It has been more than two weeks since we asked our readers for their favorite methods for saving money on gas. Since then, gas prices have dropped from their April 29 highs, and analysts expect them to continue a steady, slow decline over the next few weeks.
However, while average prices are retreating from the $4 level, they aren’t likely to drop too far, and advice on how to save at the pump will likely remain useful for the foreseeable future.
Our first collection of your gas-saving suggestions looked at methods that drivers can use to cut back on their gas expenditures, and our second piece covered methods for squeezing extra miles out of every tank. This time, we’re going to look at discounts and other methods that drivers can use to actually pay less for each gallon of fuel.
Discounts in Aisle Two
As gas prices rose, many retailers began offering discounts to regular customers. “Dave,” for example, noted that regional supermarket chain Price Chopper gives him 10 cents off a gallon for every $50 of groceries he buys. At the same time, his local Fastrac gas station saver card “gives me 7 cents [off per] gallon during the week and 10 cents off a gallon on Sunday.”
Similarly, “Chetski6” proclaims the wonders of Kroger (KR), noting that it offers 10 cents off per gallon for each $100 dollars a month spent there on food. Since her family spends $400 on groceries monthly, that adds up to $6 on each 15-gallon fill-up.
Indeed, grocery store discounts on gas seem to be widespread, and quite popular with our readers. “Mesamark” in Southern California suggests using Ralph’s supermarkets, while “Wjsnavarre” notes that Publix supermarkets (also owned by Kroger) sometimes offer a 20% discount on $50 gas cards.
However, when it comes to cutting expenses, “Katiecjmikey” may hold the record for piling on discounts. She writes that “One of our local grocery stores gives you a 10 cent/gallon discount on Shell gas if you use their customer card after you purchase $100 in groceries. We usually buy $100 worth of groceries in the first three weeks, then get our gas the last week of the month.” Additionally, she adds in another discount: “They also give seniors a 10% discount the first Wednesday of the month, so that really helps. FYI, yesterday, I got gas for $3.57/gallon using this method.”
Even if your area doesn’t have a grocery store or gas station that offers discounts, there are other ways to pay less for gas. “Lpc13” suggests that readers try “off-brand” gas, noting that “it all comes out of the same refineries.” Similarly, “Don,” a limousine company owner, suggested that readers use Gas Buddy to find the cheapest gas stations in their area. In addition to its great website, the company also offers convenient smartphone apps.
Ears to Ethanol
Some of our readers proclaimed the wonders of blended fuels, notably E85, which is a mix of gasoline and up to 85% fuel-grade ethanol. “Alpelltv” wrote that “I have learned my auto will run very well and maintain the same efficiency if I replace half my gas with E85 … with E85 over $1.00 less per gallon here, I am saving 50 cents per gallon.” Another reader, based in Byron Center, Mich., prefers to use E85 by itself, noting that “I have about a 25% savings by using e85. There is a loss in miles per gallon but an overall reduction in dollars spent.”
While ethanol had its defenders, other readers had mixed feelings about fuel blends. “Denny,” for example, argued that 100% gasoline increases mpg by 10% to 15% mpg compared to mixed gas/ethanol fuels. “Ethanol has lower heating value than 100% gas. Thus, it takes more to get the same distance,” he wrote.
“Neal” was even more emphatic, writing that “I save at the pump by NOT BUYING ETHANOL,” and claiming that “ethanol by itself is about 30% less efficient.” He went on to argue that ethanol also has negative effects that extend far from the pump: “[E]thanol is produced from corn, which is a food for cattle … the price of food stuffs go up as the production of ethanol goes up. More forests are destroyed for planting of corn when ethanol is used.”
Put Your Car on a Diet
Some readers approach gas savings from a dietary perspective: By controlling their gas purchases, they control their driving. One reader, for example, noted that “I put 30 dollars in my vehicle per week. When it’s gone I walk or ride a bicycle.” John, on the other hand, took this idea to a frenzied extreme, exclaiming that he always stops pumping when he hits $25: “No matter what the price of gas is, if you just stop at $25, $35, or whatever all the time, the price of gas will never matter!!”
Other readers suggested that pumping patterns could have a major effect on gas consumption. “Lyleva” and “Dvdfrnzwbr” advocate keeping the tank half full, as the reduced weight translates into increased mileage. “Pete” explains it this way: “Gasoline weighs about 6.073 pounds per gallon. On a 14-gallon tank, seven gallons weighs about 42+ pounds. [Only filling the tank halfway] should increase gas mileage by 1 or 2 %.”
Other readers argue that keeping the tank full is a better way to cut gas spending. “When gas prices are on the rise, I fill the tank every time I burn a quarter of a tank,” writes “James,” who claims that “the price always averages out lower.”
“GH” echoes this, noting that “when the price at the pump is only going up, it saves to pump more often.” “Sfchit” claims that “I definitely get more miles to the tank,” although he also admits that part of this is a matter of perception: “the more you don’t have to go to the pump the less depressing the current pricing is.”
Sfchit’s perspective resonated with many readers, who noted that the less they often they’re confronted with rising gas prices, the happier they are. For example, “John” of Chantilly, Va., explains why he fills up after using only a quarter of a tank: “Sure, you are paying the same, but in your mind, it’s not costing you your first born. I would rather fill my tank for fifteen dollars as opposed to fifty to one hundred.”
“Monica” agrees, writing that “The $65 a tank for regular gas really hurts! So for some reason I can deal with half the cost at a time.”
Whether you’re reducing your pain at the pump through actual decreases in what you pay, or via tricks of perception, it’s clear that both manipulated pumping and ethanol can reduce the financial and physical burden of high gas prices.