14 Ways to Save Money on Fuel

Winter has almost arrived in the northern hemisphere; and although gasoline prices had steadily increased during the later part of this past winter and the first half of spring earlier this year, they had slowly retreated and have basically remained steady in recent weeks…

14 Ways to Save Money on Fuel

Iceland road highway car

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

…but even if the average price for a gallon of gasoline falls below $2.00 — some areas of the southeastern United States have been teasing with that threshold — a vehicle with a fuel tank capacity of eleven gallons will still cost at least $20.00 to fill up. Any savings in fuel will add up over time — especially if you commute on a regular basis or if you drive long distances often.

Although this article was written from the point of view of renting a vehicle, many of the same tips can also apply to vehicles which you own or lease.

The following 14 ways to save money on fuel are in no particular order.

1. Rent a Smaller Vehicle

Chilean Rental Car

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

You arrive at the rental car facility to pick up your vehicle — only to be informed that the class of vehicle you rented was sold out. As a gesture of good will, the agent at the facility may upgrade you to a full-sized car, a sport utility vehicle, or a minivan…

…but unless you are transporting a family or a lot of items — or unless you absolutely prefer a roomy vehicle — do you really need to drive those vehicles?

Even if you paid to rent a larger vehicle in the first place, the general rule is that the heavier the vehicle, the less efficient it will be with regards to fuel efficiency — and therefore will cost you more money at the pump. Notice that the weight of the vehicle is more important than the size of the vehicle, as an economy class car may not necessarily have better fuel efficiency as a compact class car.

During the process of renting a vehicle, you may want to read the expected miles per gallon you will likely experience with the class of vehicle you rent. This is especially important in countries such as Iceland, where gasoline can cost as much as ten dollars per gallon — and every drop of fuel which you save will impact your financial bottom line.

The Department of Energy of the United States provides a free tool with which you can compare the fuel efficiency of specific models of cars so that you can arrive at an informed decision as to which is the right car for you to rent — or purchase, for that matter — to save money on fuel while simultaneously maintaining the level of comfort and room which you ultimately want.

2. Travel to a Country Where Fuel Prices are Less Expensive

Sphinx Egypt pyramid

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

The average cost of gasoline in the United States is 78 cents per liter or $2.94 per United States gallon — as compared to a global average of $1.10 per liter or $4.16 per United States gallon — as of Monday, November 18, 2019, according to this tool provided by GlobalPetrolPrices.com.

You may not want to pack your bags and rush off to countries with the least expensive fuel — which include Venezuela, Sudan and Iran — but you will get a great value on gasoline in Ecuador, Malaysia and Bahrain, where prices per liter average at 49 cents, 50 cents and 53 cents per liter respectively.

Of course, fuel prices should not be the most significant determinant in where you should travel — many other costs and factors should be a part of your overall decision of where to travel — but if you plan on doing a lot of driving, every penny helps.

By the way, the tool also lets you compare the prices of such items as diesel and electricity; and it offers other useful functionalities as well.

3. Rent a Vehicle Which Uses Less Expensive Fuel

Iceland car

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

Not all vehicles consume gasoline as its primary source of fuel. You can now drive vehicles which operate on diesel, electricity, and even natural gas in addition to gasoline.

In 2018, diesel fuel was generally more expensive than gasoline in the United States — but cheaper than gasoline in Iceland.

Spend some time doing research as to what the least expensive fuel is in the country in which you plan on driving. The information for which you are seeking should not take very long to compile — especially if you use the aforementioned tool provided by GlobalPetrolPrices.com.

4. Additional Cash Back on Fuel Purchases With Credit Cards

Visa Signature credit card

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Some credit cards offer compensation for you using them to purchase certain items such as gasoline — either in the form of cash back or frequent traveler loyalty program points or miles — on either a temporary or permanent basis.

For example, you can earn six times the Hilton Honors bonus points per dollar spent at fuel stations with the Hilton Honors American Ascend Business Card — whose name was changed back to the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card effective as of Thursday, July 18, 2019…

… and the Discover card will offer five percent cash back on fuel purchases during the second quarter of 2020 from April 1 through June 30.

Those are just two of many credit cards which can offer you savings or bonuses on the purchases of gasoline.

5. Get a Free Fuel Card

Kroger Plus Shopper’s Card

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

Retail entities — such as Wal*Mart with the Murphy USA check card and Kroger Plus card as two of many examples — offer a free card with which you can save a few cents per gallon on fuel at their own stations.

Free fuel cards are not credit cards — but they can be used in conjunction with the aforementioned credit cards which can save you even more money on fuel purchases.

Additionally, you can save money with the Fuel Rewards card — you will earn even more with Gold Status — including but not limited to:

  • Dining Ten cents per gallon for every $50.00 you spend at greater than 10,000 restaurants, bars and clubs
  • Travel Five cents per gallon for every $50.00 you spend when you book flights, hotels, rental cars and vacations
  • Online Shopping At least five cents per gallon for every $50.00 you spend when you shop online — brand names you know and love
  • Card-Linked Offers At least five cents per gallon for every $50.00 you spend with participating retailers

6. Use Technology to Your Advantage

mobile telephone Apple iPhone 7

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

This article written by Emily Delbridge of The Balance lists six mobile software application programs for your portable electronic devices which help to ensure that saving money on fuel is even easier for you to do than ever.

  1. Gas Buddy is used by approximately 70 million people in the United States, Canada and Australia; and it is very highly rated by users of both iPhone and Android mobile telephones. Drive a diesel or car that requires premium unleaded? No problem—you can search based on the type of gas you need and then filter your results by brand, location, and price as well as additional features like restrooms, restaurants and car washes. Its mobile software application program can also alert you to daily deals and price hikes at your local stores. Prices are updated in real-time by the community of users. Gas Buddy also features a loyalty program with which you can save 15 cents per gallon on your first time using the aptly named “Pay,” and five cents per gallon forever after. For helping the Gas Buddy community by reporting prices, you can become a valued member of the community and earn additional perks. The app also features road trip guides and station reviews as well as money-saving tips.
  2. Waze is a community-powered app 90 million strong, but it tells you a lot more than just gas prices. The Israeli-designed app is famous for delivering up to the moment traffic and road updates including alerts of speed traps, ambulances, and accidents ahead without using a ton of your phone’s data. It can also tell you which routes to take to avoid tolls and exactly when you need to leave to be on time for your events/items in your calendar. If you’re trying to save money on gas, driving at a consistent speed below the speed limit is also a good idea, and Waze lets you set a sound alert if you exceed the speed limit.
  3. American Automobile Association TripTik Travel Planner — Becoming a member of the American Automobile Association is an investment that can save you time, hassle and money if your vehicle breaks down — but did you know that your membership also comes with a great mobile perk? The AAA TripTik Planner allows you to plan all aspects of your trip, including the best places to stop for gas and the most efficient route. Greater than 85,000 fuel stations throughout the United States are featured, including updated fuel prices. You can also access information about charging stations for electric vehicles as well as stores, shops, fuel stations and hotel and resort properties which take AAA member discounts.
  4. Gas Guru is a bit more streamlined than some of its competitors; and the data are pulled from the Oil Price Information Service, not users, so there is no need to spend time updating prices at stations you use. You can use the app to see whether it will be cheaper to buy gas near home or work, labeling frequent locations, and can filter your search by fuel type. As an additional perk, you can also see restaurants, repair shops, and automated teller machines are close by.
  5. MapQuest can not only get you the same turn-by-turn directions you know and love, but you can also have them read aloud accompanied by satellite imagery and live vector maps. MapQuest updates and optimizes with real-time traffic updates taken into account. You can also share your estimated time of arrival with friends and family, access roadside assistance, book reservations at your favorite restaurants and — most importantly — compare prices at nearby gas stations.
  6. Upside can save you approximately 25 cents per gallon of gasoline — but its results are only for greater than 650 fuel stations which are located in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and Long Island in New York.

7. Combine Appointments and Errands in One Trip

Atlanta Streetcar

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Try to combine multiple appointments and tasks into one trip whenever you are running errands. According to this article from the American Automobile Association, “Several short trips starting with a cold engine each time can use twice as much gas as a longer multipurpose trip covering the same distance when the engine is warm.”

Also, plan the route in advance in order to drive the fewest miles, as not only will you save on fuel; but you will also save time — as well as simultaneously saving wear and tear on your vehicle.

8. Drive Sensibly

traffic light

Photograph ©2011 by Brian Cohen.

Have you ever had a car speed by you — only for you to catch up to that car at the next red light?

Aggressive driving — which includes speeding, rapid acceleration and braking — wastes fuel. Your gas mileage may be lowered by between approximately 15 percent to 30 percent at highway speeds; and by between 10 percent to as much as 40 percent in local city traffic which constantly stops and goes.

Devices which offer feedback to drivers can help you drive more efficiently while improving fuel economy by approximately three percent — and that those people who them to save fuel can improve gasoline mileage by as much as ten percent.

Besides, sensible driving is also safer for you and others, so you may save more than between 28 cents and $1.12 per gallon in money for gasoline.

9. Observe the Speed Limit

Speed Limit 70 highway

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Although each vehicle reaches its optimal fuel economy at a different speed — or within a different range of speeds — traveling greater than 50 miles per hour tends to significantly decrease gasoline mileage, as the faster you go, the less efficient is your fuel economy because your vehicle burns more fuel due to such factors as wind resistance and ground resistance.

When put another way: for every five miles per hour you drive faster than 50 miles per hour is roughly the equivalent of paying an additional 20 cents per gallon for fuel — so driving your vehicle at 60 miles per hour is like paying 40 extra cents per gallon of fuel.

Assuming that fuel costs $2.81 per gallon, your fuel economy will benefit by between seven percent to as much as 14 percent, with the equivalent savings for each gallon of gasoline between 20 cents and 39 cents — simply by observing the speed limit.

Observing the speed limit when driving is also safer.

10. Use Cruise Control

SIXT rental car Citroën

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

Using the cruise control device while driving on a limited access highway helps you maintain a constant speed and — in most cases — will potentially save fuel…

…and your foot and leg will not cramp as a result of keeping them in the same position for hours at a time.

Do not use cruise control all the time, though. Sometimes the foot of a human being can be more conducive to saving fuel due to such factors as topography and traffic conditions.

11. Avoid Hauling Cargo on the Roof of Your Vehicle

Damaged Enterprise truck

Photograph ©2016 by Brian Cohen.

Hauling cargo on the roof of your vehicle increases aerodynamic drag — which is also known as wind resistance — and results in decreased fuel economy. If using an external cargo container to haul your belongings is an unavoidable necessity, ensure that you remove it when it is not in use in order to save you between six cents per gallon of gasoline to as much as 48 cents per gallon of gasoline in terms of fuel consumption.

Two examples of how external cargo containers can decrease fuel economy include:

  • A large roof-top cargo box that is not aerodynamic can decrease fuel economy by between:
    • Two percent to eight percent in city driving
    • Six percent to 17 percent rural highway driving
    • Ten percent to 25 percent on limited access highways at speeds between 65 miles per hour to 75 miles per hour
  • Rear-mount cargo boxes or trays can decrease fuel economy by between one percent and:
    • Two percent in city driving
    • Five percent on the highway

12. Remove Excess Weight From Your Vehicle

SIXT rental car Citroën

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

Did you know that when your vehicle carries an extra 100 pounds, the fuel economy of that vehicle can decrease by approximately one percent?

Your vehicle should not be treated like a mobile storage space. Avoid keeping unnecessary items in your vehicle longer than necessary — especially heavy items. The reduction in fuel economy is based on the percentage of extra weight relative to the weight of the vehicle and affects smaller vehicles more than larger ones.

Keep your vehicle as light as possible. You could save three cents per gallon of gasoline as a result.

13. Avoid Excessive Idling of Your Vehicle

traffic cars highway

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Excessive idling is not listening to a marathon of songs by Billy Idol.

Rather, the definition of idling is running the propulsion engine of a vehicle when it is not moving. Idling the engine in your stationary vehicle can consume as much as a half gallon of fuel per hour —  depending on the size of the engine and use of the air conditioner — and waste fuel as well as create harmful emissions to pollute the air.

Instead, turn off your engine when your vehicle is parked, as approximately ten seconds worth of fuel is all you will need to restart your vehicle. You could save up to two cents per minute of idling with the air conditioner off; and as much as three cents per minute of idling with the air conditioner on.

The Clean Cities Coalition Network of the Department of Energy of the United States has a plethora of additional information, details and statistics pertaining to the idling of vehicles.

As a public service message, never ever leave your child or pet in a vehicle while it is stationary — whether or not it is idling — as they are placed in danger by either the ambient outside temperature or the possibility of the vehicle being stolen by thieves with the children or pets in it. That danger can include significant psychological issues, serious bodily injury — or even death.

14. 3 Reasons Why You Should Not Top Off Your Fuel Tank

Gasoline pump

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

Three reasons as to why you should not top off your fuel tank are given in this article which I wrote on Friday, January 29, 2016:

  • Possible damage to the carbon filter vapor collection system
  • Potentially harming the environment with pollution caused by vapors and accidental gasoline spills
  • Wasting money on gasoline which supposedly returns to the fuel pump of the service station as opposed to going into the fuel tank of your vehicle

Summary

Blue Ridge Parkway

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

Saving money on fuel is not all that difficult to do — even if you only follow some of the recommendations in this article…

…and if everyone did their part to save on the consumption of fuel, prices per gallon would likely be less expensive.

All photographs ©2011, ©2015, ©2016, ©2017, ©2018 and ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

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