We get this question all the time – in fact its one of the age-old, top asked thrifty questions whenever someone mentions they are trying to save by cutting down expenses: How do you save on gas?
We’ve addressed a few points here and there throughout many of our posts here on our site, but we thought we would just put together a quick list with many of our tips in one post. I say many – and not all – because as time goes on, we learn more, find more information and as we drive, experience more in this area. So we can’t say that we know it all. Some of these tips are tried and true and you hear them everywhere, but we hope that some may be unique and new to you.
Either way, pull up a chair, take note and save some money on your gas budget. Our gas budget is higher than we would like due to long commutes, but I think as low as we can get with our trips.
Probably one of the biggest recommendations we have is a fuel efficient car. Our commuter car is just that… a small, fuel efficient commuter car. It is paid for and it is racking up the miles, but it saves fuel because its rated at a higher fuel efficiency. So with the tips we share below, it just makes it that much more efficient. But before we share those tips below, we want to look at some of our thoughts on what are referred to as “super high fuel-efficiency” cars. Just how high of an efficiency is worth it – especially worth the ticket cost of the up-front cost?
Is a Hybrid Car worth it?
Now you may ask my thoughts on owning a Hybrid. I have looked into this, granted it has been a couple of years, but at the time, I had determined that they were not saving you money in the end. I saw many reports a couple of years ago that said that you only gain an average of 10-12% better fuel efficiency and so with the cost difference of a hybrid vs. regular fuel car (hybrids costing quite a bit more), it would take over 15-20 years to save that money in fuel. And that isn’t factoring in the high cost of the replacement batteries you need to consider over the lifetime of the car. But, things could be different now, I would be curious to hear what you have to say about these cars?
What about natural gas?
I really like the idea of natural gas. But, before you go out and buy one realize this is not a widely available option for many car owners. We happen to live in a state where there are actually quite a few natural gas stations and the current average price of natural gas is $1.49 per gallon! That is a significant savings… but unfortunately a few factors have to take place.
1. You have to own a vehicle that will accept natural gas. My father-in-law recently bought a bi-fuel truck. It is absolutely brilliant! Why? Because when and where he can, he fills up with natural gas at that incredibly low price. But if he travels out of state or to areas where there are not many natural gas stations, he can fill-up with regular fuel. He also got a super deal on his used bi-fuel truck! That is the best of both worlds and an option that we are going to consider for our next vehicle when Thrifty Helena, who is approaching 200K miles, gives out. You can buy conversion kits, but we haven’t researched this enough to be able to say whether or not it is worth it to do this on a current vehicle. We do know that with where our trusty Thrifty Helena is, it wouldn’t be worth it because in her age (don’t tell her we said this) she’s not going to make it much further.
2. There needs to be accessible CNG stations close to where you normally fill-up/live. Some areas of the country have many options, and others not so much. If you can’t easily fill-up on natural gas, it is not a viable option for you. Here’s a quick view map with the orange dots indicating CNG stations nationwide. You can use the CNG station locator on the site HERE.
3. The third and final factor is that we need to hope that natural gas prices stay low in future months/years. At this point, I think it should, but you never know and can’t rely on the fact that the prices will stay the same. We have seen very little price inflation on natural gas in our area in the past four years that we have been watching it.
So there’s my thoughts on other options for fuel. So now on with what the majority of us face…. how to save on gasoline everyday no matter your current vehicle!
Here are our 15 Tips on How to Save on Gasoline
- Don’t fill-up when the gas truck is there – This is a really good tip because you will get bad fuel when the truck is filling the tanks. Why? Well, as they are pouring the gasoline into the storage tanks, it agitates and causes the dirt in the bottoms of the tanks to mix into the fuel…which in turn gets pumped into your vehicle with the result of dirty fuel in your tank. Dirty fuel will take a toll on the overall fuel efficiency, not to mention the maintenance of your vehicle. If you see a truck refilling at a station, wait a while after the fuel truck has left for all of the debris in the tanks settles back down. Try this experiment at home with your kids. Put a little dirt/sugar/salt in the bottom of a cup and then pour water in, it takes some time for the debris to settle back down.
- Fill-up on the slower speed setting vs. the fastest speed setting – I do not have definitive or scientific evidence that this makes a big difference, but this is something I practice (even if it is annoying to be sitting there a couple of extra minutes). Several years ago, I saw this on the news with some decent results. Supposedly the theory is that the faster fuel pumping option creates more air pockets in which fuel is wasted and therefore measured inaccurately. Secondly, it splashes up and triggers the pump to stop indicating that it is full, when it really may not be.
- I truly believe that is is more than worth the investment to get higher quality gasoline – I am more specifically talking about the brand of gasoline. It is not secret that we fill-up at Chevron and the reasons why – and yes, we still just buy the regular there. We may be paying slightly more for gasoline, but in the end, we feel as if we are saving a lot more on maintenance, care, and life of our vehicle.
- Fill up early in the morning – The earlier the better. Why? Well it has been scientifically proven that when it is warmer/hotter outside the gas is less dense and evaporates and so that means that you are technically getting less gasoline per calculated gallon of gas. The cooler it is, the more dense and the more gas you are technically pumping. In fact, in Canada, they know this theory to be true because their gas pumps calculate temperature differences and adjust price accordingly. Thankfully, we have the upper hand in the United States and so pumping at the right time of day can save you more money!
- Keep properly inflated tires – It is a well known fact that tires at the most proper inflation will get you the best fuel efficiency.
- Tighten/secure your gas tank cap – This is an easy way to save money! Why? Well, if your gas cap is not on securely/tightly, your money is literally floating into thin air as the gas is evaporating through the cap opening. It is a simple thing to do. Plus if your engine light comes on, before you take it to the mechanic, make sure the cap is on tight – you might just save by not having to go if the last person that filled up forgot to tighten the cap.
- Start driving briskly, not abruptly and not too slowly – It seems like an art, but having a brisk start at lights and stops vs. a very aggressive abrupt start or even a slow start supposedly saves fuel.
- Don’t top off your fuel at the pump – I used to top off my tank as I always wanted to end with an even amount of gas (like stopping on the dollar or .50) as it was much easier for budgeting/spending purposes. But I was told that in the end, I am literally just wasting fuel. Especially if you are pumping on the slow speed (see note above) when it says your tank is full, it is full! There is no need to pump wastefully!
- Get regular tune-ups – Again, I wholeheartedly believe that good maintenance on your vehicle will save you the most money and get the most fuel efficiency you can in the long run. From our experience, keeping our vehicles on top of their maintenance schedule has saved us a lot of money at the mechanic.
- Change out fuel filter on a regular basis (as directed by the manufacturer) – This saves you gas with better fuel efficiency and keeps your vehicle running slick and happy.
- Avoid Idling – This is a pretty well-known common gas wasting factor. Minimize it as much as possible to save money on fuel! We try to shut off our vehicle if we will be sitting for more than 30 seconds waiting – less than that actually takes more gas to restart the vehicle.
- Use an app/website to find the best prices – Gasbuddy.com is the most common. It really is smart to find gas stations with the lowest prices around you – even if you are looking for a specific brand of gas! You can filter the stations when viewing the list of prices by clicking on settings and clicking on the Filter option.
- Avoid gas stations close to highways – They typically have the highest prices in gasoline as they are nabbing the travelers. Going into town just a bit can save you loads of money. But as we just recommended, you can eliminate the guess work again by using Gasbuddy.com to be certain!
- Use a trip planner to map out your gas stops or avoid heavy traffic – If you are going on a long road trip, a trip planner can help you map out the best places to fill-up on your route. Even for shorter trips or a commute, I use the traffic app on my cell phone every time before I leave home. If one route is congested, I will go another way – I save time and gas!
- Windows Down vs. Air Conditioner – There are many, many theories on both sides of the fuel efficiency equation that have opinions about this. For a while, we thought it was best to have your windows down/no air conditioner for city driving and then using your A/C and windows rolled up for the faster freeway driving. It appears as if the verdict is still out for many theorists out there. But we did see an episode of Myth Busters that claimed that driving with your window down is the most fuel efficient by 15%! Here’s the video on that segment:
What tips do you have?
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