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How to Save Money at the Gas Pump

Tips for drivers looking to hold down gasoline expenditures as fuel prices surge

A handful of cash held in front of a high gas price sign.

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Blame it on a demand-supply imbalance, Russia’s war in Ukraine, or a combination of both, but consumers are paying more at the gas pump. A lot more than a couple of years ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic kept Americans home and their vehicles idle.

For March the Consumer Price Index soared to a high of 8.5 percent, the fastest pace since 1981, with gasoline, housing, and food, driving much of the increase. The gasoline index in March rose 18.3 percent year-over-year.  While retail gas prices have come down from previous highs it's still hovering around $4.10 per gallon for regular gas. Meanwhile, premium gasoline is going for around $4.79 per gallon.

“Prices usually bottom out in January and February, but it looks like they bottomed out on January 16,” says Robert Sinclair, a spokesman for AAA Northeast. “Prices have been going up consistently since then, and there’s no indication they are going anywhere but up.”

For many older adults, gas is a necessity, one that can’t be completely switched off like dining out or spending on entertainment. The good news: You can reduce the amount you spend getting your car from point A to point B. Here’s how.​​

How to lower your gasoline expenditures ​​

When it comes to saving at the pump, the factor that has the biggest impact tends to be the hardest to change — your driving habits. “American consumers have more power than they realize,” says Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “If you look at the pandemic, people stopped driving and prices plummeted.”

Driving less, running errands when you are commuting, and planning your outings to be more efficient can go a long way toward curbing your gas outlays. But it’s not just how many trips you make with your vehicle in a given day or week, it’s also how you drive your car. Racing to red lights, braking hard and speeding can use more fuel than taking it slow. Reducing the amount of time you warm up your car can also be an effective way to save money on gas.

Keeping your vehicle up to date on its maintenance schedule and ensuring your tire pressure is at the proper level can also save gas. According to Sinclair, you lose fuel economy when your tires are underinflated. And while you may think you are doing right by your vehicle by using premium, it’s often a waste of money. The majority of vehicles run on regular gasoline, says Sinclair. “Many people think they are giving their car a treat by giving it premium, but the vehicle neither understands nor appreciates it.”

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Shop around to save

Just as you would shop around for the best deal on appliances, you should also shop around for the best deal on gas. Prices can vary from one gas station to the next, and location tends to matter a lot. If a gas station is on a highway, you’ll likely pay more there than at your local fueling station. Warehouse retailers, including Costco and BJ’s, offer reduced fuel prices at the pump to members. There are also several gas comparison apps you can download to find a bargain on fuel. “Many of these apps show the prices of gasoline near where you are,” says Sinclair. However, he warns that if you wind up driving a lot more to save a few pennies, you can defeat the purpose of using the apps.

Donna Fuscaldo is a contributing writer and editor focusing on personal finance and health. She has spent over two decades writing and covering news for several national outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Investopedia and HerMoney.​