As a Canadian who spends thousands of dollars on gasoline every year, I’m a bit of a self-professed expert on the topic of saving money on gas. It’s one of those monthly expenses that’s a complete necessity, but also seems like a complete waste of money. Unlike paying to heat your home or paying for your vehicle, which yields a physical object at the end of your payment cycle, paying for gas gets you where you’re going, and that’s it.
That’s why I love saving money on gasoline whenever and wherever I can. Here are my top tips and tricks to help you save money on gasoline, from little everyday habits to bigger, life-changing strategies.
Use apps to find the cheapest gasoline
The first and quickest way to lower your spending on gasoline is to find the least expensive places to buy gas. You could do this the old-fashioned way — by driving around to different gas stations and making a note of their prices — but that’s a great way to waste a lot of gas.
Instead, try downloading an app like GasBuddy, which uses user reported data to tell you where to find the least expensive gasoline in your area. For example, my GasBuddy app tells me that there’s a gas station a few kilometres from my home that is selling gasoline for 109.30 per litre. Most competing stations are selling for 112.8 per litre.
This app is a great way to see at a glance which gas stations are less expensive, but where it shines is on longer road trips. Since most stations near each other will sell gasoline at the same price to avoid price wars, when you’re covering a longer distance you’ll be able to scope out gas prices along your route to find the least expensive locale to fill up.
Avoid gasoline price spikes
When gas price hikes are coming, somehow the news always seems to leak in advance, and the best place to learn about these impending hikes is on drive time radio. Since the radio stations have a captive audience of commuters, fixating on whether gas prices are going to go up or down gets them good ratings, and it gives you a chance to fill your tank before prices go up the next day. By listening to the radio for a few weeks, you’ll get a sense of when gas prices typically go up or down and you can act accordingly. Here in Halifax, gas prices go up on Thursday nights, so I listen on Wednesday and Thursday.
Reward your gasoline spending
If you’re a power commuter and spend hours in your car every week, it may be worthwhile to look into the best cash-back credit cards to help mitigate your regular gasoline costs.
One of the best credit cards for gas is the Scotia Momentum Visa Infinite card, which offers 4% cash back on gasoline and grocery purchases. This credit card is perfect for a busy family on the go who spends a lot in these categories.
Reduce your consumption
If you’re more into the idea of reducing the amount of gasoline you consume rather than rewarding yourself for spending, there are a range of options depending on how much or how little time and effort you’d like to commit.
A great low-effort low-commitment option to reduce the amount of money you spend on gasoline is to ride a bicycle to work. If you don’t already have a bike collecting dust in your (or your parents’) basement, the second-hand market is full of high-quality bicycles that need new homes for a great price.
I’m an avid bike commuter, but like everyone else entering the world of bike commuting, I started out slowly. First I took my bike out for short trips during off-peak hours, to the coffee shop or the grocery store or my favourite craft brewery. As my expertise and confidence in riding my bike in traffic increased, I took longer trips more frequently. Now I only drive my car if I’m traveling more than five kilometres one way, which isn’t very often.
Riding a bike, walking, or carpooling are all great ways to save money on gas and wear and tear on your vehicle. It’s also better for the environment, great for your health, and helps reduce traffic congestion.
Change your driving habits
Changing how you drive will also improve your fuel mileage and help you consume less gasoline for every kilometres you travel. The first thing you should do (even if you aren’t trying to save money on gasoline) is check your tire pressure. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, under-inflated tires can reduce your gas mileage by 2% per 1 PSI (pounds per square inch) of pressure. That means you could improve your fuel mileage by up to 3% just by keeping your tires at the correct pressure. Check your vehicle’s user manual for the correct pressure level. You should also always use the appropriate grade motor oil for your vehicle. Using the incorrect grade can decrease your gas mileage by 1% to 2%.
Other tips to improve your gas mileage include removing unnecessary weight from your vehicle and planning your errands to be as distance-efficient as possible. Finally, there are the driving habits themselves. Your car will be operating at its peak efficiency if you drive as gently as possible. That means you must accelerate slowly, brake slowly, and avoid revving your engine as much as possible.