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5 simple tips to save at gas pump

By Kevin Hanson, Contributing writer
Published On: Jun 30 2011 12:36:30 PM CDT
Updated On: May 28 2012 01:00:00 AM CDT
Car pulling up to gas pumps

iStock / RapidEye

With seemingly everybody offering up money-saving gas tips these days, you're forgiven if the advice tends to leak out like gas from an overflowing stuck gas pump.

But, no worries, it's easy to fill 'er up again. After all, many of the most basic ways to save money at the pump probably wouldn't shock or surprise anyone.

If you have a driver's license, it's a safe bet that somewhere along the way you heard all of these tips, either from your parents, driving instructor or friends. Think of these tips gathered here as helpful reminders, kind of like that automatic cutoff stopping the more forgetful of us from spraying fuel all over the gas station parking lot.

These money-saving suggestions are not just for motorheads who spend more time under the hood of their car than under its roof. Even if you don't know your timing belt from your distributor cap, you'll have no trouble keeping up.

Gas pumps

No. 5: Don't pay for premium

Premium fuel is usually the most expensive fuel offered at gas stations. To many of you -- especially you penny pinchers out there, you know who you are -- this tip might seem like the biggest no-brainer since the automatic transmission.

The point here is to avoid getting fooled into believing that premium gas will make your vehicle run better than the less pricey options. Just because it's expensive doesn't automatically make it superior.

Dig your owner's manual out from underneath all of the clutter in your glove compartment and find out what grade of fuel the manufacturer recommends. The majority of vehicles are built to function just fine on regular, even those that say they require premium.

As long as your vehicle runs smoothly, without engine knocks or pings, chances are good that your fuel grade is fine.

Traffic file

No. 4: Idling wastes gas

It pays (literally) to remember that whenever your car's engine is running, it's burning precious gasoline.

It doesn't care if you're blazing down the freeway or parked at the Try 'N Save. In both of these scenarios, your gas tank is emptying itself. You can almost see the money floating away with the exhaust smoke.

Those of you who live where it gets fatally cold in the winter months might be prone to firing up the car and running back inside for another cup of hot coffee while the engine warms up. While this seems like a good idea on the surface, it might end up costing you a bundle in the long run.

For example, a V8 engine typically burns through an eighth of a gallon of fuel idling for just 10 minutes.

Man at gas pump

No. 3: Buy at the right time

One of the bizarre facets of life in these United States is the seemingly random way gas prices can fluctuate, even in just a single day.

The formula gas stations use for setting their fuel prices is so convoluted that it would make Stephen Hawking's head spin. Thankfully there are some valuable and easy-to-understand hints to help.

Along with tempers, gas prices tend to rise during rush hour. So, it is generally best to fill up your gas tank in the dark, meaning at night or in the early morning hours. Not only is the sun down during these times, but the number of cars on the road is also down.

Another bargain bin solution is to fill up Wednesday because the cost of fuel often goes up over the weekend.

mechanic

No. 2: Take care of your car

Perhaps you've been told once or twice in your life that if you take care of your car, it will take care of you, or some such cliché-style rhetoric.

As corny as these overused quasi-altruisms are (and make no mistake: they are corny as the Nebraska countryside), they also happen to be true.

Get to know a local grease monkey. Introduce your vehicle to said grease monkey. Allow the relationship to flourish by bringing the two together on a consistent schedule, using oil changes, engine diagnostic scans and overall tune-ups as the excuse.

Not only will you get to play Cupid, but you will also reap the fringe benefits of an efficient, happy car.

Gas gauge on empty

No. 1: Check gas prices online

There are more tools for your car than the ones in the garage.

We live in the Information Age after all, where pretty much anything you could possibly want to know is only an Internet connection away. It is perhaps the most versatile tool ever.

You probably already use the Web as a tool for managing your bank accounts or making changes to your fantasy football team's roster, so why not use it to find the cheapest gas?

There are a number of companies with the foresight to establish websites whose sole purpose is to help you find the lowest prices on fuel in your area. Most of these companies use spotters to provide up-to-the minute prices. Some even have the capability to track specified stations near your location.

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