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Summer is a time for road trips, drive-ins, and beachfront cruises. You're liable to spend more time in your car over these next few months than you have all year. That only means one thing though – lots of trips to the gas station. No matter how many miles you get to the gallon, you can always afford to save a little more at the pump. We're here to show you how to do that. Here is a guide showing how to save money on gas this summer so you can drive the way you want to.
Why Summer Is the Time to Save
Historically, gas prices peak right before the summer hits and right around Christmas time. They climbed from $3.50 to $3.96 a gallon between March and April 2011, and they didn't reach full decline until the end of August (data courtesy of GasBuddy.com). 2012 and years before all followed the same trend, and this year is proving to be no different. The main reason for the summertime increase is the increased demand for fuel. Families go on vacation, students enjoy time out of school, and sports fans head to the games. The more people want and need fuel, the higher the prices are going to be. If you're going to make an effort to save on gas, now is definitely the time to do so.
Easy Ways to Save Money on Gas
Here is some expert advice on how to cut fuel costs this summer:
Compare Gas Prices Online
You don't have to drive around town to find the lowest prices on gas. In fact, doing so may waste more money than you'd save. However, you can use the internet to compare gas prices in your area, updated in real-time for your convenience. Sites like GasBuddy, MotorTrend and MSN Autos have search options that allow you to see what gas prices are like near you. For some of them, you can even download an app to your phone to check prices on the go. Then all you have to do is pull in and pump!
To put things into perspective, I used to fill up my car at a Valero station on the corner because it was convenient. Out of curiosity, I started checking the prices online to see if there was anything cheaper. Turns out the Love's station a mere two blocks away charges $.20 less per gallon on premium fuel. That's a lot for my car, when it only gets 11 miles to the gallon. Needless to say, I have a new favorite gas station.
Clear Your Trunk
All of the extra weight in your trunk is creating unnecessary drag on your car. Drag leads to worse fuel consumption because the car has to work harder to keep moving. Of course, you can't do much with the weight on a road trip, other than packing lightly. For day to day driving though, keep your car as clean as can be. In an interview with Oprah, the associate editor of Popular Mechanics' Magazine said "For every 100 pounds, you lose a mile per gallon." Think about that the next time you keep your son's bike on the roof for a week.
Take Public Transportation
If you have the option to take public transportation, use it. Yes, you will have to be with a crowd of people, but the money you can save will add up fast. According to a report from The Daily Green, the average commute to work is about 16 miles. It costs the average person $2.26 to drive that 16 miles. If you have to commute back and forth to work 5 days a week, you're spending over $25 in fuel. That's $100 a month that could be in your pocket. If you have a car with bad fuel economy, it could be much, much more. Buy a bus ticket for $3 and fantasize about what you can do with all that extra cash.
Keep Your Windows Closed
A lot of people try to save money on fuel by opening their windows instead of turning on their AC. While this will work in theory, the drag created by the open windows actually leads to more fuel consumption than the air conditioning would have. ABC News says that this really comes into play in speeds over 55 mph. They recommend going one step further and using the re-circulation button for your AC. This will pull less air from outside and will use less fuel along the way.
Keep Your Tires Inflated
According to GasBuddy, you lose 1 mile per gallon if your tires are 2 PSI below what they should be. Check with your car manual to see what your tires are supposed to be inflated to, and then compare those numbers to the actual air in your tire. If you have automatic sensors in your tires, you are welcome to use those. Otherwise, you can purchase a tire pressure gauge from any auto parts store. Try to check in the morning before you head out because the heat from driving will make the tires swell. You want to see what the true pressure is when the wheels are cold.
Avoid Left-Hand Turns
If UPS can do it, so can you. A few years ago, the United Postal Service developed new software to create routes with mostly right hand turns. This allows the drivers to get through traffic quicker because they do not have to stop as long for lights, stop signs, etc. UPS' industrial engineer manager said their drivers had "shaved off a total of over 30 million travel miles" back in 2009, which is a lot of fuel the company hasn't had to pay for. If you employ the same ideas in your travels, you might be able to cut costs at the pump.
How to Get the Most of Your Fuel Money
There is virtually no way to avoid paying for gas, unless you take a bike everywhere you go. Assuming you have to drive a car every now and then, you might as well make the most of the money you have to put out. A good gas rewards card will give you a chance to get money back every time you fill up, which you can either use towards your vacation or something else you really want. Some of the best gas credit cards on the market include:
- Chase Freedom: Earn 5% cash back at gas stations on quarterly purchases that rotate each year, plus 0% APR for 15 months and no annual fee.
- BankAmericard Cash Rewards Credit Card: Earn 2% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined gas and grocery store purchases per quarter. See terms for APR*
With the tips above and the right credit card in hand, there is no way you will overspend on fuel this summer.
*Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.
*The content in this article is accurate at the publishing date, and may be subject to changes per the card issuer.