8 Ways to Save on This Summer’s Road Trip

Summer is approaching. That means vacations for many families. AAA estimates that 100 million Americans are planning a getaway, more than half opting for a road trip.

But with gasoline prices inching higher, traveling could cost more than you may have expected. And for anyone on a tight budget, that could mean cutbacks on other parts of your trip.

As of mid-May, the national average price for a gallon of gasoline was $2.86… 3 cents higher than the same time last month.

Here in California we’ve been hit the hardest… passing a whopping $4. That’s up about 30 cents from a year ago.

For an estimate on how much gas will cost on your road trip, AAA has a handy calculatorthat’s based on where you’re traveling and the car you’re driving.

Now if you’re like me, you hate paying too much at the pump. So here are eight things you can do to make any upcoming road trip, and even your everyday commutes, a bit more affordable…

#1—Tap Your Smartphone

Use apps such as AAA’s Triptik or GasBuddy to find the lowest prices when you’re traveling. You can search by city, state, or brand. 

#2—Find a Fuel Rewards Program

Most gas stations offer a rewards program that can save you money…

For instance, BP’s Driver Rewards will knock off 10 cents per gallon (up to 20 gal.) for every $100 you spend on their fuel.

Shell has one, too. You can save 30 cents per gallon on your first five fill ups and 10 cents thereafter.

Exxon Mobil Rewards+ program gives you 3 points per gallon. For every 100 points accumulated, you get $1 off your fuel purchase. So 500 points = $5 in savings.

The obvious downside to these programs is that you have to buy at participating stations, which can be a nuisance when on a road trip.

If that’s a concern, you might consider Pay with GasBuddy. It works as a debit card at most every station nationwide taking the purchase amount right out of your checking account.

The service has three membership levels. One is free; the other two have monthly fees. You’ll save 5 cents to 20 cents per gallon depending on which membership you join.

#3—Cash Is King

Some gas stations will charge you as much as 10 cents or so a gallon when you pay with a credit card. That’s to offset the processing fees that credit card companies charge them.

So if you’re willing to pay with cash, look for stations that’ll give you a discount. Paying with a debit card often earns similar savings. 

#4—Discounted Gas Cards

GiftCardGranny.com and CardCash.com sell discounted gas gift cards that give you another way to save…

A recent listing was for a Sunoco card. Face value: $200. Your cost: $195.

Another was for a Shell card. Face value: $100. Your cost: $98.

#5—Timing Matters

Findings vary on which is exactly the best day to fill up. Yet there is agreement that prices are lower early in the week, which makes total sense to me.

After all, come Thursday folks are anticipating a weekend of travel. So unless it’s an emergency or you’re already on the road, don’t buy gas on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

#6—Do You Really Need Premium?

Years ago, drivers would occasionally buy a tank of premium to clean their car’s engine. But experts say that’s no longer necessary because today’s gasoline has additives to protect engines and cut pollution.

So it’s like throwing money in the trash when filling up at the premium pump can cost you 20 to 40+ cents per gallon more than regular grade.

However, some auto manufacturers specify premium fuel for certain models. If you’re not sure what can be used in your car, Edmunds has two lists for you: Premium Required and Premium Recommended.

#7—Before You Hit the Road…

Get your car ready with a tune-up. Replace the air filter, too.

You may realize a 7% increase in fuel mileage, saving as much as 12 cents a gallon, according to the Department of Energy. 

While you’re at it, check the tires. Properly inflating them could improve gas mileage by up to 3.3%, saving about 2 cents a gallon.

Having the oil changed and using the right grade of oil is good for another 3 to 6 cents in gasoline savings. 

#8—Practice Good Driving Habits

Avoid jackrabbit starts and sudden stops. Testing showed that accelerating slowly from a green light and gradually stopping for a red light cut fuel consumption by 27-35%.

And when on the open highway, switch on the cruise control. Cars monitored got 4.5-14% better fuel mileage using cruise control set a 70 mph compared to driving at 65-75 mph.

To Sum It Up

A final note that will make your road trip more comfortable…

Some people believe that their car’s a/c increases fuel usage. Not so according to test data from Edmunds.com.

The online resource information company found that using the a/c at highway speeds had no appreciable effect on fuel economy compared to rolling down the windows. 

So before you hit the road this summer, keep the above in mind as some easy ways to reduce expenses.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

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