For decades we’ve been teased with the prospects of an electric car. And while companies like Tesla have brought us closer to an all-electric future, the vast majority of Americans still rely on good old gasoline to get them from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. Because of this gas often receives its own category in the budgets of many commuters and can also be one that changes greatly from month to month.
The good news for drivers is that gas prices are significantly lower than they were a few years ago. In fact the average is down 40 cents from what it was this time last year. However, as Jeanie Ahn of Yahoo Finance recently pointed out, these low prices could actually be leading consumers to not be as thrifty as they would otherwise be. So are you buying gas the wrong way?
Are you looking for the best price?
Chances are that if you’re waiting to buy gas until you absolutely need to fill up then you’re overpaying. Additionally, while there may be convenient places near your home or work to stop, fill up, and perhaps grab a cup of coffee, those places might not always have the best price on gasoline. Instead you may want to pay attention to prices while you’re travelling and take advantage of good deals when you see them. Alternatively apps like GasBuddy will allow you to quickly browse nearby gas station prices so you know where to go.
Do you need premium gas?
I’ll admit that I’m guilty of “treating” my car to premium gasoline every once in a while — maybe to accompany a nice oil change or wash. However the truth is that, unless your car requires midgrade or top tier gasoline, there’s no advantage to purchasing it. Plus the price discrepancy between the tiers has been steadily increasing meaning you’re wasting even more by going high-end.
Are you paying with a credit card?
This one can actually be hit or miss depending on which gas station you’re shopping at. At some locations you may be hit with a higher per gallon rate than is advertised because you aren’t paying in cash (pretty sneaky, huh?). Alternatively some stations might hit you with a flat fee for using your card as well. Be on the lookout for these quirks and make sure the price on the pump matches the sign before filling up.
On the other hand there are times when using a credit card to buy gas could save you money. Several rewards credit cards not only let you earn cash back or rewards points on gas purchases but may also give you a higher percentage/bonus on gas than other categories. Of course if you don’t have such a credit card and you do a lot of driving perhaps it’s time you looked into one.
With the summer winding down and road trips coming to a halt your keen eye for gas prices might also be taking a backseat to impulse. While gas prices may be down overall that doesn’t mean you should spend more than you have to. Do yourself a favor and top off your budget by keeping a look out for good deals and bad fees alike the next time you need to fill up your tank.