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8 cheap ways to save on gas

No sense in getting held up at the pump when we can hold the line through good habits and common sense.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 9, 2011 1:13PM

This guest post comes from Lou Carlozo, Green Dad columnist at dealnews.com.

 

These days, frustrated pump patrons spin various conspiracy theories as to what's "really" behind the high price of gasoline. Is it Big Oil, Russian cartels using Libya's turmoil as cover, or some price-fixing scheme cut behind closed doors?

 

Or is it, perhaps, a more prudent, practical theory: Oil and gas are natural resources, now consumed in record quantities even as the planet's nonrenewable supply vanishes. Meanwhile the U.S. must compete with developing nations such as China and India that have an unquenchable thirst for the stuff.

 

These factors may loom far beyond our control -- but we're not powerless.  Post continues after video.

With gas starting to top $4 a gallon, we can use less in sensible ways or make the most of what we do buy. There's nothing wrong with using every means at our disposal to find the cheapest cheap gas, or save on gas expenses.

Here's my Green Dad list of strategies, products and miscellanea to push the pump price back a bit, keeping your wallet and tank full at the same time.

 

STP Gas Treatment. If you've ever wanted to treat your car to real jet fuel (or a product made from it), now's your chance with STP Gas Treatment. This much-lauded additive cleans your engine and fuel intake system while fighting fuel-line freeze, thus boosting your car's performance and mileage. And while gas prices keep going up, this stuff is actually dropping in price, now about $1.99 for 8 ounces, enough to treat a tank. You should use it a few times to see full benefits, but you most likely will: Some say at least 10% improved mileage, all while protecting your engine. Just bought some myself, and can't wait to use it.

 

Gasbuddy.com. This website, up for more than eight years, ranks among the granddaddies when it comes to finding low, low gas prices. It updates the cheapest prices in the past 24 hours for specific states all over the country. There's also a Gasbuddy app for the iPhone you can download, too. Joining Gasbuddy.com is free, and once you do, you could win $250 in free gas. Hey, that's as good as liquid gold these days.

 

GasPriceWatch.com. GasPriceWatch works in similar fashion to Gasbuddy, and has been around just as long. Here's to giving you another online arsenal in the fight to save at the pump, as it's entirely possible that a rock-bottom price missed by Gasbuddy will be captured by GasPriceWatch, and vice versa. GPW also has a cool stat at the upper right of its home page that shows the highest and lowest gas prices in the U.S. As of late Tuesday, the high was in Kailua Kona, Hawaii ($4.21) and the low in Rocker, Mont. ($3.08).

 

Inflate those tires! Countless studies have shown that cars with properly inflated and balanced tires get better gas mileage -- about 3.3%, according to government stats. If you're really in a miserly mood, look for those rare gas stations that still offer free air; it might run you 50 cents or so otherwise.

Change your oil, and put the right oil in. This is key for older cars especially, which in many cases will benefit from using 5W-30 motor oil. Again, the feds tell us that the right oil grade will save you another 1% to 2% in gas mileage -- see how all this is adding up? But the next time Mr. Quickie Oil Change Dude tells you to replace the air filter, consider taking a pass. While some folks say this will boost mileage, government studies show that a new air filter, while it will improve engine performance, won't help much in the gas department.

Go over the big-city line to buy gas. In large urban areas such as Chicago, gasoline is heavily taxed and thus more expensive. Odd as it may seem, you can drive to gas stations just across the street from Chicago's city limits and find gas that's much cheaper. Beyond that, keep your eyes peeled for especially busy stations, a sure sign that prices there are very low. But don't drive too far out of your way to get the cheap stuff, as a long trip may negate any savings you realize. (I plan suburban gas-buying sprees around necessary errands.)

 

Buy low-octane gasoline. If you're among the suckers, er, consumers, who buy high-octane gas because you think it gives you better gas mileage, I'm sorry to say that experts agree this is a waste of money. Props to the folks at Bankrate.com for pointing this out, along with other gas-saving tips you can read here. Bottom line: Unless your car specifically requires premium, skip it and go for low-octane fuel.

 

Just. Don't. Drive. (Duh.) It's amazing of how many Americans consider cars a Constitutional Birthright, right up there with free speech and unlimited Twinkies for all.

 

True, it's hard to get around without a car in the 'burbs. But now's the time to ask yourself some tough questions: Is it time to get rid of my fuel-hogging SUV? Should I hop on my bike instead and take a step toward eliminating a spare tire of a different sort? Can I walk to the pharmacy? Isn't it time I learned the public transit routes in my town?

I'll tell you what: Every time I take the train or bus instead, I'm doing all sorts of business, and nixing errands off my to-do list, via my iPhone. And you can't do that behind the wheel. (Though just today, I saw at least five geniuses trying to text and drive at the same time. Heaven forbid a pedestrian should dart out in front of them.)

 

Other alternatives exist to replace those gas shackles with a thinking cap: We can carpool. We can trade in our wasteful cars for more fuel-efficient ones. We can put all of our trips in a straight line, instead of doubling back again and again to make 15 separate convenience store runs.

 

We can. No sense in getting held up at the pump when we can hold the line through good habits and common sense.

 

More from dealnews.com and MSN Money:

2Comments
Mar 10, 2011 1:44AM
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I don't have a smartphone or forty extra minutes to spend getting where I need to go.  There IS that downside to buses.
Jul 30, 2012 3:32PM
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Okay, this is funny. The only other comment on this article is from over a year ago. Busted for recycling articles, MSN!
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