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As Gas Prices Spike, Here's How to Save Money at the Pump
Even when local conditions cause gas price increases, you can still save money using a few different tricks.
Peter is a writer and editor for the CNET How-To team. He has been covering technology, software, finance, sports and video games since working for @Home Network and Excite in the 1990s. Peter managed reviews and listings for Download.com during the 2000s, and is passionate about software and no-nonsense advice for creators, consumers and investors.
Expertise18 years of editorial experience with a current focus on personal finance and moving
Dan was a writer on CNET's How-To and Thought Leadership teams. His byline has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, NBC News, Architectural Digest and elsewhere. He is a crossword junkie and is interested in the intersection of tech and marginalized communities.
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After a period of declining gas costs in late summer, prices at the pump are starting to rise again, particularly in Corn Belt states like Iowa and Minnesota, which have both seen 30-cent spikes over the past week.
The imminent switchover to winter-blend gasoline on Sept. 15 should bring a slight reduction in fuel costs, but it's difficult to predict what will happen to gas prices this fall. One thing drivers can control now is minimizing the money they spend at the pump.
You can also check gas prices in your vicinity with navigation apps like Waze and Google Maps.
Optimize gas cards and fuel rewards programs
Gas station chains typically offer credit cards and reward programs that give you money back. Shell and BP say you'll save at least 5 cents per gallon with their reward programs, while ExxonMobil promises at least 3 cents off.
Speedy Rewards offers 10 points per gallon of fuel and 20 points per dollar spent on merchandise. It also offers a $100 gift card when you reach 1,500 points.
Many supermarkets also offer fuel rewards. For every $100 you spend on groceries at Safeway, you can get up to $1 a gallon off at participating Safeway, Chevron and Texaco stations.
Kroger gives customers fuel points for every $1 spent. Rack up 100 fuel points and get 10 cents off a gallon at participating Kroger Fuel Centers and Shell stations. At participating Tom Thumb stations, you can redeem up to 1,000 fuel points for $1 off per gallon.
Pay for gas with cash
Some states prohibit retailers from charging customers more for using credit cards. To recoup the fee they pay banks, gas stations may frame it as a discount for paying in cash.
When there is a discount, according to Consumer Reports, the difference is usually about 5 to 10 cents a gallon. But it can be more: In Los Angeles, several gas stations offer 20-cent discounts for cash.
Keep your tires inflated to the proper pressure
Making sure your tires are properly inflated can boost gas mileage by 3%, according to the US Department of Energy. At current prices, that could save you about 15 cents per gallon.
But 60% of car owners check their tire pressure only if an indicator light turns on, according to Jiffy Lube's Vehicle Maintenance Survey. A tire pressure gauge can monitor the health of your tires and costs only about $10 to $20.
When tires wear down to a depth of 1/16th of an inch, they're considered "bald" and should be replaced right away.
Map your routes out ahead of time
Google Maps wants to help improve your mileage by recommending the most direct routes or ones that avoid traffic or hills.
To turn on the fuel efficiency filter, tap the three dots on the directions screen, and then tap "Route options" and toggle on the "Prefer fuel-efficient routes" option.
Apps like Fuelio and JerryCan suggest methods for improving your fuel efficiency and track gas prices at area stations.
According to Consumer Reports, Costco charges anywhere from 5 to 25 cents a gallon less than traditional gas stations.
Buy discounted gas cards through resellers
Raise and Gift Card Granny let users buy and sell unused gift cards from Chevon, Texaco, Shell, BP and other gas providers.
Check the actual price discount and other specifics, though, because both sites also sell gift cards at retail rates, and Gift Card Granny also sells reward cards.
Become a fuel efficiency master
You can ease gas consumption quite a bit by learning basic fuel-efficiency practices. Advice for saving gas while driving abounds on the internet, and AAA has compiled some great tips. Here are a few of the biggest savers:
Drive the speed limit, especially on the freeway. Fuel economy drops sharply once you start driving faster than 50 mph.
Ease up on the acceleration. "Jackrabbit starts" -- when a car lurches forward very quickly -- are a major gas waster. Accelerating smoothly will also let automatic transmissions shift to higher gears earlier, which can trim fuel consumption.
Avoid extended idling. You're going nowhere while burning up your gas. If it's going to be longer than 60 seconds, turn off your engine.
Minimize air conditioning. Even at high speeds, open windows hurt your fuel efficiency less than air conditioning. Park in the shade or use a windshield screen to keep your car as cool as possible in summer.
While driving in the city, time traffic lights so that you don't need to stop and start. Similarly, take your foot off the gas as soon as you see a red light or near a stop sign. The less braking and accelerating and more coasting, the more gas you will save.
Go even further with hypermiling
Hypermiling is the practice of maximizing fuel efficiency to the ultimate degree, from choosing routes that require less braking and accelerating to cleaning out your trunk so your vehicle weighs less.
Hypermilers might even park facing the sun when it's cold to conserve energy spent defrosting their windshield, and in the shade when it's cool to save on AC.
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