Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine may be a world away, geographically, but it’s affecting life across the globe. One of the ways we see the direct effects of this conflict in America is at the gas pump. AAA reports gas prices are at an all-time high, currently averaging $5.01 a gallon for regular fuel nationwide. This is up 54 cents from about a month ago and $1.94 more than it was at this time last year.
With petroleum’s increasing cost being out of our control, it’s easy to feel helpful and frustrated. But the story shouldn’t stop there. While motorists cant reverse prices, they can take action to prioritize their fuel economy. Making conscious choices, regarding driving strategies, where you fill up, being mindful of car maintenance schedules and even what you keep in the trunk, can help you get the most out of every precious tank.
Here are some tips for getting the most value for every expensive trip to the pump right now.
Be More Aerodynamic
According to Consumer Reports, 50% of engine power goes to overcoming aerodynamic drag at highway speeds. Don’t make matters worse by keeping roof racks or rooftop boxes on your car when they’re not holding anything. Consumer Reports found that mountain bikes loaded onto a roof rack were the worst offenders in terms of drag. Get rid of anything that unnecessarily causes wind resistance. Make sure everything loaded in your trunk needs to be there too, while you’re at it, to decrease weight and keep the car’s nose at the optimal height.
Take Advantage of Fuel-Economy Apps
Use an app to learn to help you get better fuel economy. Apps like Fuelly and Fuelio allow you to track your vehicle’s fuel economy, costs and efficiency trends over time. Popular GPS apps Waze and Google Maps will give you a heads up on traffic conditions, like construction and accidents, allowing you to change to an alternate route to avoid getting stuck on a slow-moving road.
Opt For A Smooth Ride
Accelerate and brake gently. Once you’re up to your desired speed, maintain the pace. Cruise control is your friend, especially during road trips. Unnecessary braking not only wastes fuel — as in the fuel you used to get up to that speed — it also helps shorten the life of the brakes (and the engine, transmission and tires). Following the speed limits can also help you maintain good fuel economy and remember, it’s always better to coast to a stop whenever possible.
Stop Idling When You Can
If you have an auto-stop feature on your car, where it shuts down whenever you’re not in motion, be sure to use it — even if it annoys you. It can help you save money while waiting in traffic or at stop lights. If you don’t have that option, turn off your car whenever you are waiting in it, especially if in a parking lot while waiting for curbside delivery or picking up kids from school.
Avoid unnecessary stopping and starting of your vehicle by combining your trips to save you money — and time. Stacking your weekly errands into one trip will also reduce the number of total miles driven. Try to avoid rush hour, too, which will spare you from added braking and idling.
Stay On Top of Maintenance
Car maintenance schedules are one of those things where you have to spend some money to save money in the long run by preventing unnecessary repairs and extending the life of your car. Be sure your tires are operating at their ideal pressure. Tires with lower pressure than what is recommended on your doorjamb sticker can hurt performance and fuel economy.
Stay At Least Half Full
Keeping at least half a tank of gas at all times can not only reduce stress, but also allows you more flexibility when and where you top off your tank. It also provides added safety for when you’re stuck on a congested, slow-moving route or travel to places where there is a shortage due to a major storm passing through or insufficient gasoline delivery drivers.
Find The Cheapest Gas
Free gas apps like GasBuddy and Checkout51 can help you save a few pennies. Google Maps can, too (just open the app and search for the nearest gas station and see the current gas prices in town). Fuelio, one of the fuel-efficiency apps we mentioned above, also shows nearby gas prices.
Buy Good-Quality Gas
Gas at certain stations is reportedly held to a higher standard, according to Consumer Reports, including Chevron, Costco, Exxon, Mobil and Shell, and is known as Top Tier gas. Experts recommend using this kind whenever possible, but it’s fine to be flexible during a shortage or while traveling. Detergents in Top Tier gas may clean engine deposits that accumulate, increase vehicle performance and improve fuel economy. Note that other familiar brands may not offer Top Tier gas.
Sign Up For Loyalty Rewards
Loyalty programs can be a pain but consider joining ones that will help you save on gas if you are a frequent shopper at a certain station. Grocery stores often have them at their on-site pumps but so do major chains like Speedway and Exxon. You might even want to see if a gas credit card is right for you; just be sure to weigh the cost of annual fees.
I hope these ways help ease some of your pain at the pump. While we can’t stop gas prices from fluctuating, we can take control of how much we use our cars, what road trips we take and how to be more mindful of gas when running errands.