Even though prices have cooled down a bit, the national average for a gallon of regular is still over $4. That means if you fill a 13-gallon tank once a week, your annual gas budget could be over $2,700!
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to get those numbers down and save hundreds at the pump this year. From a simple driving hack that boosts MPG by 20% to the best day of the week to fill up, here are 10 ways to save on gas.
1. Use the GasBuddy App
You know when you get a new phone and you have to re-download your apps manually? And the process teaches you which apps are your favorite/most essential?
To me, one of the very first apps I re-download is GasBuddy. I can’t tell you how many hundreds, if not thousands of dollars the app has saved me over the years.
GasBuddy’s mission is simple: to find you the cheapest gas within a certain radius of your current location. I set my radius to five miles, and good ol’ GasBuddy usually finds a station 1.7 miles off the highway with gas that’s $0.57 cheaper.
I’d say in total, each time I use the app I end up saving $8 to $10 per tank.
2. Fill Up On the Cheapest Day of the Week
True to its name, GasBuddy has another helpful nugget for us.
Ever notice how gas prices seem to fluctuate on the daily? Kinda makes you wonder: is there an ideal day of the week to buy gas that’s cheaper than any other time?
As it turns out, there is. By analyzing their own data, GasBuddy found that Monday is the best day of the week to fill up — and has been for years. Friday has become pretty cheap since the pandemic, too.
Wednesdays and Thursdays, by contrast, are the worst days to fill up the tank.
3. Get a Wholesale Club Membership
If you live near a wholesale club like Sam’s Club, Costco, or BJ’s, let me tell ya — it might be worth getting a membership just for the cheap gas.
Gas at wholesale clubs is around $0.20 cheaper per gallon, according to Consumer Reports, and that can quickly add up over the course of a year.
For instance, if you buy 10 gallons a week, you’ll save 52 x 10 x $0.20 = $104 total. That’s already more than enough to cover the cost of an annual membership, which typically hovers around $45 to $60.
Even still, you can almost always get a membership cheaper than that. Wholesale clubs run new member promos all the time — you just have to look.
Read more: Costco vs. Sam’s Club: How Do They Compare?
4. Try the Upside App
The Upside app is another useful tool in your gas-saving toolbelt, allowing you to save on nearby gas, grocery stores, and restaurants.
Here’s how it works for gas:
- Open the app and find a local gas deal.
- Tap “Claim Offer” at the gas station.
- Either check in or upload your receipt.
- Get your cash back automatically within 10 days.
I live in a suburban part of a major city, and right now, there are two gas stations within two miles offering $0.20 back on regular through Upside.
Now, you might be wondering what makes Upside different from the glut of other “instant cash back” apps out there. For one, the UI is relatively ad-free, which is refreshing. Second, Upside does have genuinely good gas deals.
But the last cool thing about Upside is that, “every time you fill up, Upside offsets the CO2 emissions for your next 75 miles of driving.” The company supports wind-based power generation, wastewater treatment, and more, and in 2020 offset more CO2 emissions than Disney, Salesforce, and Bank of America combined.
5. Use a Gas Rewards Card
If you spend a sizable portion of your monthly budget filling up at the pump, you might want to start using a credit card that offers maximum cash back on gas.
Some cards offer up to 3x bonus points at U.S. gas stations, often in addition to other travel-centric benefits. If your car is really thirsty, you might even consider getting a dedicated gas station credit card, which tend to offer significant discounts at the pump.
Naturally, the drawback to getting a gas station-specific card is that you have to go specifically to that gas station to reap the benefits. But if you always fill up at the same station (on Monday, of course), then it might make sense.
6. Use Cruise Control
Now that we’ve covered the apps and credit card rewards, let’s talk old-school, mechanical gas-saving hacks.
The first is to use cruise control as much and as often as you can.
Testing by Natural Resources Canada found that keeping to a rocksteady 80kph (~50mph) versus fluctuating between 75 and 85kph every 18 seconds would save you nearly 20% on fuel.
The reasoning is simple: when you’re on cruise control, you’re not using excess gas to accelerate. Furthermore, you’re not using your brakes as often, so you’ll be saving a bit of wear on your pads, shoes, and rotors as well.
And speaking of speed…
7. Try to Keep It Under 70mph
On a long highway journey, what kind of person are you?
Are you the kind of person who just chills in the middle at 65mph?
Or do you like to give it the full Jeremy Clarkson, doing 87 in the left lane as you scan the horizon for cops?
I’ll admit that I fall more in the latter category. And even though I (mostly) don’t get caught, it’s still an expensive habit.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, most vehicles reach their optimum speed — and MPG — around 50mph. Above that, gas mileage decreases “rapidly.”
“You can assume that each 5mph you drive over 50mph is like paying an additional $0.29 per gallon for gas.”
Woof. So… yeah, joke’s on me, time to slow down!
8. Limit Your A/C Use
Your car’s air conditioning might be a bigger drag on your fuel economy than you think.
According to various studies compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy, blasting A/C can lower your car’s fuel economy by as much as 25%. That means that on a hot day, you could be getting 22.5 MPG instead of the usual 30.
Then again, who’s going to drive in 95-degree heat without the A/C on full?
The secret is to help your A/C so it doesn’t have to work so hard cooling your car down:
- Park in the shade whenever possible, or at least, with your windshield facing away from the sun.
- Roll down your windows for the first few minutes of driving to blow the hot air out.
- Use a ~$15 car shade.
- As a long-term investment, consider tinting your windows (which also increases safety, security, and privacy).
- Change out your cabin air filter, which is easier than you think in most cars and costs $11 to DIY.
All things considered, even just parking in the shade next time and blowing out the hot air after startup will make your A/C thank you (though I’d definitely check your filter soon, too).
9. Top Off Your Tires
Have you ever reinflated your own tires?
It’s definitely a good skill to have. As is knowing where to fill your tires for free.
But let’s start with the why.
Underinflated tires don’t just wear out your tires faster — they also create more drag between you and the road and lower your fuel economy. A study by Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that underinflated tires could impact gas mileage by as much as 10%.
And if you haven’t refilled your tires recently, they’re probably due for a top-off. That’s because tires naturally lose about 1 PSI per month, plus an additional PSI each time the temperature drops 10 degrees Fahrenheit according to Consumer Reports. So as winter approaches, your tires could easily lose 5 PSI overnight.
Luckily, refilling tires is easy and free, if you know where to look.
- If you get a wholesale club membership, their auto center will fill your tires free of charge. Many also have a pull-up pump with a built-in pressure gauge.
- You can also visit freeairpump.com for a map of free tire pumps in your area.
- If you can’t find a free option, most gas stations will have a pump you can use for ~$1.50 in quarters.
10. Start Getting More Items Delivered
I remember when you had to pay $7 to ship anything to your house, while driving to the store was “free.”
Oh, how the tables have turned.
Now, it can sometimes cost $7 in gas alone just to get to the store and back. Not to mention the opportunity cost of sitting in traffic (and the stress).
Personally, I’ve found myself ordering more and more items for delivery. Because even though there’s a fee attached, it’s still cheaper than the time and gas it costs to go out. Plus, if you have to return an item you don’t like, it’s often faster and cheaper to ship it back than to drive out to the store again.
A similar case could be made for having food delivered, too, since idling in the drive-thru or at curbside costs a half gallon an hour!
Even though gas prices are out of control these days, there are some things you can do to keep your gas expenses in your control. By making use of apps like GasBuddy and Upside, topping off your tires, going easy on the gas pedal, and limiting your A/C use, you can keep a bit more cash in your pocket — instead of on the side of the road.
Or, if you’re thinking it’s time to get an EV and skip the pump entirely, check out The True Cost of Owning an Electric Car.