How to save money at the gas pump

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The average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline has hit an all-time high, and experts say it could rise in the coming weeks. The national average price for regular gasoline rose to $4.25, up $1.46 a gallon from last year, according to AAA. Pump prices vary by region, trending up in the West and Northeast, and down in the Midwest and Southeast.

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Patrick DeHaan, senior oil analyst at GasBuddy, a website and smartphone app that helps drivers find the best deals, says the #1 cause of the current spike is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and economic sanctions that many countries have imposed on Russia. . Russia, he says, produces about 10% of the 10 million barrels of crude oil the world uses every day, making it a big player in the oil supply game.

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“This is when Americans need to come together to reduce our fuel consumption,” he said in a Facebook Live post Monday morning. “It’s really the only thing we can do right now.”

DeHaan warned that fuel price forecasts tend to be less accurate beyond a few weeks and that decisions made by OPEC are the big wild card in determining which direction prices will swing.

“You never know when OPEC is going to cut production and raise prices,” he says.

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How much you will pay depends, of course, on the gas station where you fill up. The highest average prices are in California at $5.57 per gallon, and the lowest are in Kansas and Oklahoma at $3.79 per gallon. But there can also be significant price differences between the prices charged at gas stations in the same city. For example, according to GasBuddy’s Gas Price Map, the Speedway Express station at 4069 State Street in Santa Barbara, Calif., is charging $5.29 a gallon for the regular rate right now, while a few miles only, the Chevron station at 1085 Coast Village Road charges $5.89 per gallon.

This means that choosing where you buy gas can make a big difference in how much you spend fueling your vehicle. Putting 15 gallons of regular gas in a small SUV would cost Chevron $9 more than Speedway Express. That difference can really add up – up to $468 per year with a weekly top-up.

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There are also drivers who unnecessarily buy super-expensive gasoline for cars designed for regular fuel, according to a study by the AAA. Based on current national average gasoline prices, mid-grade gasoline ($4.55) costs about 30 cents per gallon more than you would pay for regular gasoline, and premium gasoline ( $4.83) costs on average almost 57 cents more than regular gasoline, according to the AAA. For a 15-gallon fill, it’s $4.50 more for midrange and $8.70 for premium.

How to spend less on gas

“If you’re just looking at the street price, you’re leaving money on the table,” DeHaan says. There are things you can do to reduce your gas expenses. Among them:

Use a gas station app or website. Smartphone apps, such as those from GasBuddy, AAA, and Gas Guru, are especially handy when you’re traveling and away from your computer. They are available for Apple and Android devices. Many are free. You can filter results by fuel quality and sort by distance and price, plus get GPS-guided routes to the station of your choice.

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GasBuddy and Fuel Finder also let you check stations for amenities like ATMs, restaurants, and car washes. GasBuddy has station reviews, which might tell you, for example, which restrooms to avoid. And Gas Guru lets you save your favorite stations, so you can remember where to stop on the way home.

The Google Maps and Waze apps, which many people use for traffic alerts and real-time driving directions, also offer fuel price information.

You’ll likely find that you may be able to get a better deal at stations that aren’t on major freeways, says Michael Calkins, manager at AAA. Of course, taking a big detour to pay less might not make sense.

Calkins also says to make sure that when comparing prices, you only consider buying top-tier detergent gasoline, which is better for your car.

Check the prices in the different states you will be visiting. Prices can vary widely from state to state, often due to differences in state gasoline taxes. On Interstate 90, for example, DeHaan found that gasoline prices were noticeably cheaper on the Ohio side of the Pennsylvania border.

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Think about the best way to pay. Some stations offer a lower price if you pay with cash instead of a credit card. The difference between the spot price and the credit price typically ranges between 10 and 15 cents a gallon, DeHaan says, though he adds that it can be as much as a dollar.

Another option is to pay with a cash-back credit card. Although the price of the credit card may be higher than the cash price, the reward you receive could make using the credit card a better deal.

It’s worth noting that a rewards credit card might even provide greater savings than a gas credit card from a major oil company (like Texaco or Chevron), DeHaan says. Some cards offer introductory cash or point bonuses for signing up, and others offer discounts at the pump. The Bank of America Customized Cash Rewards credit card, for example, offers a $200 bonus to people who spend $1,000 on purchases within the first nine days of owning the card. The ExxonMobile smart card, on the other hand, offers a rebate of 6 cents per gallon of fuel purchased.

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If you plan to pay by debit card, don’t assume you’re getting the cash price. Some resorts might charge you the credit card fare instead. Check the prices displayed at the pump. Selecting the debit option and entering a PIN when pumping your gas is often a good indication that your transaction will be processed in cash, says Lyle Beckwith, senior vice president of the National Association of Convenience Stores, based in Alexandria, Virginia.

To slow down. DeHaan says it might sound silly, but with prices as high as they are, it’s a good idea to keep your foot off the gas pedal. In town, that means reducing your rate of acceleration, and on the highway, keeping your speed below 75 mph, above which he says wind resistance eats away at your fuel economy. “Reducing your speed to 65 on the highway can increase fuel economy by up to 15 to 20 percent,” he says.

Check your tire pressure. Make sure your car’s tires are properly inflated to the pressure indicated on the sticker inside the driver’s door for it to operate most efficiently.

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Reduce the number of car journeys. If you can avoid commuting by car, whether by walking, taking public transit, or staying home, you’ll save money at the pumps. If you have to drive somewhere, try to group errands and appointments together so you don’t have to make multiple trips and use more fuel.

Copyright 2022 by Consumer Reports – All Rights Reserved.

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