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Drive Smarter and Save More: Expert Tips for Beating High Gas Prices This Spring

Even though gas prices are down from last year, they're beginning to climb once again.

Peter Butler Senior Editor
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 during the 2000s, and is passionate about software and no-nonsense advice for creators, consumers and investors.
Expertise 18 years of editorial experience with a current focus on personal finance and moving
Mary-Elisabeth Combs Associate Writer
Mary-Elisabeth is an associate writer on CNET's How-To team. She's a recent graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill's English Department, and resides in Charlotte, North Carolina. On the How-To team, she covers a little bit of everything. When she's not writing, she's catching up on Formula 1 or reading.
Peter Butler
Mary-Elisabeth Combs
5 min read
Money sticking out of a car's gas tank

Depending on where you live, paying for gas with cash can provide a discount.

Getty Images

Gas prices are on the rise again this spring. A gallon of regular hit a national average of $3.39 on March 13, up 17 cents from a month ago. Even though gas prices are down compared to this time last year, they are inching up. 

This increase in gas prices comes at a time when all aspects of day-to-day life seem to be getting more and more expensive for Americans. This shift in prices could be due to a number of factors, but one of the most likely is the shift between summer and winter fuel. According to the NACS trade association, the switch to summer fuel, which is more expensive but yields a higher mileage per gallon, starts to occur between March and May, with the deadline for retailers to make the switch being May 1, 2024. 

So, if you want to save money at the pump as prices continue to climb, you're in luck. We've rounded up some expert tips to help you out as you fuel up. 

For more, here are the best electric vehicles for 2024 and the best hybrid cars for 2024

Monitor your local gas prices

GasBuddy tracks gas prices nationwide, with info on the average cost and the cheapest gas stations in each state and more. 

Geico also provides a helpful local gas station tracker with regular, midgrade and premium gas prices, as well as directions to stations.

AAA has a gas price tracker in its mobile app (Android, iOS), as does Gas Guru (Android, iOS). 

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's rewards can range anywhere from 10 to 3 cents per gallon off, BP says you'll save at least 5 cents per gallon with their reward programs, and ExxonMobil promises at least 3 cents off.  

Speedy Rewards offers 10 points per gallon of fuel and 20 points per dollar spent on merchandise. 

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, according to the US Department of Energy. At current prices, that could save you about 15 cents per gallon.

When tires wear down to a depth of 1/16th of an inch, they're considered "bald" and should be replaced right away. 

A recommended fuel efficient trip

Google Maps will recommend routes designed to save gas.

Screenshot by Cliff Colby/CNET

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.  

Try a club membership to get discounted gas 

Members of Costco, Sam's Club and Walmart Plus all enjoy discounted gas prices.  

According to The Motley Fool, Costco charges about 20 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.

For more, find out which credit cards have the best gas rewards, and learn driving tips that can improve your fuel mileage

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