Apply these tactics to help save some cash on your next road trip.
What savvy travelers relied on previously as an affordable travel alternative may not be available this summer as the cost of gas continues to soar. With seemingly no relief in sight, avid road trippers will, unfortunately, have to budget a lot more for fuel—or employ clever hacks to help keep the cost down. From tweaking driving habits to adjusting gas-buying practices, here are some easy ways in which you can save gas money on your next road trip.
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Work out Your Car’s Optimal Speed
Your car’s optimal speed for maximum efficiency can be influenced by a few factors, like the quality of the tires, the car’s horsepower, and the state of the road, explains Christina Green, a freelance researcher of gasoline vehicles. The optimal speed for a car varies depending on its make and generally falls between the range of 40 to 60 miles per hour. “To determine your car’s optimal speed for maximum efficiency, drive at least 40 kilometers (25 miles) at three different speeds of 40 mph, 50 mph, and 60 mph, and compare the fuel consumption in each case,” suggests Green.
Shop Around Before Filling Up
Phil Dengler, an avid traveler and co-owner of The Vacationer, suggests using apps like GasBuddy, which conveniently display the prices of gas at nearby gas stations. But one should also consider the distance to reach each of them. If gas at a station is three cents less but is five miles in the opposite direction, then opting for the closest one may be a savvy choice.
Take Advantage of Eco Mode
A prominent feature in newer cars, Eco Mode adjusts a few of the car’s features once it’s enabled, including throttle response and transmission shift points, explains Mia Bevacqua, an ASE Certified Master Mechanic Automobile Technician and CarParts.com’s chief mechanic. “Whether or not Eco Mode directly provides a significant increase in fuel economy is questionable, but the feature does encourage slower and smoother driving habits, which can improve gas mileage.” Eco Mode is optimal in situations where you don’t have to rely on quick acceleration or move at highway speeds.
Schedule Your Gas Visits
Because gas prices are generally cheaper towards the beginning of the week, plan to fill up on Monday or Tuesday. Prices begin to climb on Thursday in anticipation of the weekend and typically peak Friday through Sunday. Though this strategy requires a bit of planning, it might pay off to set some time aside to study your route and schedule gas visits.
Check Your Tire Pressure
The health of your vehicle’s tires has a direct impact on fuel efficiency, explains James Shelton, a technical field support manager at Jiffy Lube. While under-inflated tires increase rolling resistance and can cause your vehicle to burn fuel at a faster rate, overinflated tires may be more vulnerable to damage while driving over potholes and other debris on the road, causing premature wear. Shelton suggests regularly checking your tire pressures to ensure that they’re at the manufacturer’s recommended PSI (pounds per square inch) by consulting the sticker on the driver’s side door jamb. Invest in a tire pressure gauge and portable air compressor for your road trip kit, or stop by any Wawa on the east coast, where air pumps are free to use.
Maintain a Steady Speed
“When your speed falls and surges, you consume more fuel,” says car expert Patrick Peterson. “When driving on the highway, consider using cruise control if the conditions allow.” In busier areas, anticipating pedestrian movement, stop signs, and changing lights can help for more intentional use of brakes. Gliding into stops and coasting on a downhill instead of stepping on the accelerator will also allow you to save on fuel.
Check the Gas Cap
A broken gas cap can reduce your vehicle’s fuel efficiency by up to two percent, explains car hobbyist Robert Walden. “Check it regularly to make sure that the threads are intact and that it fits snugly against your gas tank’s opening. If you suspect there might be a small space where the air is leaking out, replace your gas cap.” This prevents fuel vapors from leaking from the tank.
Its partnerships with major gas brands like Shell, Chevron, and Valero allow users of this free app to save up to $0.25 per gallon across the United States. Using the app, search for local gas stations and cashback offers. Snap a photo of your receipt to earn cashback and cash out your savings through PayPal, e-gift cards, or deposit them directly to your bank account. Plus, GetUpside allows you to earn cashback with visits to partner restaurants and grocery stores.
Keep Your Car Aerodynamic
Minimize drag while cruising down the highways by keeping windows closed and the car’s exterior clean and sleek. This means offloading any bike racks or rooftop boxes that aren’t needed and repositioning bike mounts to the vehicle’s rear for better aerodynamics in order to maximize fuel efficiency.
Stack Your Rewards
Some national grocery stores have their own chains of fuel centers and also partner with big-name gas stations. Bethany Hollars, a financial empowerment expert, points out that Kroger operates nearly 3,000 stores across the U.S., and offers a fuel rewards program for its own centers and partnered Shell stations. “This allows shoppers to earn Fuel Points when purchasing groceries, prescriptions, and even gift cards. The points are loaded onto a card and can be used as a valid form of payment for fuel purchases at participating Kroger and Shell gas stations,” explains Hollars. There are also promotions throughout the year, which allow shoppers to earn twice as many Fuel Points on eligible purchases to drive further savings.