Americans are putting more of their paychecks toward gas lately, and it’s taking a toll. According to a recent study by USA Today, 58 percent of travelers say they’re considering changing vacation plans because of fuel expenses.
Between the rising cost of gas and the uncertainty as to when prices may fall back to a more manageable range, it might seem like there’s no good way to save. However, with some creativity, you can accelerate your gas savings.
Six ways to stretch your mileage
These tips and hacks can help make that needle stretch farther before it reaches “empty.”
1. Use gas apps.
Gas-tracking apps (GasBuddy is one example) can show you the closest and cheapest gas in your area. They’ll also show you stations and prices along your driving route, so you can make sure you’re not wasting all your potential savings by driving to a station that’s out of your way.
2. Change your driving habits.
Driving mindfully can help you reduce the impact of each mile on your gas tank. For example, driving at or slightly below the speed limit can help increase your efficiency. According to fueleconomy.gov, when you drive at speeds over 50 mph, every additional five miles per hour equates to paying an additional $0.34 per gallon.
Braking and changing speeds frequently can reduce fuel economy by up to 30 percent. Try cruise control to improve your car’s fuel efficiency. Certain newer-model cars even slow down and speed up on their own using radar technology.
3. Ride share
Carpooling to the office or school can cut down on gas and travel time and can give you more time to spend with friends and family. A two-person carpool can save each rider up to $1,500 annually.
Working from home on occasion can also allow for lower fuel consumption. Consolidating errands to days and times when you’ll already be out of the house can also help spending less time driving and increase time between fill ups.
4. Figure out the best times to fill up.
One of the worst feelings is filling up and getting back in your car dripping with sweat. That same heat can reduce your fuel efficiency too.
If you fill up in the evenings when it’s a little cooler, less fuel evaporates during the process, which means more gas in your tank and less in the air.
5. Make your gas fill-ups make you money.
Rewards programs can make your fuel budget stretch farther. Many gas station chains offer loyalty programs that reduce your cost per gallon.
You can also earn cash back on purchases when you use a rewards-based credit card. For example, the Golden 1 Member Cash Rewards+ card gives cardholders the opportunity to earn up to 4 percent cash back on fuel purchases.
6. Consider whether it’s time for an upgrade to a hybrid or electric vehicle.
Some of the newer cars on the market have optimized fuel consumption and boosted MPG up to 40 miles per gallon in some vehicles. There are also incentives for saving on a new electric vehicle, such as tax credits.
And if you purchase the new vehicle with a low-rate auto loan, you could generate significant savings over the life of your vehicle. To decide whether a new car purchase might be part of your gas savings plan, use an auto loan payment calculator to determine what your new payment might be, then compare the monthly savings you might generate between the new loan and the more efficient vehicle.
Making the most of each tank of gas will help you avoid dipping into other portions of your monthly budget. You can then put the extra savings toward other items in your budget or can start a special savings account for a trip or other big expense later!