Top Twenty Ways to Save on Gasoline – and Spare Your Wallet

You can tell we're suffering tough times when even the Capitol cannot escape a crisis. This isn't high crime rates or poor education fretting us this time; skyrocketing gas prices have inflamed our tempers and ransacked our finances. A Washington, D.C. Exxon station, near the Watergate building, terrified lobbyists (and their chauffeurs) with an advertised price of $5.69 per gallon!

As the traditional travel months of spring and summer near, many wonder if any fuel relief will arrive in time. Experts claim that prices should settle down around Memorial Day. But we'd like to present you with 20 tips to help you save well before that late May holiday. Follow as many of these as you can, and enjoy the rush of less financial hassle over fuel.

  1. Pack up and move. Certain states are well known for their startlingly low gas prices. Regular gas in Utah is only $3.56 on average, as it is in South Carolina. Colorado beats that with only $3.42 paid per gallon. Yet Wyoming bests them all; gas typically costs around $3.30 there. Only Alaska can claim cheaper prices. (as of March 2012)
  2. Check your car out. Love on your car, keep it well maintained, and you'll save on gas. Clean the air filter, and shave $0.39 off every gallon. Tune the engine to improve mileage by 4%. Ensure your tires are properly inflated, and gas-gallon price torpedoes by $0.11.
  3. Drive better. Keep that foot off the brake when you're driving, and you'll preserve $1.39 more of every gallon you pump. Speed up and slow down like a smooth, tender operator; this can boost mileage by more than 30%. And if you speedsters slowed down from 70 mph to just 65, you'd economize by $0.27 per gallon.
  4. Drop weight where possible. Each additional 100 pounds in your car can reduce your car's fuel efficiency by sizable percentages. Toss any and every unneeded item out of the trunk, and consider dropping a few pounds from your own chassis (wink, wink), all to improve mileage. 
  5. Avoid driving distances shorter than one mile. Short car trips are infamous gas guzzlers, what with their frequent starts and stops and lengthy idle periods. Whenever possible, particularly in spring and summer, walk or bike to close locales.
  6. Inspect your fuel cap. A problem with this very important component can hamper gas mileage by 1% -- a small figure, yes, but nevertheless a noticeable one. Repair or replace it, if needed, and you'll spend about $0.03 less per mile on gas.
  7. Avoid idling. This might be the most common cause of overspending on gas, and potentially also the most fixable. Too much time warming up the car, or turning on the ignition without driving, devours gas. Cut this out and save $0.01 per gallon.
  8. Improve your gas filling technique. Are you one of the many motorists who fills his gas tank to the very, very last drop? This habit is a frugal driving faux pas. Fill the tank to the first "click" from the fuel nozzle, and then stop!
  9. Wait it out for Wednesday.On average, this is the cheapest day of the week to refuel, particularly in cities like Chicago and Detroit. NEVER get gas on the weekends, unless you enjoy being sucker-punched by sky-high prices.
  10. Never run on "E." When your gas gauge approaches the empty mark, your vehicle's fuel injection system enters a precarious zone. Always refuel once the gauge hits the quarter-full mark. This tip also affords you plenty of time, even a couple of days, to hunt around for the cheapest price.
  11. Go gaga for GasBuddy. In short, this is the best and most reliable source for the cheapest gasoline source nearest to you. The website ( is super easy to use and helpful, while the GasBuddy smartphone app frees you to hone in on bottom-barrel prices that are close to wherever you're driving.  
  12. Cough up the cash. Do you pay for gas with your credit or debit card? That gas pump might swindle you. Several stations price gas more cheaply if you pay with crisp dollar bills. And cash-only gas stations are often less expensive than cash-or-credit operations.
  13. Shoo Shell and Chevron. Name brand gas often translates into higher prices ostensibly validated by that brand. No-name stations, in contrast, often tout less expensive fuel. This is because they divvy up their gas supply among several different oil companies, not just one pretty brand.
  14. Count on Costco. If you must choose a brand of gasoline, however, make it the country's best known bulk food superstore. Many of their locations also sell gas, at prices that often beat the cheapest local gas by $0.10. You'll need to join Costco to capitalize on this, an annual fee of $50. But over a whole year, the gas savings might be worth it.
  15. Wind up your windows. Typically, we prefer opening the windows instead of cranking the A/C; the latter costs more energy than the former, right? Actually, open windows encourage drag, which makes the car work harder to maintain its mph. When you drive fast, roll them up.
  16. Wind down your windows. Didn't we just say to wind them up?! Yes -- when you're driving at high speed. Once you're back in the city, an open window is far better than the A/C to chill down. Air conditioning, at low driving speeds, can chomp up close to 20% of ALL the gas in the tank!
  17. Load in passengers with care. Carpooling (as you'll hear in another tip) is an excellent way to save on gas. However, be sure that the weight of the additional folks on board is evenly distributed throughout the car, in order that its fuel systems aren't too taxed.
  18. Highway gas = high pay, always. Drivers looking out for convenience will typically refuel at the gas station right by the freeway. They forget that the great location often comes with horribly high prices, sometimes more than $0.15 above what you'd pay in a less ideal spot.
  19. Only get gas during "the cold zone:" i.e., the early morning or the very late evening. Now for a bit of science: gasoline gets denser during cold weather. If you remember that gas pumps deliver fuel by volume, not by density, "the cold zone" could actually save you a bundle.
  20. Stop driving! Be a homebody. Shop online, not at the mall. Combine your day's driving trips into one single voyage, not several treks out by car. Carpool if you can. Ask your boss if you can telecommute a couple of days a week. Don your thinking cap and imagine other such ways you can slash your need to drive. The less you drive, the less you spend: simple math.
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