Cruising in a car is the best way to spend a short weekend or a long vacation. And while planning where to go and what to see, many people forget about high fuel costs, a factor which is becoming the main challenge for travelers’ budgets today.
The gas crisis started with the 2020 global pandemic when fast-growing demand caused prices to skyrocket from $1,773 to $3 per gallon within one year. Then, the rate began to level off and remained relatively stable until February 2022, when the national average for 1 gallon was $3.323.
Finally, the situation changed dramatically with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Because of the sanctions, the world has lost one of the main suppliers of oil, which shocked the international fuel market. As a result, the price per 1 gallon in the US reached $5.006 (+30.2%) by the middle of June, which is a historical maximum.
While things have gotten a little better, and fuel is a little more affordable now (about $4,330 a gallon), the fuel-economy issue is still critical. So if you want to learn how to save money on gas and thereby make your road trip more budget-friendly, use the following effective strategies!
1. Prefer to pay in cash
While moving on the highway, you often see big billboards promising incredible fuel discounts. Then, you pull into a certain gas station, pay for gallons with a bank card, and see that the price on the receipt is a few cents higher than expected. How could this happen? Don’t worry – it’s all about banking services.
When you book a debit card car rental or pay for gas in the same way, the bank charges a commission for each transaction. It ranges from 5 to 15%, which can end up costing you an extra $40-60 for a 10-gallon refill.
Luckily, you can avoid overpaying. Use cash to enjoy the discount rate and thus save money on gas. Furthermore, find out what price you are actually getting before inserting the filling nozzle into the gas tank neck!
2. Get rewarded for refueling
Cashback on fuel is a perfect way to reward the avid road traveler and inspire them to new adventures. You can get a refund on your credit card in the form of points or money, and then spend them on your next refills. However, not all banks provide such a service. You can enjoy this option with certain cards we have listed below.
- Citi Premier. This credit card earns 3x points on gas spending. Also, it gives you advantages when booking hotels and buying airline tickets.
- Costco Anywhere by Citi. You get 4% cash back on the first $7,000 spent on fuel during the year. After reaching this amount, the return rate drops to 1%.
- Blue Cash Preferred from American Express. This card provides you with a 3-percent reward and doesn’t limit the amount you spend on fuel in the US. These gas savings are then available for any purchase, but can’t be cashed out.
- Wells Fargo Propel by American Express. You get 3 points for every dollar paid at the gas station. Use these points for the next refueling.
- Chase Freedom. The main feature of this card is the constantly-alternating quarterly bonuses in the form of 5% cash back on the first $1,500 spent. Often, gas stations fall into the category in which this policy applies, which means you can save a lot on future refills during that time.
3. Fill up on the cheapest days of the week
Want to spend less on fuel? Choose from any gas stations nearby, but visit them on the cheapest days. Tracking nearly 140,000 refilling spots in the US, Canada, and Australia, GasBuddy has identified the days with the most affordable price per gallon. These are Monday and Friday. However, these days may vary from location to location, as many factors affect the final rate.
Also, daily fluctuations in the oil market can make their own adjustments to the formation of fuel prices. Therefore, do your research on the gas stations you visit most often and decide on the best days to fill up.
4. Take advantage of a grocery store rewards program
After shopping at your local grocery store, you can then get discounts at the pump. Many big grocers like Kroger, Albertsons, Stop & Shop, or Winn-Dixie offer you gas reward programs.
Consider Kroger as an example. Buying items in the store gives you 1 point per 1 dollar spent, and reaching the mark of 100 points makes it possible to get a discount of 10 cents per gallon. However, you can only spend these points on gas at branded Kroger Fuel Centers and Shell stations. The maximum discount is $1 per gallon (requires 1,000 points) and the maximum amount of fuel available per fill is 35 gallons. That is, you can save up to $35 at a time.
Keep in mind that Kroger multiplies the number of points for every dollar of a purchase by 4 during the holidays. If you want to get the most out of this strategy, shop with a credit card offering fuel cashback. You will earn Kroger points and receive credit card rewards at the same time.
5. Save money on gas through the app
A smartphone allows you to do many important things in planning your road trip. You can both rent an SUV and buy a plane ticket to Miami through it. Also, a suitable app to save money on gas will allow you to find the cheapest filling station and thus reduce your travel expenses. Check the list of popular programs and install the one you like:
- GasBuddy. Known as a tech company, GasBuddy provides a software solution to help you find the best place to fill up. The filters available in the program allow you to search by city, zip code, preferred fuel type, and payment method. In addition, you can use your GasBuddy account to earn points and then redeem them for discounts.
- Waze. This informative navigator is one of the best apps to use for saving money on gas. How does it work? You create a route and see all available nearby gas stations and prices as you follow it.
- GasGuru. The main feature of the application is a convenient color indication. Now you’ll find the best rates much faster – green for discount rates and red for the most expensive offers per gallon.
- AAA Mobile. This gas-saving app combines the power of a route planner with a fuel finder. In addition, it shows available hotels, restaurants, and points of interest along the way, which is very convenient for a road trip.
- GetUpSide. The program monitors the most affordable prices in a given location and shows them to the customer. Also, you can get up to 25 cents cashback for every gallon of fuel purchased through the app.
So, we can name many more apps that save you money on gas. However, the ones we have listed are the most effective and easiest to use!
6. Create a plan for your journey
According to the gas savings calculator, the more you drive, the more you consume. Using less fuel is one of the best ways to save on van rentals. Thus, many factors affect mileage – what vehicle category you choose, where you drive, what surfaces you are driving on, and how often you stop. Therefore, careful trip planning will reduce fuel costs and allow you to enjoy a smooth ride. Check out some tips for efficient fuel use:
- Pick up a vehicle with a higher MPG rate
- Check out alternative routes and choose the one with less traffic
- On a family trip, consider one large vehicle instead of two small ones
- Visit two or more nearby attractions within a single trip
- Plan your itinerary so you don’t have to make extra stops
7. Drive smoothly
Hard acceleration and braking techniques are useful if you’re a Formula 1 driver. However, these are not necessary or helpful techniques when it comes to maximizing fuel efficiency with an ordinary vehicle. Coasting without sharp acceleration and deceleration is among the key tips for saving money on gas.
When you start to move, do so gradually, and don’t lay down the tachometer needle. Try to move at a constant speed, maintaining the specified engine rpm. And when it’s time to brake, do so well in advance by simply releasing the gas pedal. Following this advice will help you increase your fuel efficiency by 30-40%, resulting in savings ranging from 50 cents to $1.5 per gallon at today’s gas prices.
8. Stop the engine when standing still for a long time
At idle, your car consumes much less fuel than at load. Still, this value can range from a quarter to a half gallon per hour. If you add up the cost, keeping your engine on at idle will result in an extra cost of 2-4 cents per minute. Therefore, it is best to turn off the engine when standing in a long traffic jam or waiting for someone in the parking lot. This simple habit can save you several gallons of fuel per month.
9. Use cruise control correctly
The main task of the cruise control system is to add comfort to your trip by automatically maintaining the set speed. A secondary benefit of this option is the efficient fuel consumption of your vehicle, as you don’t have to press/release the gas pedal all the time.
Unfortunately, cruise control backfires on rough, bumpy roads, as well as uphill and downhill sections. The computer reacts late to the terrain and the surface quality, and, unlike the driver, it can’t see the road ahead. Therefore, enable this high-tech assistant only when it’s appropriate to save on fuel.
10. Think strategically before turning on the air conditioner
Warm weather provides two favorable conditions for efficient gas consumption. The heated air creates less aerodynamic drag. Plus, the engine warms up and reaches the optimum temperature faster. However, another problem appears with the onset of sunny summer days. You turn on the air conditioner and find that fuel consumption has increased by 20-25%.
Indeed, this separate unit requires a lot of energy to cool the passenger compartment, which results in extra refueling costs. Despite this disadvantage, it is understandable to still want to use your air conditioning system. . And although it’s impossible to completely get rid of associated fuel costs, they can be reduced in several simple ways:
- Before turning on the air conditioner, open all windows to let hot air out.
- Use the air conditioner while driving, as it cools more efficiently when the engine is running under load.
- Check the settings of the air conditioning system and change them so as not to overload it unnecessarily.
11. Remove unnecessary things from the vehicle
Weight is one of the main points in any fuel-saving calculator. According to the laws of physics, the more weight, the more effort is needed to move the load. In terms of fuel, consumption increases by 1% for every 100 pounds of excess weight. This is why you should try to remove unnecessary items from the trunk unless you want to rent a pickup truck specifically for moving or camping.
This also applies to the roof rack, which creates aerodynamic drag in addition to the extra weight. Your auto is not a storage closet for equipment or things, and carefully checking what you don’t need will make it lighter and more fuel efficient.
12. Set the correct tire pressure
According to research, you lose 0.2% fuel economy for every 1 PSI your tires are underinflated. Low pressure increases the contact patch, which results in increased friction with the road surface and bigger fuel consumption as a result.
Optimum pressure allows the car to roll better, and spend less energy on accelerating. We recommend you check the PSI level from time to time, and make sure it’s the same for all four wheels.
13. Do not take the prepaid fuel option when renting a car
Want to pick up a Jeep rental for an off-road adventure and add prepaid fuel to your booking? Think twice. While this optional extra may seem like a good deal due to the lower price per gallon, you risk overpaying in the end. The next points explain why prepayment is not the best way to save money on gas.
- Companies’ policies say you can return a car with any amount of fuel in the tank. Theoretically, drying the tank is legal, but the agency doesn’t compensate for all the fuel left after the trip. You pay for unused gas even if driving a few miles and returning the vehicle with a 95% full tank. As a result, no discount saves from extra expenses with prepaid fuel.
- Unlike prepaid gas, full-to-full is a better policy. You pick up the vehicle with a full tank and must return it with the same number of gallons by filling it up on the way back. To avoid potential errors in fuel gauge readings, take photos of it before and after your trip. Also, keep the receipt from the last refueling for proof.
- When you rent a car, you agree to pay related taxes according to the by-state percentage. Prepaid fuel is included in this category, but often the price indicated at the time of booking doesn’t contain this surcharge. Therefore, a long-awaited 10-cent discount may end up being a 50-cent overcharge per gallon. On the other hand, at the gas station, you get the price you see on the stand. Therefore, the prepaid tank option is not as practical as it might seem initially.
- You deprive yourself of the benefits of using fuel-saving cards when buying gas from a car rental company. 4-5% fuel cashback with Citi and American Express allows you to get extra money when visiting gas stations.
14. Service your vehicle engine regularly
Technical experts say that a poorly maintained engine can suffer from lager fuel consumption, which can increase by up to 40%. So, check the condition of the unit, and use the correct type of motor oil. Recommended parameters for all vehicle fluids are available in the user manual. There you will also find the fuel the automaker approves for the particular model. Keeping the engine in good shape has a positive effect not only on mileage but the general condition of the car and its durability.
15. Clean the air filter
Before combustion, the fuel has to be mixed with air. However, sometimes the vehicle suffers from a lack of air due to a clogged air filter. To compensate for the lack of air in the mixture, the onboard computer supplies more fuel and thereby increases its consumption. The way out is simple – replace or clean the air filter. Taking this simple step will give your engine better ventilation and thereby reduce fuel consumption.
16. Benefit from a Walmart Membership
Using a Walmart+ membership is a good way to save money on gas for a car. Under the program, you can get a 10-cent discount at partner gas stations – Exxon and Mobil. A 5 to 10-cent discount is available at Walmart and Murphy’s stations, while Sam’s Club fuel centers also offer their members lower prices.
The money-saving road trip starts here!
Using the best gas-saving apps and applying the other techniques mentioned above will allow you to better manage your travel budget. However, a road trip starts with choosing a car, and having the right vehicle on hand is the key to successful fuel management throughout your journey.
At Rental24H.com, you have everything for cost-effective travel, including cheap rental car deals, additional discounts, free optional extras, and fuel-efficient vehicles. So, fill out the search form on our website and take the first step towards a money-saving adventure!