If you’ve stopped at a gas station lately, you might have been shocked to see the price on the big signs. Even if your gas station charges a different amount for credit card users than for cash customers, sometimes called a “cash discount” even though it’s the cash price that’s competitive with other stations, the lowest prices are higher than ever.
According to AAA, the average gas price across the country is now $3.76 per gallon. It’s not a record, but it’s getting close. Blame it on Obama, Bush, Iran, or Saudi Arabia; it doesn’t change the situation. The best we can do as consumers is to do our best to reduce our reliance on gasoline for transportation.
Here are a few tips for saving money on gas.
- Use technology to save money. Smartphone apps can tell you the locations of the gas stations with the best prices along your path. With this information, you don’t need to drive out of your way, wasting fuel, to get to those low-cost stations.
- Use the best gas rewards credit cards. If your spending is in check, use credit cards that offer the best rewards for fueling your vehicles. If you can get 5% on your gas spending, you could have an advantage over people paying cash, but you’ll have to compare that option with the stations that offer a cash discount.
- Maintain your car properly. Use a trusted mechanic, watch the performance of your tires, and keep your car clean and empty. Small changes in your tires and vehicle weight can affect your gas-mileage, so keep your car running efficiently.
- Travel less. Work from home more often. If you’re shopping for a new job, consider mass transportation or car-pool options. In the last year, since working from home, I still drove 10,000 miles. That’s down from 14,000 miles over the prior year. The year before that, I drove 15,000 miles.
- Consider a more efficient vehicle. While I generally don’t consider it a good idea to replace a perfectly functioning car just for efficiency, if you’re shopping for a new car, it may be worthwhile to buy something partially powered by electricity. This isn’t the best plan for all drivers, and the cost vs. benefit calculation often takes a while for the increased cost of these vehicles to break even through savings on gas.
- Plan your trips efficiently. If you can combine your errands requiring transportation rather than venturing out several times each week, you can save gasoline and money. Plan your routes in a way that reduce the total number of miles driven rather than retracing your path.
- Use an investing strategy to hedge against gasoline price increases. It may seem counter-intuitive when your plan is to reduce reliance on gasoline, but by investing in the oil industry, you benefit when companies profit from higher gas prices. If, however, companies don’t increase their profit with higher prices, then you’re stuck paying for higher gas without a strong investment to compensate.
About a year ago, I asked if Consumerism Commentary readers were ready for gas prices of $5.00. That level as an average is starting to look like a reality for the near future. While some commentators often remind Americans that people in other current countries often pay much more per gallon than those of us lucky to live in the United States, it’s not exactly a comfort to people who have built their lives around the ease of transportation.
What are your tips for saving money on gas?
Published or updated March 7, 2012.