all my errands on days my husband works from home. We’ve not only saved on gas but also on insurance payments.
If you and your spouse are both retired, being a one-car couple might work for you, too. My sister and her retiree husband are living with one vehicle and are enjoying the savings. If you’re wondering if you can do without a car entirely, see our article on giving up the car keys.
Finally, as you consider these tips, remember: Reducing gas consumption isn’t just good for your budget, it’s good for the planet and our national security as well.
Check out these other Living on the Cheap stories about saving money:
- How to save money on food without coupons
- Do a no-spend challenge to see where you can save
- The ultimate guide to saving money by cutting cable
- Less-extreme couponing strategies save money and time