Prices at the pump currently average $3.89 for a gallon of regular unleaded. That's 55 cents higher than at the beginning of the year, and experts say prices could go even higher. But drives can cut their bills through a combination of smart shopping and smarter driving. Kelli Grant, Senior Consumer Reporter for SmartMoney.com, tells us how.
Weigh your payment methods. As gas prices rise, many credit cards' reward caps on gas purchases kick in, limiting their value. But there are still some options out there offering 5% back. At current prices, that's like 20 cents off per gallon. Look for cash discounts, too. Stations may offer cash prices that are up to 10 cents per gallon less.
Use grocery discounts. Many big supermarket chains now tie in-store spending to discounts at the pump. Depending on the program and your grocery spending, savings could range from 10 cents off to as much as $2.20 per gallon. But shoppers may find that prices at stores' partner stations are higher than others in town, eating into savings.
Create a fuel-efficient route. It's possible to cut down on mileage just by running a few errands on the same trip, and choosing more efficient routes. 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 can vary by as much as 30 cents a gallon in the same city.
Be a responsible driver. By the U.S. Department of Energy's estimates, each 5 mph you drive over 60 mph adds $0.30 per gallon to the gas bill. Aggressive stops and starts waste another 33% at highway speeds and about 5% at slower, local speed limits. Calmer driving works out to savings of up to $1.28 per gallon.
De-clutter your car. There's good reason to clean out the junk piled in the trunk. Every 100 pounds of added weight in a car reduces its fuel economy by up to 2%. That works out to paying an extra four to seven cents per gallon. Hauling a cargo carrier, bikes, kayaks or other gear atop the car for a road trip is worse, decreasing fuel economy by 5%.
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