Gas prices hit an all-time high last week with the national average reaching $4.33 per gallon — a massive 50-cent increase from the week prior, according to AAA data.
It’s even worse for some drivers, with the average price of gas closing in on $5 in some states. The previous high was in 2008, data shows. Experts say the situation probably won’t get better any time soon and might even get worse, so drivers might want to start thinking now about ways to save on gas.
“It’s a dire situation and won’t improve any time soon,” Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, a gas price tracking service, said in a press release. “The high prices are likely to stick around for not days or weeks, like they did in 2008, but months.”
There are a few factors contributing to fast and furious gas price increases, but the main reasons are the rise of inflation and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Inflation has been steadily increasing over the last few months and in February it was up 7.9% from a year ago, the highest level since January 1982.
The war is also pushing up prices as traders refuse to purchase Russian oil, removing much of it from the daily global supply. President Joe Biden announced a ban on Russian oil imports Tuesday, and the European Union recently pledged to cut Russian gas imports by two-thirds before the end of the year.
New survey data from AAA found that two-thirds of Americans felt gas prices were too expensive just a few weeks ago at $3.53 per gallon. Now with the national average at an all-time high of over $4, Americans are getting squeezed even harder.
“Gas prices are up so much,” CNET Editor-at-large Farnoosh Torabi said during an episode of ‘Live with Kelly and Ryan’ recently. Like NextAdvisor, CNET is owned by Red Ventures. “It’s an extra $15 to fill up your tank right now than it was last year.”
Now is as good a time as ever to fine-tune your driving habits and find ways to maximize your savings on gas to ease the squeeze on your wallet. Here are a few ways to save money on gas right now:
How to Save Money on Gas Amid Rising Prices
Be Strategic With Your Travel
Driving less is one obvious way you can reduce the cost of gas. But along with driving less, you could also take measures to drive more strategically. For example, you can try to plan ahead and combine errands. According to Fueleconomy.gov, several short trips, each one taken from a cold start, can use twice as much fuel as one trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm. When you’re behind the wheel, it also helps to drive sensibly and avoid aggressive driving, such as speeding, rapid acceleration, and hard braking. Aggressive driving can lower your highway gas mileage by 15%-30% and your city mileage by 10%-40%, according to Fueleconomy.gov.
Consider temporarily using public transportation if it’s accessible in your area — it may cost less than driving. You could also consider carpooling with friends or family for work, events, or errands; or even using other forms of active transportation like bicycling or walking to save on fuel.
If you really want to get savvy, Fueleconomy.gov points to several little things you can do over time to help reduce gas consumption, including:
- Minimize idling your car: It can use a quarter to a half gallon of fuel per hour, depending on engine size and air conditioner use, adding up to three cents of wasted fuel a minute.
- Avoid keeping heavy items in your car: An extra 100 pounds in your vehicle could increase your gas costs by up to $.03 cents per gallon.
- Use the correct oil based on what your car’s manufacturer recommends: Using a different grade of oil can lower your gas mileage by 1%-2%.
- Keep your tires properly inflated: Having low tire pressure can affect the car’s performance, tire longevity, and fuel economy.
- Avoid using air conditioning: Turning on the AC regularly in your car consumes more gas.
Find Cheap Gas Via Apps or Websites
Gas prices can vary significantly within a few miles or even blocks. That’s why you should take advantage of apps to find the cheapest gas near you, says Torabi. Apps and websites like GasBuddy, Google Maps, and AAA can make it easier for you to find cheaper gas prices in your area or on the road. “Wherever you are in the country, they’ll tell you within a mile to two mile radius where the cheapest gas is,” she says.
Sign Up for Fuel Rewards Programs
There’s no better time than now to sign up for fuel rewards programs, which let you rack up points or score gas discounts when you fill up your tank. Most major gas brands have rewards programs, from BP to Exxon to Shell. If you’re trying to find the best one for you, compare gas programs to see how they stack up and consider where you tend to buy gas. If you fuel up in more than one place, try joining a few different gas station rewards programs so you can earn rewards with each one.
There are also several regional grocery stores that offer fuel rewards programs that you can take advantage of. Additionally, gas prices tend to be lower at big-box grocery stores like Costco and Sam’s Club, but you’ll need a membership to fill up at those places.
Pay Cash at the Pump
Many gas stations offer a discount if you pay for gas with cash instead of card. Depending on your location, it can be anywhere from 5 to 10 cents per gallon. While the discounts may seem small, paying cash consistently over time could result in big savings.
Use a Credit Card to Earn Cash Back
Check to see if your credit cards are offering any deals on gas purchases. Depending on the card, you could earn anywhere between 2% to 5% cash back for buying gas. We put together a list of the best cash back credit cards that can save you hundreds of dollars per year on average. Our top recommendation for gas purchases is the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which will give you unlimited 3% cash back at U.S. gas stations. Keep in mind this is only a good option if you can pay off your balance on time and in full each month.