8 Bad Habits That Are Driving Up Your Gas Costs

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The gas is flowing out there. In 2018, the United States consumed 391 million gallons per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Of course, not all of that went into our vehicles, but you get the idea. We are driving a lot.

The cost of that consumption has a ton of variables: where you live, what you drive, traffic congestion, weather, geography, you name it. More often than not, you can’t control how much gas you need to use on a daily basis. You’ve got to get certain places every day, and unless you are able and willing to take advantage of other means of transportation, you’re going to be driving those miles.

What you can control, however, are your best practices. Humans are creatures of habit — sometimes costly bad habits that can affect our gas usage. Make tweaks and changes here and there, and you could save hundreds if not thousands of dollars over the years.

Here are bad habits you can change to save more on gas:

1. Buying premium gas

If you really want to know the difference between premium, plus and regular gas, read this Massachusetts Institute of Technology article. Basically, it says the same thing that Money Talks News reports: Unless your car specifically calls for premium gas, don’t use it. It’s a lot of money you don’t need to spend.

Does your vehicle require premium? Check out Edmunds’ list of vehicles requiring premium fuel (model years 2012 to present), and Edmunds’ list of vehicles for which premium fuel is recommended.

What it costs you: AAA estimates that drivers waste $2.1 billion annually buying premium gas when they don’t need it.

2. Driving aggressively

Impatience doesn’t pay off on the road. Fast acceleration after traffic lights, from stop signs or on the freeway burns more gas, as do speeding and hard braking. Keep calm, save gas, and lower your blood pressure.

Fast accelerations and stops also are tough on drivetrain components and more quickly wear out brake pads and rotors, all of which cost several hundred dollars to fix.

What it costs you: Aggressive driving can lower gas mileage from 10% to 40%, depending on driving conditions.

3. Using your car’s roof rack

One of our “11 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Slash Your Expenses” is to stop using a roof rack. Or, at least don’t leave it attached after using it.

Roof racks create air resistance, forcing the engine to work a little harder and reducing your gas mileage.

What it costs you: Carrying things on a roof rack — bicycles, skis, storage pods, etc. — can decrease your miles-per-gallon by as much as 8% in the city and 25% on the freeway.

4. Ignoring gas rewards programs

You saunter up to the pump, see the rewards program prompt on the little screen and ignore it. Big mistake.

Several big retailers offer discounts if you utilize their rewards programs, usually based on how much money you spend with them. Money Talks News has looked at seven gas rewards programs from Kroger, Safeway, BP, Exxon, Shell, Speedway and Cub Foods. If you are a regular shopper at these stores and you aren’t signed up, you’re wasting money.

What it costs you: Building up enough points from grocery shopping to get 20 cents off per gallon would save $4 on a 20-gallon fill-up. With Kroger points, for example, you can often get at least 10 cents off per gallon at Shell, a saving of $2 on a 20-gallon fill-up.

5. Buying gas on weekends

Avoid the pumps on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the days when fuel merchants jack up fuel prices the most, Money Talks News reports. Mondays are the cheapest days to buy gas in 30 states. GasBuddy’s chart lists the best days and worst days to buy gas in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

What it costs you: GasBuddy estimates that buying gas on Monday instead of Sunday would collectively save the 225 million drivers in the U.S. roughly $2.1 billion.

6. Failing to shop around

Most of us have our favorite filling stations, usually ones that are near our homes and jobs. But with a little planning and some internet research, you can save a lot of money.

Apps and websites like GasBuddy, Waze and Gas Guru can show you where the cheapest fuel is in any given city.

What it costs you: Running a search in Seattle, for example, yields a wide range of prices — from $3 per gallon to as high as $3.50 or more. Saving 50 cents a gallon can really add up.

7. Idling

Idling for more than 10 seconds — probably the norm at most red lights and school buses unloading kids — uses more gas than stopping your engine and then restarting it, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) says. Today’s more-durable vehicles are so advanced technologically that there is no wear and tear on them from constant restarting.

What it costs you: According to the DOE, we waste about 6 billion gallons of gas every year by idling. Half of that is from personal vehicles. Research also indicates that annual idling adds 30 million tons of CO2 every year to the atmosphere.

8. Weak maintenance

Tune-ups, proper motor oil, tire pressure and clean air filters all contribute to maximum vehicle performance, and less gas used, the DOE says.

Goodyear, Discount Tire, Big O and Les Schwab all offer free tire pressure checks, with online reservations available.

What it costs you The DOE shows the “fuel economy benefit” you’ll get by properly maintaining your vehicles. Here’s what you’ll save on fuel from:

  • Tune-ups: 4%
  • Correct tire pressure: 0.6%
  • Correct motor oil: 1%-2%

Do you have some tips to share on saving on the cost of gas? Leave a comment below or on the Money Talks News page on Facebook.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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