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Getting More Bang for Your Buck at the Pump

With gas prices on the rise, learning to save money at the gas station is one thing savvy drivers can do to help take some of the sting out of their wallets. Use these tips to maximize your savings and get more out of every mile.

From the time you fill up your tank, to what you do after you fill it, there are several ways you can save a few bucks at the pump.

Fill Up Early

Gas expands and contracts about 1% for every 15 degree change in air temperature. What this means for you is that when you fill up your tank when the gas is warm, you’re actually getting less than you think, because the gas is expanding to fill more space. Once the gas in your tank cools, it contracts and shrinks.

Gas tanks get progressively warmer as the day goes by, so to make sure you are getting the densest gas, fill up early in the day while the tanks are the coolest.

Avoid Delivery Times

If you can’t fill up right when the gas station opens, the next best thing to do is to avoid filling up right after a station has taken a delivery of new gas. Gas delivered right from the refinery is much hotter than it is even sitting in a tank on a hot day, which means if you purchase at this time you’ll be paying for a lot more than you receive.

Don’t Top Off

Topping off your gas tank – or continuing to pump after the nozzle has automatically stopped – can really add a lot of unnecessary costs to your fill up. This is because most nozzles are fitted to take up any extra gas and cycle it back to the pump. Unfortunately, this happens after the meter has recorded the sale, so you’re paying for gas you don’t even get. Instead, once the pump stops put the nozzle back on the tank to ensure you only pay for what you receive.

Tighten Your Gas Cap

Gas not only expands at higher temperatures, a portion of it also turns into a gas or vapor that escapes into the air. A loosely fitting gas cap means that those vapors are escaping out of your tank, rather than condensing back into gasoline once the temperatures drops. Taking the time to tighten up your cap after each fill up ensures you’re getting the chance to use the gas you paid for.

Pump a Little Slower

Most nozzles are set to pump gas at three speeds – slow, medium, and fast. Pumping at high speeds releases more gasoline vapors, which your nozzle pulls back in with a vapor recovery system most pumps are outfitted with. This means you could be paying for more gas than you receive. Pumping at a slower rate releases fewer vapors, which means you’re receiving more of the gas that you paid for.

Use Regular Gas

If you’ve been filling up with premium gas because your owner’s manual recommends it, your car could do just as well on regular, letting you pocket the difference. Premium gas really only burns better in hot, high performance engines, while most cars run just fine on regular. If your owner’s manual says that premium is required then by all means use it; if it’s only recommended, however, you probably won’t notice a difference if you switch.

In addition to the ways you can save money at the pump, there are a few other things you can do to help maximize your car’s gas mileage and save money in the long run:

  • Keep your tires filled: Low tire pressure decreases your gas mileage making you fill up more often.

  • Get frequent tune ups: If your engine isn’t performing optimally, it could be using more gas than it needs.

  • Change your air filter: If your car is older, a dirty air filter could cause it to burn more fuel. Newer cars can adjust for this, however, so check your manual to see if it’s necessary.

Gas prices aren’t dropping any time soon, so make sure you’re getting your money’s worth every time you fill up. Follow these tips to save money at the gas station, and know you are maximizing how far your car – and your money – can go.

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