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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 again

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Ukraine’s drone strikes on Russian refineries, a switch to pricier summer blends of gasoline and increased demand from consumers are driving gas prices to their highest level this year. Prices bottomed around $3.06 on Jan. 14, according to AAA, and now hover around $3.48 per gallon for regular unleaded. In some states, including California, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, prices at the pump are well over $4 per gallon. 

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“Gasoline prices tend to bottom out in December, January and February and start going up as refineries start switching over to summer blends of gasoline, which are more complicated to refine and more complicated to distribute,” says Robert Sinclair, a spokesman for AAA Northeast. “Drone strikes on Russian refineries and the continuing war in Ukraine” are also contributing to the rise in prices.

During the winter months, consumers drive less, but when the weather warms up, they hit the road more, which also drives prices higher.

4 Tips to Help You Save at the Pump

Any gas price increase is bad news for consumers, but combined with elevated food prices, the strain will likely weigh on household budgets. “Consumers don’t have elasticity in their budgets,” Sinclair says. 

For many older adults, gas is a necessity that can’t be 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.

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 commute, 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.

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Keep your vehicle up to date on its maintenance schedule, and ensure your tire pressure is at the proper level. According to Sinclair, you lose fuel economy when your tires are underinflated. And though 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 fine on regular gasoline, Sinclair says. “Many people think they are giving their car a treat by giving it premium, but the vehicle neither understands nor appreciates it.”

Shop around to save

Just like you shop for appliances, you should look around for the best deal on gas. Prices can vary from one 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 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,” Sinclair says. However, he warns that if you wind up driving a lot more to save a few pennies, you can defeat the purpose of the apps.

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