The U.S. Energy Information Administration says the average household spends almost 4% of pre-tax income on gasoline. For some readers that amounts to thousands of dollars per year!
Whatever you shell out to keep that tank full, you’d like to spend less, right? Of course you already know a few ways to save on gasoline, and you’ll be reminded of those below. But you’ll also find some new tricks here. In fact, this may be the most comprehensive list of ways to save on gas that you’ll find anywhere.
Let’s get started. Here are dozens of the best tricks, hacks, and strategies for gas-savings, in no particular order…
Table of Contents
1. Use the Right Rewards Credit Card
As I write this one of Discover’s 5% Cashback Bonus categories for the first quarter of the year is gas stations. If you have a credit card like this with rotating categories that earn extra cash-back, watch for gas stations to be included. When the time comes, put that card at the top of the pile in your wallet.
When gas stations are not in your rotating bonus categories, label whichever of your credit cards is normally best for gas purchases, and keep it handy.
Some credit cards let you choose. For example, my American Express SimplyCash Business card pays 3% back on gas all of the time, because I chose that category, and I can keep that rate year-round, not just for a quarter.
2. Buy Gas Gift Cards in the Station
When the Chase Freedom or Discover It card have gas stations on their 5% cash-back calendars, the bonus rate often includes purchases made inside the station. You can verify this with a small test-purchase, although you’ll have to wait until after you make a payment on your next statement balance to see if you earned the higher rate.
Use the credit card for gas until the last week of the bonus period, and then calculate how much “spend” you have left. The limit is $1,500 per quarter for Discover, for example. If you have spent $1,100 on all 5% bonus category purchases, you still have $400 left before you start to earn only 1% (the regular cash-back amount).
Now you can maximize your bonus category cash-back by buying $400 in gas station gift cards in a gas station. You’ll get 5% cash-back on them, effectively extending your savings beyond the bonus quarter.
3. Get Gas Rewards From a Supermarket Loyalty Card
Some grocery store chains have arrangements with gas station chains so you can earn savings on gasoline by using your store loyalty card when buying groceries. For example, Sunco lists several grocery stores with whom they’ve partnered.
You don’t necessarily have to understand these programs to use them. For example, I found King Soopers Fuel Program to be complicated, but since I shopped at the store anyhow, I just used the loyalty card there and then at connected gas stations, accepting whatever discount I received. I saved up 10 cents per-gallon, but bigger discounts are possible.
4. Buy Discounted Gas Station Gift Cards
You can buy gas station gift cards at a discount from websites like Raise and CardCash.com. Gas cards, unlike other retail gift cards, don’t have big discounts. Most are about 2% off at the moment, but they do go on sale from time to time.
One nice feature is that as a payment method they can be combined with other strategies. For example, you can use a grocery store loyalty card to get a discount, and then pay with the discounted gas station gift card.
Furthermore, you can buy these with a cash-back credit card to save even more. When gas was about $3.20 per gallon I used a 2% cash-back card to buy a Shell gift card at a 3% discount. With my three-cents-per-gallon fuel rewards discount I saved a total of 19 cents per gallon.
5. Stop Idling to Warm Up the Car Engine
According to Tom and Ray at Car Talk, the best way to warm up a car engine is to just start driving. Excessive idling wastes gas, and as long as you drive at a moderate speed to start, there is no harm in hitting the road before the engine is fully warmed up.
6. Drive Slower
Road tests make it clear that driving slower really saves gas. For example, Edmunds found that the average savings from driving 65 instead of 75 miles-per-hour was 12%.
To put that in perspective, on a long drive that cost $84 in gas at 75 MPH, you could end the day with $10.08 more in your pocket just by driving 65 MPH. If you take a lot of long trips those savings could really add up over the course of a year.
7. Use Synthetic Oil
Good synthetic oil can increase your mileage 2% to 3%. It also extends engine life, and you don’t have to change the oil as often. These factors mean you should save more than the additional cost of buying synthetics.
8. Get a Tune Up
When I got a tune-up for our van it brought the MPG up from 17 to 23 on the highway, an increase of more than 30%! The results are rarely that significant, and you do have to balance the savings against the cost of the tune-up (although our van needed one just to run right). To save more money you can always do your own tune-up.
9. Lighten the Load
The EPA says your gas mileage goes up about 1% for every 100 pounds of weight you remove from the car. Check the back seats and trunk for anything that can be left at home.
10. Start Telecommuting
Naturally you save on gas if you don’t have to drive to work, so see if there is a way you can work from home. If your boss won’t agree to full-time telecommuting, see if she would be willing to let you work from a home office one or two days per week.
11. Knock the Ice Off
If you’ve ever lived in the north you know that you can have a lot of heavy ice hanging from the underside of your car. All that weight reduces your mileage, so knock it off.
12. Use Cruise Control
Yes, using cruise control results in better mileage. The only exception may be on uphill stretches, where letting your speed drop a little as you climb can be a more efficient strategy.
If you take turns driving to work with a coworker, you’ll cut your job-related gas use almost in half (“almost” because you may have to meet part way or deviate from your route to pick up your coworker). If there there are three or four of you taking turns driving you can save even more.
14. Find the Cheapest Gas Online
15. Plan Routes Well to Minimize Miles
This is an obvious one that we often forget. If you have several places to go, plan the route efficiently to reduce the miles you drive. Also, if you have any errands to run in the coming days, try to include them in today’s route to save even more.
16. Get a Higher-Mileage Car
When the time comes to get a new car (or a new used one), compare fuel efficiency data. Of course to actually save money from better mileage you should do the math to compare gas savings against the extra cost of a car. It doesn’t make sense to pay thousands of dollars more for a car that saves you a $100 per year on gasoline.
17. Heat Less
The heater in a regular internal combustion vehicle just brings heat from the engine inside, so it doesn’t use gas directly. But if you happen to own a hybrid, using the heat too much can affect your mileage. Put on a coat instead.
18. Walk or Use a Bicycle
If you walk or ride a bicycle to the store you save 100% on gas for that trip. Make a list of all the places you go that are within walking or biking distance, and then leave the car home for at least some trips.
19. Check Your Tire Pressure
The EPA says, “Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by about 0.2% for every 1 psi drop in the average pressure of all tires.” So, for example, if your tires are 5 pounds under their ideal pressure, you’ll use 1% more gas, which can add up over time. Check those tires and inflate them to the recommended pressure. Proper inflation also extends the life of the tires, saving you even more money.
20. Check Your Gas Cap
A leaky gas cap lets gasoline vapor escape. How much gasoline can you lose in this way? Up to 30 gallons per year! Always tighten your cap until it clicks. Replace it if it isn’t seating properly. You may need to replace it anyhow in order to pass emissions tests (as I just discovered when our car failed).
21. Accelerate Slowly
According to tests done by Edmunds, one of the best ways to use less gas is to drive less aggressively. Specifically they found that accelerating too fast and using the brakes too heavily use a lot of gasoline. The latter brings us to the next tip…
22. Coast More
When you see that light turn yellow or red up ahead, don’t keep your foot on the gas until the last moment. Start coasting immediately, so you won’t need to brake hard. The more you anticipate slowing and stopping, and coast in preparation for them, the more gas you save.
23. Remove the Rack
The EPA points out that cargo racks “increase aerodynamic drag and lower fuel economy,” so if you are not using that bike rack or other cartop carrier, remove it.
24. Put Cargo Inside the Car
Even if you can’t remove the car rack to save on gas, you can put things inside the car if they’ll fit. On the roof your luggage increases air resistance and reduces mileage.
25. Turn Down the Air Conditioner
The EPA says, “Operating the air conditioner on “Max” can reduce MPG by roughly 5%–25% compared to not using it.” Of course, you need to be comfortable, but you can wait until you’re actually hot to turn it on.
A Mythbusters test found that overall, having the windows down and air conditioner off results in better mileage than keeping the AC on and rolling up the windows. So you may want to use natural cooling when possible, unless you’re driving at higher speeds.
26. Turn off the 4-Wheel Drive
Running your vehicle in 4-wheel drive uses more gas, so remember to turn it off when you really don’t need it. The same goes for all-wheel drive.
27. Replace the Air Filter
28. Avoid Ethanol
The EPA says, “Using gasoline with 10% ethanol decreases fuel economy by 3%–4%.” You can check a list of ethanol-free gas stations to see if there is one near you.
29. Drive Less in Winter
Gas is formulated according to the season, and has more energy in the summer formulations. Cars also run worse in the winter due to the cold. So if you’re going to save on gasoline by reducing your driving, the best time to do so is in the winter.
30. Close the Windows
It may be better to turn off the AC and roll down the windows, but in any case, having windows down does decrease mileage. So if you are comfortable with just vented air, keep the windows closed until you need additional cooling.
31. Skip the Premium Gas
It’s largely a myth that premium gasoline gives you better mileage. Even if it did offer a slight boost, you would probably spend more on gas because of the much higher price. Premium gas has often cost at least 20% more than regular in recent years, and nobody has ever claimed that it will boost your mileage by that much.
32. Get Free Gas by Making Your Car a Billboard
You can theoretically get free gas by making your car a billboard. But the only free gas website of this sort I could find looks like it hasn’t been updated in years, so this may not be a viable option.
33. Get Online or Use the Phone
Several of the suggestions here involve using your car less. A more general approach is to look at every use of your car to see if there is a way to replace it. For example, can you make a phone call to resolve something, rather than drive somewhere? Can you do your banking online instead of in person?
34.Get a Phone App
What’s better than checking gas station prices online at home? Having one of the many phone apps that find the cheapest gas. That way you can check while you’re on the road.
35. Buy Cooler Gasoline
Colder gasoline is denser and has more energy per gallon. So ideally you should buy gas in the morning. That’s the theory, anyhow.
In reality, Consumer Reports found that the temperature of gas varies little because the tanks it’s stored in are underground. Instead, their research suggest that you avoid gas pumps with the sun shining on them. The gas (usually a few gallons) held in the dispenser will be heated up, which reduces the density and energy content per gallon. One way or another, try to get cooler gas to get better mileage.
36. Turn Off the Car More Often
Yes, it takes a little bit of gas to restart your car, but the consensus seems to be that it’s better to turn off the car than to idle for a minute or more. Some examples of when you might turn off the car instead of idling:
- You’re stopped by a long train
- When you’re stuck in a traffic jam and not moving
- When you’re waiting for someone
37. Fill Up Before You Need It
Have you ever had to pay a high price for gas because you were running on empty and couldn’t wait any longer? A simple solution is to always fill up at a cheaper gas station before you get too close to empty.
38. Buy Across State Lines
Every state has its own tax rates on gasoline. As a result prices vary a lot from one state to the next. If you live near a state with cheaper gas it might be worth driving across the state line to fill up, or at least filling up whenever you’re over there.
If you’re traveling cross-country, check ahead to see which states have the cheapest gas, and be sure to fill up just before leaving them.
39. Don’t Overfill the Tank
Overfilling can result in the sloshing over of gas, which is messy and wasteful. Just fill your tank until the first shut-off.
40. Avoid Dirt and Gravel Roads
The EPA notes that rough roads can reduce mileage. If you have a choice of routes on a trip, and they’re similar in driving distance, take the one that keeps you on paved roads.
41. Watch Your Fuel Economy Display
To train yourself to get better mileage, make a game of constantly checking the MPG display (if you have one), and trying to increase the MPG figure. You’ll notice right away the effects of smoother acceleration and more coasting, and you’ll learn the best ways to go up and down hills.
In my experience, playing this game with constant feedback from the display will change your driving habits pretty quickly, and save a lot of gasoline.
42. Wait Until Everyone Is in the Car
Have you ever started the car as your passengers loaded in, and then sat there idling for fifteen minutes waiting for the last one? What a waste of gas! Don’t start the car until everyone is inside and belted.
43. Remove Your Snow Tires
Snow tires reduce your mileage because the aggressive tread patterns create more resistance to the pavement. You may need to use them in the winter, but be sure to remove them as soon as spring comes.
44. Choose Your Highest-Mileage Car
If you have more than one vehicle, use the lower-mileage one only when you really need to. In other words, use the SUV for camping, but take your smaller higher-mileage car to the grocery store or to drop the kids off at school.
45. Fill Up Wednesday Morning
Some reports say the best time to buy gas is Wednesday morning. By then the prices have dropped back down from weekend raises, and by Thursday they may start rising again.
46. Change Your Schedule
You may not get to decide when you go to work. But you do have more control over other trips, and the time of day can make a big difference when it comes to gasoline usage.
In other words, avoid running errands or going shopping when you may face heavy traffic. Think about that extra fifteen minutes it takes to cross town when it’s busy — you’re burning gas the whole time.
47. Get a Scooter
Some gas scooters get over 100 MPG! That makes them a great alternative to a car if you want to spend less on gasoline. Even if you still need a car for certain purposes, a scooter might make sense in place of getting a second car. You might save a lot on gas if you use a scooter for half of your trips around town..
48. Get a GPS
I used to get lost regularly, sometimes driving twenty miles out of my way when traveling. That pretty much stopped when I got a GPS. I’m sure it paid for itself in gas savings.
49. Park it Quickly
Don’t waste gas circling that parking lot looking for a spot close to the doors. Park quickly when you see any opening, and get some exercise.
50. Vacation Closer to Home
If there’s a place you really want to visit, that’s one thing. But sometimes there are plenty of vacation options you’d be happy with, so if you’re traveling by car choose one that’s closer to home to save on gas.
51. Get a Vehicle Inspection
Bent wheels, misaligned wheels, and bad shocks can cause more drag and therefore more gas usage. If it doesn’t make sense to pay for a full inspection, at least ask your oil change provider to let you know if he sees anything wrong.
52. Buy a Windshield Shade
You already know that if you reduce the use of air conditioning you’ll reduce gas use. One way to do that is to keep the inside cooler from the start by regularly using a windshield shade.
53. Park in the Shade
Even better than a windshield shade is keeping the entire car in the shade when possible. Look for the shadiest parking spots on hot days, especially if the car will be parked for more than a few minutes.
54. Run With the Tank Near Empty
Lowering the weight in your car reduces gas use. One way to keep that weight lower is to carry less gasoline around. Just fill the tank halfway. This could be inconvenient because you’ll need to fill up more often, but it works well if you’re one who’s always stopping at the gas station for a soda or snack anyhow.
55. Drive Past the First Exit Station
Gas is usually more expensive by the freeway, according to GasBuddy.com. It doesn’t make sense to drive too far looking for cheaper gas, but if you’re not getting back on the freeway after you exit, at least drive past the first station or two.
56. Have Things Delivered
Instead of driving to the store or mall, do your shopping online and have everything delivered. You can buy just about anything online now, and sometimes it’s cheaper than buying locally (I’ve discovered this is especially true of cat food, for example).
57. Use Public Transportation
Public transportation is good for the environment, but what about for your wallet? That depends on how you use it. If you use busses and trains instead of owning a car, you’ll save money.
If you’re keeping your car the math is more complicated, but you’ll probably save money by using the bus or subway for longer cross-town trips. Keep in mind that in addition to the cost of gasoline, there are other expenses directly related to driving the vehicle, like oil changes, repairs, and new tires. Recent data shows that these costs average more than six cents per mile.
58. Charge for Rides
Charging your friends or coworkers for rides doesn’t mean you’ll use less gas, but the money will help you pay for it. I used to take several coworkers with me to work some mornings, and I charged each of them $2 each way.
59. Check for Leaks
I once had a car that seemed to use gas quickly just after a fill-up. I discovered that it had a leak high on the tank, where it wasn’t noticeable unless the the tank was almost full. Check for any seepage when your tank is full.
60. Shift Up Early and Down Late
If you have a manual transmission, shift early for the best mileage. You’ll notice that the engine slows down, meaning it’s using less gas. Shifting down a little late also helps mileage.
61. Use a Gas Station Loyalty Card
I get a discount of three cents per gallon with my Shell Fuel Rewards card. Often the Shell stations where I’ve lived have had the cheapest gas even before the discount, so it was worth signing up for the card. If they offer them, sign up for loyalty cards at all of the cheapest gas stations near you.
62. Park in the Garage
If you have a garage, use it, especially in the winter. Fuel economy is worse in winter because cold engines are not as efficient. You can partially overcome this by starting out warmer. So don’t leave the car in the driveway if you have a garage.
63. Make More Right Turns
It may seem counter-intuitive to go blocks out of your way to avoid left turns when you want to use less gas, but apparently it works. UPS found that it saves their drivers time and fuel.
Anytime you’re idling you’re burning gas, so if a few right turns that take you around the block save you a long wait for a left turn, the extra driving can also reduce your gasoline usage.
If you know more ways to save on gas tell us about them below, and happy frugaling!