Fact Checked

5 ways to save money on gas

Young woman refueling car at the gas station.Image: Young woman refueling car at the gas station.
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Summer’s almost here. That means longer days, more road trips — and higher gasoline prices.

The national average price for regular gas as of March 21, 2022, was $4.24 per gallon, $1.37 more than at the same time last year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By our estimation, prices like that mean Americans could be spending an average of almost $2,500 on gas per year. (See our methodology.)

Here are some tips for saving on gas and reducing the strain on your wallet.



How can I spend less money on gas?

Small changes can help you use gas more efficiently, especially when you hit the highway.

1. Check your tire pressure

When your tires are underinflated, they’re at greater risk of overheating and failing — a major safety issue. But underinflated tires can also significantly reduce your gas mileage. The tiremaker Bridgestone says for every 1-pound drop in tire pressure on all four wheels of your car, you could be lowering your gas mileage by 0.3%.

Keep a tire pressure gauge stashed in your car so you can check that the tires are at the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure (look it up in your car’s manual or ask a mechanic next time you’re in the shop).

2. Keep up with car repairs

It can be easy to put off car repairs and maintenance — they take time and money. But if you don’t stay on it, you could end up with higher costs in the long run.

For example, if your tires aren’t properly aligned you could lose up to 10% of your fuel efficiency — and replacing a faulty oxygen sensor could give you up to 40% better gas mileage, according to Bridgestone. Getting regular car checkups can help you catch issues like these so your fuel economy doesn’t suffer.    

3. Resist road rage

Just about everyone’s had the occasional urge to gun past a slow driver or speed up to make it through a yellow light. But this can cost you — with more frequent trips to the gas station.

A 2019 GasBuddy study found that aggressive driving habits like quick acceleration, sudden braking or speeding can reduce your vehicle’s gas mileage by up to 40% — potentially costing aggressive drivers hundreds of dollars more in annual fuel consumption. So next time you’re in traffic, turn on the radio or crank up your favorite audiobook and take it easy. If the person behind you swerves around to pass, you can bask in the knowledge that you’re saving on gas.

4. Think before you blast the AC

Should you open the windows or use your AC to cool off your car during the hot summer? It depends on what kind of driving you’re doing.

According to advice on improving fuel economy from the U.S. Department of Energy, it’s best to roll down the windows when driving in stop-and-go city traffic or at slower speeds. But if you’re speeding down the highway, keep the windows up and use AC instead.

5. Get fuel rewards

Warehouse clubs such as Costco and BJ’s as well as some grocery stores offer the ability to save on your per-gallon gas price. In some cases, these discounts are based on how much you spend or which products you buy. In others, the gas is simply cheaper than what you’d find at other nearby gas stations.


Methodology

To estimate how much money Americans could be spending on gas this year, we started with data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration to determine how many gallons of gas were consumed in the U.S. in 2021. We then combined that with data from the U.S. Department of Transportation on the number of licensed drivers in the U.S. in 2019 to estimate how much gas American drivers use on average. Assuming Americans consume about the same amount of gas in 2022, at the national average gas price of $4.24 as of March 21, 2022, we were able to estimate the average cost per year for drivers.

Ask an expert about rising car prices

Meet the expert: Brian Moody, executive editor for Autotrader and spokesperson for Kelley Blue Book, has more than 12 years of experience as an automotive journalist.

What are the best tips to help limit gas expenses this summer?

“The three things to do to help ease the pain of gas prices is to drive less, drive more moderately (don’t speed or race to the next stop light), and keep your tires properly inflated. Doing all of these things can help lower your gas consumption by 10% to 20%.”

Why are gas prices currently so high?

“There are several reasons. First, demand always goes up in the spring and summer. Second, a large supply of oil used to make gasoline was discontinued. Third, the reopening of the U.S. economy created a lot of pent-up demand for gasoline as people started to travel more. Remember, some gas and oil producers cut back production during the pandemic, and it takes time to ramp back up.”

Which cars currently have the best gas mileage?

“There are several really good cars with great gas mileage. Autotrader published a list of some of the best used cars with really good fuel economy. These vehicles include the Chevrolet Volt, Ford C-Max hybrid, Kia Niro, Hyundai Ioniq, Honda Accord hybrid, Lexus UX 250h and Toyota Prius.”


About the author: Andrew Dunn is a veteran journalist with more than a decade of experience as a reporter and editor at North Carolina news organizations, including the Charlotte Observer and the StarNews in Wilmington. In those roles,… Read more.