Smart SpendingSmart Spending

4 ways to save as gas prices rise

Big jumps in gas prices recently have people looking for measures to keep the cost of commuting under control. Here are some that work.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 24, 2012 9:48AM

This post comes from Matt Brownell at partner site MainStreet.


MainStreet on MSN MoneyGas prices are steadily on the rise, as skyrocketing crude oil prices have pushed the price of a gallon of regular gas to $3.64, up more than 20 cents from a month ago.


If you're feeling the sting of these rising prices, here are a few tips for spending less on gas. (Post continues below.)

Find the cheapest station

Usually when you see two or more gas stations in the same general area, their prices will be very similar -- they know people are going to shop around, so they can't afford to be more than a few cents pricier than the station across the street. If it's a difference of just 2 or 3 cents per gallon, you're talking about less than a dollar difference for the whole tank of gas in most cars.


But Philip Reed, the senior consumer advice editor for car site, says stations in different parts of town can have very different prices, so it pays to shop around.

"There is a big variance in different parts of the city, and it can be as high as 10 to 20 cents," he says, adding that differences in pricing don't tend to follow socioeconomic boundaries.


So how do you find out which parts of town have the cheapest gas? Reed recommends using a site such as GasBuddy, which tracks gas prices at stations in your area and has a free iPhone app. He does note, though, that driving far out of your way to get cheaper gas is probably counterproductive, so your best bet may be to just keep track of the stations that are along your commuting route and note which have the cheapest gas.


Fill it up with regular, please

Do you have a tendency to treat your car to premium gasoline at the pump? If so, you're probably wasting money.


"There are a lot of cars that recommend premium gas, but they would run just fine on regular," Reed says. "If premium is required, then you have to put it in, but 'recommended' is the key word."


High-octane premium gas was initially created to help keep your engine from "knocking" (a misfiring in the engine that can cause a pinging sound and possible engine damage), and also contains additives that keep your fuel lines clean. But modern cars have knock sensors in place, and regular fuel has improved to the point  that it keeps your engine running clean on its own.


We should reiterate, though, that if you drive a luxury or otherwise high-performance car that requires premium gas, you should use that fuel.


Get a rewards card

Many rewards credit cards will give you cash back on purchases at the pump. The Capital One No Hassle Cash Rewards credit card gives you 2% cash back on gas purchases, while the Pentagon Federal Credit Union Platinum Cashback card gives you a whopping 5% back at the pump. If you spend a lot of time at gas stations, it might be worth it to you to get one of these cards.


As with all credit cards, though, don't get so blinded by the rewards that you neglect to read the fine print.


Drive more efficiently

Arguably, the best way to save on gas is to use less of it. There are a number of ways to accomplish this -- when it comes time to buy a car you can, for instance, switch to a hybrid or electric vehicle, which gets better mileage. But in the meantime, you can use less gas by simply driving like less of a maniac.


That doesn't mean doing 40 miles per hour on the highway while cars race past you, leaning on their horns. In fact, speed has little to do with it, Reed says. Rather, it's rapid and repeated acceleration that tends to burn off gas quickly.


"Far and away the biggest culprit is unnecessary acceleration and unnecessarily aggressive driving," Reed says.


If you make a habit of peeling out at stop signs, rapidly slowing and accelerating to pass people on the highway and generally stomping on the gas pedal, you're probably using more gasoline than you need. Not only that, but cutting down on such stop-and-go driving will also reduce your maintenance bills -- which can be a lot pricier than gas.


More on MainStreet and MSN Money:

Feb 26, 2012 1:48PM
In my area, you don't get a break for paying cash, so my Amazon VISA, which gives 2% cash back on gasoline, is what I normally use.  Discovercard also occasionally has 3-month periods where you get 5% cash back on gas to a certain limit, and you have to sign up on your discovercard web page.  I'm getting a 40-mpg car whenever my '97 Taurus (bought new) gives out, probably one of the compact crossovers (hatchbacks).  On the rare occasions I need to get lumber, etc. I can't carry in it, I'll either bother someone's pickup truck or hitch up the towable cart my brother bought when he sold his truck.  The convenience of a bigger isn't worth it today.
Mar 6, 2012 9:50PM

If we all work together, hydrogen generators produce enough to run a vehicle on with out the use of gasoline. This would definitely lower gas to not using it at all. I for one have a hydrogen generator in the works and it will work as expected and I plan on building more just to help others. If we all work together and get the info out on how to build your own we all will be better off.

Feb 25, 2012 7:42AM
A lot of gas stations charge more for credit card purchases. In my ares in very small print at the pump. They still
have the lower cash price in the big numbers just to get you in.

Feb 24, 2012 5:53PM

Choose well, becasuse Main Street has already gotten royaly screwed.

Mar 7, 2012 12:54AM
I agree with stuner...there are plenty of alternative fuel sources...the hydrogen fuel cell car would be that alternative...they have a working solar hydrogen fueling station at UC Irvine in California...Honda has the Clarion which is a hydrogen fuel cell is only being released at a very slow pace...mainly in the Orange county area of California...everyone should Google "hydrogen highway"  it was on track in California, over 5 years ago...then the push for hydrogen just disappeared...could it be the oil lobbyists...that they would rather make crazy profits on oil on the backs of hard working American's...the oil shortage has been known for years...don't you think it's kind of crazy that even after the 70's and 80's gas know long lines at the pumps and everyone knows there would eventually be a long term shortage...that the 1990's the American car companies decided to market and sell SUV's (total gas hogs)....really people...then wonder why we are where we are....way back in the 70's Honda had fuel efficient cars...and American car companies decided to not compete???  Or did they get bailed out by the oil companies that didn't want to lose their oil consumption!  
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.