How to Save on Gas as Prices at the Pump Climb
I live in California, which has some of the most expensive gas in the country, and we have seen regular for $3.65 a gallon. Blame the turmoil in the Mideast.
Whatever the cost, there are ways to save on gas and find the best prices. WalletPop recently covered some tried and true methods to save at the pump -- shopping around, filling up at midday on a Tuesday, getting regular tuneups, slowing down, and, of course, steering clear of pricey premium gas. Here are some more ways you can keep your quick drive to the store or the annual family road trip from costing you a small fortune:1. Download Some Gas Apps
If you have a smartphone, there are plenty of free apps that help you find the cheapest gas near your destination. GasBuddy makes it easy with its free app, and Mapquest has an online finder for gas prices. Consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch recommends the free app Cheap Gas, which provides precise directions to the closest and cheapest gas station.
Along with GasBuddy, Investopedia's Financial Edge recommends GasBook ($0.99), Fuel Finder ($2.99), Cheap Gas Finder (free), and My Gas Wars ($0.99). While these apps are mostly designed to work on the iPhone, there are also apps designed for Android phones. Try out a few of these apps since they all have different features and options and some have more updated information than others.
Just be prepared to wait in line when you get there, and bring cash since some of the cheaper gas stations charge more for paying with a credit card. And don't drive too far to a gas station with lower prices; there's no point in burning more gas to drive across town when paying just a few pennies more per gallon is available nearby.
2. Buy Discount Gas Gift Cards
Did you know you don't have to pay full price for a gift card? Sites like GiftCardGranny.com offer a diverse selection of discount gas gift cards from various card vendors, according to Woroch.
Run out of cash on your card? GiftCardGranny offers an alert on newly available discount gift cards, so you'll be notified every time there's a new card available.
3. Stay Home or Carpool
This is a no-brainer, but not driving is the simplest way to save on gas. Instead of driving to the mall, shop online at home Woroch recommends. Shopping online saves an average of 35% in gas consumption, she says, citiing a recent study by Carnegie Mellon's Green Institute.
If that doesn't work for you, try the Carpicipate app to locate like-minded neighbors or community members interested in sharing rides.
4. Be Loyal to Your Reward Card
Grocery stores like King Soopers offer up to 10 cents off per gallon for buying groceries and filling up at their tanks, according to Woroch. Some stores offer an additional savings if you pay cash, when combined with your reward card. Just make sure you save your cashier's receipt to get the full savings.
5. Steer Clear of the Highway
The Financial Edge recommends avoiding the convenient gas station on the side of the highway as you drive home from work. Stations close to highways and Interstates charge more for those ideal locations.
6. Do the Math
Calculate whether a trip is worth it. Driving out of your way to get the cheapest gas may not be worth the savings and driving to the store to buy a shirt that's on sale may not be either. Figuring out how much you spend per day on driving, as a Seattle Post-Intelligencer story did, helps put it all in perspective.
It's a simple equation once you know how many miles per gallon you drive and your car's fuel efficiency. Take the cost of a gallon of gas and divide by your miles per gallon.
In the Seattle Post example, if your car gets 22 mpg and gas costs $3.12 per gallon, you're paying 14 cents per mile. $3.12 divided by 22 mpg equals 14 cents per mile. Mulitply that by how many miles you drive roundtrip to work -- 40 miles in this example -- and you're spending $5.60 per day on gas.
The website MPG Buddy will do the work for you and determine an annual cost, although to really get a sense of how much gas you're using it's good to break it down to a daily cost.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area.