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10 Ways to Save Money on Gas on Your Next Road Trip

Gas prices at the pump can be a shock, but with these tips you can save more money for your road trip adventure.

By Jason Barnette | Travel writer and photographer with 15+ years of road tripping experience

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Affiliate Disclosure here.

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The price of gas at the pump can be an obstacle when budgeting for a road trip adventure. Unfortunately, the slightest disruption to the crude oil industry can skyrocket prices at the pump. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can save money on gas, from preparing your vehicle to filling up on the best day of the week.

No. 01

Find the Cheapest Gas with GasBuddy

Gas prices can vary 10-15 cents between stations just a few miles apart. With the GasBuddy app (iOS | Android) it’s easy to find the cheapest gas nearby. The app uses your current location to find gas stations in a list and map view, making it easy to find one near you or the route you’re driving.

The app features user-generated content. That means the prices listed at the gas station may not be 100% accurate – it all depends on when the last GasBuddy app user entered the information.

As a rule of thumb, it’s never worth the savings to go more than one gallon of gas out of your way.

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No. 02

Fill Up at Wholesale Stores

Wholesale stores like Costco and Sam’s Club offed discounted gas prices at their in-house stations. However, you’ll need a membership – usually around $50 per year. If you already have a membership to a wholesale store, it might be worth the trip to fill up there.

Walmart+ comes with many benefits like free delivery from your local store and free shipping for online orders. But it also comes with the perk of saving 5 cents per gallon at Walmart and Murphy gas stations. Like wholesale stores, Walmart+ is a subscription service.

No. 03

Fill Up on the Best Day of the Week

According to GasBuddy, the best days of the week to fill up the gas tank are Mondays and Fridays, while Sundays and Tuesdays are good days to top off the gas tank. The worst days of the week to buy gasoline are Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

Fortunately, this works well for weekend road trippers – just fill up on Friday before hitting the road. Sundays aren’t the best day of the week to fill up, but it’s not the worst, either. Filling up on Sunday before heading home at the end of a weekend road trip won’t be as bad as other days of the week.

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No. 04

Pay in Cash

Although it’s not very common, especially with locally owned gas stations, some stations offer a saving of 5-10 cents per gallon if you pay in cash. This is an attempt by gas station chains to avoid credit and debit card fees imposed by banks, so they pass the savings on to you.

Pay attention to the marquee sign on the highway or the price at the pump. If you see an alternating price per gallon, this likely means you can save by paying cash up front.

If you want to fill up the tank, there is no need to play the math game at the pump. Take an even amount of cash inside the station and pay for the pump you’re using. When you’re finished, return to the cashier, and you’ll get a refund for any cash you did not use.

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No. 05

Drive Slower

Remember the older vehicles from the 80s and 90s with a red tick mark at 55 miles per hour? That’s the recommended speed for most vehicles to maximize fuel efficiency. I’ve always wondered why digital speed gauges don’t turn red at 55.

According to industry experts, driving just 5 to 10 miles per hour slower can lead to a 10% increase in fuel efficiency. For every 100 miles you go, you will arrive 5 minutes later for every 5 miles per hour slower that you drive. That means for a 600-mile road trip driving 70 miles per hour instead of 75, you will arrive 30 minutes later.

Is that worth saving money on gas?

No. 06

Use the Cruise Control

Although cars are not yet smart enough to drive themselves, they are smart enough to efficiently manage your fuel efficiency. Cruise control is more than just setting a speed and relaxing your right foot. It’s also about letting a computer control the amount of gas expended per mile.

While on cruise control, your vehicle will accelerate slower and drive at a more consistent speed, leading to an increase in fuel efficiency. Newer model cars include adaptive cruise control – radar sensors in the front bumper help maintain a certain distance from the vehicle ahead, even bringing the car to coast to a complete stop. This leads to an even greater increase in fuel efficiency.

No. 07

Keep the Pedal Off the Metal

Sitting at the head of traffic at a red light, revving the engine, just itching for the light to green, and then – quick, go, accelerate to the speed limit! This kind of driving will make our inner speed demon happy, but it’s horrible for fuel efficiency.

As a rule of thumb, keep the revolutions per minute, or RPM, below 3,000 when accelerating on level ground. Of course, climbing a mountain towing a fifth wheel is an entirely different story. But keeping the RPM low will maintain good fuel efficiency.

No. 08

Be an Idol, Don’t Idle

Auto Stop/Start quickly swept through the auto industry. The idea behind the technology was to automatically turn off the engine when sitting at a complete stop and idling for more than a few seconds and then automatically start the car when the driver presses the gas pedal.

Initially, the technology was irritating. The lag between pressing the gas pedal and the engine automatically restarting felt like a lifetime, although it was less than a second. Today, the technology responds faster and is a beloved amenity on modern cars.


Edmunds, a car buying guide with 50 years of experience, tested the technology. They found an average 10% increase in fuel efficiency using Auto Stop/Start. But this increase was only for city traffic – there aren’t many opportunities to shut off the engine while road tripping through the countryside.

But there are ways to reduce idling even without the technology. No, it isn’t feasible – or recommended – to turn off your own engine when sitting at a traffic light.

Instead, think of all the times spent at scenic overlooks, rest areas, gas stations, and exploring destinations. Rather than leaving the engine running while snapping a photo at the scenic overlook, consider turning the engine off. It will increase fuel efficiency and reduce harmful emissions

No. 09

Don’t Decrease the Aerodynamics

Although roof racks can be a tempting way to increase the amount of cargo space, it also significantly decreases the aerodynamics of a vehicle. Even the most aerodynamic cargo boxes reduce fuel efficiency by around 1 to 3 miles per gallon. Large, square cargo boxes and soft-sided cargo bags are even worse.

Leave the roof rack at home. Don’t add cargo racks to the trailer hitch. Try to keep everything inside the vehicle.

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No. 10

Keep Tires Properly Inflated

Auto manufacturers place an information card inside the driver’s door with the recommended PSI for each tire. Properly inflated tires can maximize fuel efficiency and handling on the roads.

Modern cars are equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System or TPMS. The TPMS uses sensors to constantly measure tire pressure for leaks. Typically, the system only alerts drivers if the tire pressure falls 5 PSI below the recommended pressure. But most systems allow the driver to manually check the pressure to ensure all the tires are perfectly topped off.


For older cars, good ole fashioned tire pressure gauges work fine to monitor tire pressure.

Most gas stations still have air hoses, although the price was tripled over the years from a quarter to a whopping 75-cents per use. Crazy! Regardless of the availability and cheap price, it’s better to travel with a 12V tire inflator so you can inflate tires at any time.

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Do you have a question about travel or road trips? Are you a CVB or DMO interested in working with me? I typically respond to emails within 24 hours. Quicker if you include a good riddle.
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