It often seems you can’t go a week without someone making a sour mention of the state of gas prices. The prices themselves go up and down, sometimes quite drastically, but for anyone who drives regularly as part of their commute, there’s no doubt that fuel can comprise a significant part of a month’s expenses. With that, it’s easy to understand why someone would want to find the best deal for gas. Gas stations of a given area will tend to compete with run par with one another, often to the fraction of a cent, in order to remain competitive.
If you broaden the scope of your search, however, you should find that different areas of your city draw in different prices. Gas may still be expensive, but there are definitely ways to allay the costs a bit. Part 1 of this article outlines a mindset to keep in mind when you’re out on the road looking for the best prices. Part 2 details techniques you can employ to plan around and research prices online. Finally, Part 3 denotes some other ways to maximize the gas you buy beyond price awareness.
Part 1 of 3: How to scope out gas prices on the go
Step 1: Keep an eye out for gas prices as you drive. Whenever you’re commuting to work or driving through a new area, keep tabs on the gas station prices you see as you pass by.
Assuming your commute is far enough to cover a range of neighbourhoods and areas, you should see some minor variation in the gas prices; the variance will depend on whether your commute encompasses different town and economic spheres.
As time goes on with this awareness, you should start picking up on which areas skew slightly cheaper. On a given trip, there should be an area on a given trip that proves the most cost-effective to fill up at.
Step 2: Broaden your search. Gas stations located around transport hubs like airports or off the highway will tend to price their gas slightly higher than a local neighbourhood location.
This is because these high-traffic locations know they can get away with less competitive prices due to the sheer demand.
The variation in price opens up the further you broaden your search. In addition to the recommended online search, you can ask friends if they have noticed any helpful pricing trends on their own.
Step 3: Purchase the cheapest grade of fuel. If you’re focused on getting the best price for gas, you should obviously go for the bronze fuel grade.
Most people use it for this reason anyway as a logical default, and there’s often no practical benefit to the added smoothness of high-octane fuel with most cars.
Part 2 of 3: Find the best prices online and plan in advance
Step 1: Compare gas prices online. The website GasBuddy is a major help if you’re looking for the best gas prices.
The site (and others like it) is focused on keeping as up-to-date on changing gas prices s possible. Organizing locations by their price or relative distance to you, it’s a lot faster to see which areas have the best deals.
In addition, with the way GasBuddy keeps track of past prices, you can see how your local prices have changed over time. Using a map service like Google Maps will give you an overlay of the gas stations along your route.
Step 2: Fill up on fuel out-of-town. Although gas locations around a single neighbourhood will typically be priced within a cent of one another, you could save several dollars at the pump in a different town.
Broadening a gas search that much doesn’t make sense unless you already have business in the other town, but if you find yourself leaving your area frequently enough, the money you’ll save from tactically planned fill-ups can really add up over time.
If you want to stick locally, GasBuddy also shows the average price of gas in your city; if your nearest station is higher than that, it stands to reason you won’t have to drive much further to get a slightly better deal.
Step 3: Factor in the exchange rate if you’re going between countries. There can be a significant fuel price difference across national borders. If you’re going up through to Canada on a trip, for example, it’s a good idea to check the prices on both sides.
Factor in the US/CAN currency exchange rate (also keeping in mind that Canada gauges fuel prices by the litre - not the gallon) and you should have some idea of how much you’ll save on gas on one side over the other.
Part 3 of 3 How to maximize your gas usage
Step 1: Buy your gas at night. If at all possible, you should get your gas at night, particularly during hot Summers.
Gas is sold by volume, and will expand or condense depending on the temperature. You’ll also spare yourself from the potential traffic of busy daytime hours.
Step 2: Get a full tank of gas when possible. Provided you can afford it, fill your tank to the max whenever you see a particularly good deal.
A full tank can be a daunting expense if the money’s tight, but you will be saving yourself some money overall if you bite the bullet at once Moreover, keeping the fuel high as a rule minimizes the risk of potentially running low and needing to pick a nearby station with steeper prices.
Step 3: Invest in a more efficient vehicle. If you want to save money in fuel over a long-term period, a more efficient car with a strong fuel economy will potentially save you thousands of dollars in gas.
Unfortunately, the price of efficient cars and plug-in hybrids are often steep enough to negate the long-term savings. Even so, the unpredictability of gas prices, as well as the increasing availability of hybrid tech, should make it all the more viable over the next few years.