Gas savings tips: Don’t let prices at the pump scorch your wallet this summer

Young woman refueling car at the gas station. Young woman refueling car at the gas station. Image:

Editorial Note: Credit Karma receives compensation from third-party advertisers, but that doesn’t affect our editors' opinions. Our marketing partners don’t review, approve or endorse our editorial content. It’s accurate to the best of our knowledge when it’s posted.
Advertiser Disclosure

We think it's important for you to understand how we make money. It's pretty simple, actually. The offers for financial products you see on our platform come from companies who pay us. The money we make helps us give you access to free credit scores and reports and helps us create our other great tools and educational materials.

Compensation may factor into how and where products appear on our platform (and in what order). But since we generally make money when you find an offer you like and get, we try to show you offers we think are a good match for you. That's why we provide features like your Approval Odds and savings estimates.

Of course, the offers on our platform don't represent all financial products out there, but our goal is to show you as many great options as we can.

Summer’s almost here. That means longer days, more road trips — and higher gas prices.

The national average gas price at the beginning of May was $2.89, the highest price so far in 2019 and about six cents more than last year’s average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. By our estimation, prices like that mean Americans could be spending an average of more than $1,800 on gas per year. (See our methodology.)

And people are starting to feel it. For people whose driving costs have gone up, 80% blame rising gas prices, a recent Credit Karma survey found.

But higher gas prices don’t have to burn a hole in your wallet. Here are some tips for using gas more efficiently when you hit the highway.


Gas savings tips

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 tire maker Bridgestone says for every one-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).

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 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.    

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 recent 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 $477 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.

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 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.


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 2017. We then combined that with data from the U.S. Department of Transportation on the number of licensed drivers in the U.S. in 2017 to estimate how much gas American drivers used on average that year. Assuming Americans consume about the same amount of gas in 2019, at the national average gas price of $2.89 as of May 2, 2019 (rounded to the nearest whole from AAA data), we were able to estimate the average cost per year for drivers.

In addition, on behalf of Credit Karma, Qualtrics conducted a nationally representative online survey among 1,019 Americans ages 18 and up to learn what’s driving Americans’ increasing auto costs.