Rising gasoline prices put a damper on consumers’ mood in January, according to a survey released January 14 by Thomson Reuters and the University of Michigan. The spike at the pump to more than $3 on average nationwide also has more people worried about inflation. Overall consumer sentiment slipped to 72.7 compared to 74.5 in December. Here are some tips to save on gasoline.
Comparison shop: Sites such as GasBuddy.com, GasPriceWatch.com, and MSN Autos allow you to enter your ZIP code to see what local stations are charging. If you’re on the road and don’t have a web-enabled phone, steer clear of affluent areas, where customers are generally less price sensitive and station prices higher. Also avoid stations directly adjacent to major freeways; you’ll get a better deal a few blocks away.
Fill up at a warehouse club: Discount warehouse clubs such as Sam’s Club, BJ’s Wholesale have gas stations across the country, and their prices are typically lower than independent operators. (Just factor in the cost of your annual membership when analyzing the savings.)
Choose regular: Buy the lowest (and cheapest) octane of gasoline. As long as the engine runs quietly — no knocking or pinging — regular unleaded should be fine. Just double-check your car’s owners manual for the manufacturer’s fuel recommendation.
Don’t top it off: You’ll likely pay for fuel that spills or dribbles back into the station’s tanks.
Take it easy: Accelerate smoothly, decelerate and brake gently. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, driving aggressively can lower gas mileage by up to 33 percent on the highway and 5 percent around town. Use cruise control on the highway, and don’t exceed the speed limit. The Energy Department suggests that each 5 miles per hour you drive over 60 mph is equivalent to paying an additional 20 cents per gallon for gas.
Avoid excessive idling: In one test, drivers for the auto Web site Edmunds.com drove a 10-mile route, stopping 10 times for two minutes each, and then repeated the route without stopping. Driving straight through saved up to 19 percent on gasoline. If you expect to be idling for more than a minute, shut off the engine.
Pay cash or get cash-back: Many stations offer a discount for paying in cash. Alternately, consider a credit card that offers cash back on fuel purchases. The web site PumpAndSave.com lists some of the best gas cash-back credit cards as chosen by gas consumers and car owners.
Keep your ride in tune: Schedule regular engine tune-ups; make sure your tires are inflated to the recommended pressure; and clean out the trunk. According to the Department of Energy, an extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could reduce your miles per gallon by up to 2 percent.