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How to save real money on gas

Gas prices have already topped $4 in several parts of the country, but efficient driving and shopping tactics can translate to big savings at the pump.

By MSN Money Partner Mar 21, 2012 12:45PM

This post comes from Kelli B. Grant at partner site SmartMoney.


Gas prices are inching toward record highs, but experts say how you drive and where you buy your groceries can cut the cost of filling up.


Prices at the pump currently average $3.84 for a gallon of regular unleaded, 30 cents more than a month ago, according to AAA. (The record is $4.11, hit in July 2008). Drivers in 16 states and the District of Columbia pay even more -- and in eight of those states, prices already top $4 per gallon. Consumers shouldn't expect relief in coming months, either, says Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for the Oil Price Information Service. The cost of refueling typically peaks in May after refineries complete the switch to summer gasoline blends, which are more volatile adn more expensive than winter blends . As a result, drivers could see prices rise an additional 5 to 25 cents, he says.(Post continues below.)

Some motorists are better positioned than others to save, experts say. People in states along the Rocky Mountains have some of the lowest prices nationwide -- as cheap as $3.43 in Wyoming -- thanks to their proximity to U.S. supply and refineries, Kloza says. And drivers cruising around in 2012 models may experience the fruits of manufacturers' latest fuel-efficiency push, says Jim Kliesch, research director for the Union of Concerned Scientists' clean vehicles program. Many new models offer features such as lightweight metals and stop-go technology that shuts off an engine at stoplights and in gridlock, he says.


But most drivers need to make more of an effort to save on gas by taking smaller actions that improve fuel economy and reduce costs. "No one individual (fuel-efficiency) tactic stands far above the rest," says Kliesch. "It's a handful of simple things you can do that together offer a reasonable improvement in your fuel economy."


Driving a vehicle that isn't at its most fuel efficient can be equivalent paying an extra $2 or more per gallon, simply because it burns through a tank much faster. Here's how to avoid that premium by filling up less often:



  • Savings: Up to 7 cents per gallon.

There's good reason to clean out the junk piled in the trunk, says Kliesch. Every 100 pounds of added weight in a car reduces its fuel economy by up to 2%. That works out to an extra four to seven cents per gallon. Hauling a cargo carrier, bikes, kayaks or other gear atop the car is worse, decreasing fuel economy by as much as 5%.


Weigh payment methods

  • Savings: Up to 19 cents per gallon.

As gas prices rise, many credit cards' reward caps on gas purchases kick in, limiting their value, says Odysseas Papadimitriou, chief executive of He likes the PenFed Platinum Rewards card, which requires a $15 credit union membership but offers five points per dollar spent at the pump. (At $3.84 per gallon, that works out to about $0.19 back.) In some instances it could make more sense to pay cash. Stations may offer discounts of up to 10 cents per gallon for drivers who forgo plastic.


Drive responsibly

  • Savings: Up to $1.27 per gallon.

By the U.S. Department of Energy's estimates, every 5 mph faster than 60 mph adds $0.30 per gallon to the gas bill. Aggressive stops and starts waste an additional 33% at highway speeds and about 5% at slower, local speed limits. "Don't try to jump off the starting block," says Avery Ash, manager of regulatory affairs for AAA. Calmer driving translates to savings of $0.19 to $1.27 per gallon.


Check the tires

  • Savings: Up to 12 cents per gallon.

Under- or over-inflated tires change the way the car handles, adding drag and speeding wear. That, in turn, reduces fuel efficiency by about 3%. Look on the driver's side door panel or in the owner's manual for information on proper inflation levels, Kliesch says. Don't go by the figure stamped on the tire -- that's the maximum it can handle.

Use grocery discounts

  • Savings: Up to $2.20 per gallon.

Many big supermarket chains now tie in-store spending to discounts at the pump. Depending on the program and your typical grocery bill, your savings could range from 10 cents off to as much as $1.50 per gallon at Albertsons or $2.20 at Giant, says Teri Gault, the founder of The Grocery Game. But shoppers may find that prices at partner stations are higher than elsewhere, eating into savings, she cautions. Programs typically cap the amount of fuel you can get at the discounted rate, although households may still be able to fill two cars on the cheap.


Create a fuel-efficient route

  • Savings: Up to 30 cents per gallon.

It's possible to cut down on mileage just by running a few errands on the same trip, and choosing more efficient routes, Ash says. On longer trips, use a GPS to find the best route -- and price-mapping apps like AAA TripTik or GasBuddy to find the best fuel deals along those routes. Prices in Ypsilanti, Mich., for example, currently range from $3.81 to $4.09, according to GasBuddy. That's a $0.28 per gallon swing, so it can pay to shop around.


More on SmartMoney and MSN Money:


Mar 22, 2012 3:37PM

This is all BS. People have done all of this and prices still rise. Who's kidding who??


We need the truth as to what is really going on.

Mar 22, 2012 11:57AM

Take your BICYCLE on beautiful days!!!


By car it takes me 15 min to go to work and 10 min to walk from my parking spot to the building. By bicycle it takes me 25 min at a leisurely pace direct to my building.  Same time without burning gas and polluting and I am just a regular guy. People tell me all sorts of excuses for not taking the bicycle but if you try it you might not need to take the car to go to the gym!!!!! 


Mar 22, 2012 3:41PM
Maybe marketing speculation, exporting our gas for more money, fear of mid east problems, EPA, high taxes on gas (the higher the taxes the more the government rakes in). The law of supply does not apply in this situation. I smell a fish.
Mar 22, 2012 1:58PM
Or, we can dump the inept lying quasi socialist in the white house, start drilling and get the price back down.
Mar 22, 2012 3:48PM
Maybe marketing speculation, exporting our gas for more money, fear of mid east problems, EPA, high taxes on gas (the higher the taxes the more the government rakes in). The law of supply does not apply in this situation. I smell a fish.
Mar 22, 2012 6:22PM
Why can’t our caring government – who is supposed to be   F O R   the people – give the regular guys and gals a bit of a break on these gasoline prices??  How about a moratorium for a few months on the gasoline tax – both Federal and State.  Who knows – this may even put more money into the economy!!!!
Mar 22, 2012 2:29PM
sprues2 need to add the oil speculators to that list and I do hope you mean all of them in Washington included the nuts on both the right and left along with the lobbyist who cater to them.
Mar 22, 2012 1:17PM
Umm, wondering just how old this article is???? I just paid $4.49 a gallon...others in the area $4.47 a gallon.  So just where are you located?  I am at the south side of chicago.
Mar 22, 2012 7:04PM

Here is something I practiced most my life and I think more and more people should think about. Especially older people getting ready or thinking about retirement.

Shop for a home or apartment close to everything, even your workplace. I have a home that has everything you can think of within a five mile radius. 6 or seven different banks, all kinds of restaurants like golden coral, steak houses, red lobster, burger king, mcdonalds, taco bell, Kentucky fried chicken and many more. Two King super, and a safeway.  super Wal-Mart, costco, super target, Chile's, radio shack, I mean I have everything and the farthest of something different if a really want to get out is with in ten miles. My jobs have always been with in five miles until I changed my trade some years ago. I find that there are more and more area's that are building up like this to help people that buy homes in some areas to not have to drive ten or twenty miles for anything. I also have a light rail system I can walk to and get downtown without driving at all.

Schools through to high school, Smart people in America are going to have to start thinking about living in areas like this and buying homes in areas like this that will keep the resale because they save family's thousands of dollars every year over and above buying some expensive high breed car that cost more with insurance and car payments than gas it will save in a life time.


Mar 22, 2012 5:58PM
I myself are working on H2/conversion and I believe I can make a difference for the gas guzzlers and you should check out the Air Car from India ,but the US probably won't allow the car here until they suck all the money out of our pocket, also checkout (Gas hole on Netflix) that ought to make you MAD!
Mar 22, 2012 5:01PM
Save money on gas? Easy?  Stop driving a gas hog.  Don't insist on living a bazillion miles away from everything.  Stop once and for all making taxpayers pay billions in subsidies to the thieving oil, coal, and GAS industry. Get us OFF the polluting, accident prone, fossil fuel addiction instead of INCREASING it as we pay, pay, pay for it in environmental degradation and WARS that never end.  Stop listening to the lying oil lobby that spends mega billions of OUR money on their ads that punmel us 24/7 with ads telling us all how WONDERFUL they are and those 100,s of thousands of JOBS they're going to create by keeping us prisoners to their CRAP industry as they laugh all the way to the bank along with their CEO's, executives, lobbyists and dirty congressmen who are the only ones benefiting from this disgusting status quo. We NEED clean alternative energy revved up 100% and we need it NOW.
President Obama caving today by letting that leg of the lie called the Keystone Pipeline get built in OK today was sadder then sad AFTER he previously listened to SOUND science and said it would'nt go anywhere until after the next election year.
The only thing this guarantees is more accidents and destruction of our environment, NOT lowering of gas prices. Mr. President, you let us down on environmental POLICY AGAIN.  Another GULF here we come.

Mar 22, 2012 7:14PM
I have done everything i possibly can to save on gas. I have removed everything from my mini van, tuned it up, new filters, check tires, all that. And it still didn't make a difference. Gas is still too high. I have consolidated all my shopping trips to four a month, cant do much more than that. At least now, i can squeak by till the next fill up. Someone, somewhere, has to stop this high gas price. I know the President cant controll the price, but come on people! This greed has got to stop!!!
Mar 22, 2012 7:31PM

Ok all of you are right and wrong.  You are all freaking geniuses. Okayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy

I have all of you beat. It is simple. I drive what I want a big a-- SUV that gets about 15 mpg. I don't mind becuase I steal stuff, sell the stuff and my gas is basically free. Okayyyy geniuses. I am just kidding phuck nutters.  Calm down

Mar 22, 2012 7:19PM
I live near things but still too far to walk.I live in a small town.I lived in a city once and it sure was easier getting transportation.I live in small town now because I lost husband and about two months after loosing him our only child became a invalid so now i take care of her.I don't mind telling you I'm tired; sick and old myself but some how I have to keep going. I never thought in my old age would ever be this bad.Its good I couldn't see the future.Most all my friends are making it fine because they have family backing; all my immediately family have passed away so its just me.Most of people I know are living very well because its not long talking to them they all have settled big law suits so they are not hurting for nothing.This family has about had it we are just two females alone ; females alone don't make it these days.
Apr 10, 2012 9:04PM
If you want to save gas don't drive....Park you car when you get home and don't drive it, stay home on the weekend and save your money...Not fun but it works..
Apr 10, 2012 8:53PM
@ Dave ZZZ How about a moratorium for a few months on the gasoline tax – both Federal and State. Cutting the tax does not mean we will see lower prices. The prices are set by the oil companies, based on the price of crude, and SPECULATORS. OIL companies are not going to accept making less than their average 4 billion in profit every quarter, do you think they will NOT take the tax break for themselves, and increase their profits, rather than pass the break to us through the price at the gas pumps?! By the way, speculators are basically compensated by oil companies, and react in a negative way to ANY fighting, political unrest, government coup, or uprising and rioting of any kind, in any oil producing country. The really interesting stuff, that makes all this pain at the pump even harder to understand, is existing technologies and companies, that are basically KEPT on the back burner, and barred from m****duction, in an effort to keep all of us slaves to our vehicles. Look up TESLA motors, look up SOLAR power grid, and many other things that the government could help us afford, or grant monies to, so they can be m****duced and  become more readily afforded by all of us. Lobbyist run our government. OIL companies have the most money to spend on greasing lobbyists palms. Hence the high gas prices of today. It isn't the president, not the one there now, or the ones that came before, but the "status quo of business as usual" that exists in Washington, which is controlled by BIG money.
May 16, 2012 12:21PM

We use Pure Gas, no ethenol.  We also add pure acetone, 2 oz. per 10 gallons.  I have improved my gas milage by 4 miles a gallon.  I read this on line, many months ago.


This works for us, but you might want to check it out for yourself.  Ethenol free gas cost about 10 cents more  a gallon.  Everyone puts it in their lawn mowers, and  other small moters. 



Mar 22, 2012 3:49PM
Mar 22, 2012 7:42PM
Excuse me there is one more thing I forgot to tell.If I misspell a word or use poor grammar please forgive me there is a reason for this.You see I am also one of those kids who raised my parents instead of them raising me.Both of my parents not one but both parents were illiterate neither one of my parents could read or write.I guess you can say I am self taught.Just thought you might want to know that.
Mar 22, 2012 3:03PM
Sprues2 just another person who can't handle real facts so he chooses name calling. Repubs won't vote against speculators taking your money because they want high gas prices so they can whine and blame Pres Obama for what the repubs are doing to gas prices. Record drilling, lowest oil consumption in years, facts Sprue can't face....The pres is a success!  Sen Bernie Sanders soon will be presenting another bill to regulate the speculators according to the law. Watch Repubs whine again and try to filibuster another bill. Record filibusters just to ruin the economy to bring the President down. Repubs vote against taking away subsidies from Big oil and their record profits. Want more tax breaks for the millionaires and billionaires.Teabaggers complain not to touch Soc sec and medicare, then like people in a cult, they vote and do things against their own self interest! Repubs tell them they will privatize Soc sec and medicare, and they vote for them.........insanity.......
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