With the skyrocketing price of oil, South Florida gas prices have been rising at exponential rates, sometimes twice a day or more. In our sprawling communities, many of us have no choice but to drive, but there are some things you can do to cut back the pain at the pump. The more you take advantage of the ideas, the more you can save!
Drive To Save
Sometimes, where you are makes a big difference in the price of gas. In South Florida, the price of gas is usually much higher in tourist areas like Miami Beach than it is just a mile or two away on the mainland. The difference can be 30-40 cents a gallon in some areas. So how do you beat it? Simply make a drive to save. If you live in a high price area, plan to make your gas purchase when you leave work, where the prices are lower. One caveat: Don’t drive all over town looking for gas at a few pennies less. Use some of the other tools we suggest and shop online. The bigger the savings, the further you can drive to get them. But remember, on a 20 gallon fill-up you’ll save $2 when gas is 10 cents a gallon cheaper. Don’t drive so far you burn up any savings.
There are lots of websites and apps that help you target the lowest prices for gas. Most use folks just like you to act as reporters who update prices in their neighborhood or where they buy has. Some of the good sites on the web are gasbuddy.com, which has a website and an app, and CheapGas, which is an app. These are nor perfect, but they can help take some of the pain out of searching.
Use Your Shopping Card
Florida’s Winn-Dixie supermarket chain just started a new program tied in to their affinity card, which gets shoppers discounts on grocery items when they shop. The card now works at many Shell gas stations, where you can get 5 cents a gallon off the pump price for every $50 you spend in the store. Shoppers can also buy bonus items that add another 5 cents a gallon discount.Winn Dixie said average savings in test market were 30 cents a gallon. It costs nothing to join, and it might provide you with some real savings.
Try Gas At Warehouse Clubs
Some warehouse shopping chains offer gas which can be significantly less for members, and if you’re already going there to shop the savings might be worthwhile. Costco, BJ’s and Sams Club all offer gas in most locations. The better the prices, the longer the wait, and some shoppers have reported their don’t have time to deal with the long lines for the lower prices. trick: try filling up in off hours, at opening or in the middle of the week.
Some gas stations offer lower prices for cash, because they don’t have to pay credit card processing fees. The savings can sometimes be 5 cents per gallon or more. But be cautious, most of the deals do NOT include debit cards, which also incur a fee when you use them. When they say cash, most stations mean folding money. If that’s the case, be sure you get your cash from your own bank ATM. Most stations have ATM machines, but the fees for using them can be as much as $3, and your own bank may charge a fee on top of that. Poof! Now your savings are actually a loss.
Discount Gas Cards
Some chains allow you to purchase pre-paid gas cards, which you can use like a credit card. Many offer savings averaging 3 cents a gallon. If you shop the same chain most of the time, that could save you a little bit of green. Unlike ATM cards, these don’t cost the gas station a processing charge, so you don’t need cash to save.
Use Off Brands
Brand name gas stations tout the fancy additives that make their gas better than the rest, and expect you to pay for the price. However, what most people don’t know is that in many cases, companies share transportation, and while the additives that make their gas unique are added as the gas leaves the tanker and goes into their tanks, the gasoline itself is the same that is offered to ‘generic’ stations. Do some checking, you may be able to get the same quality gas for less.
Share the Ride
Most people are stunned by this, but in South Florida, the commuter Ride Share program will help people assemble car pools, and even provide carpool groups with the use of a van and insurance. All you have to do is pick up the other members of the carpool, and split the gas. There are some restrictions, but the price of gas could go up a lot and you’s still save money by splitting the cost, and by not having to pay for the vehicle and insurance.
Change Your Driving Habits
- You’ve heard them before, but they are proven tips for eking the most out of the fuel you buy:
- Drive gently. Avoid jackrabbit starts and stops
- Slow down. The faster you drive, the more gas you burn per mile
- Check your tires. Under-inflated tires can cause you to use more gas. Make sure they are inflated correctly
- Combine trips. Running all over town for things wastes gas. Consider shopping close to home, or combining stops on one trip.
- Watch Your Grade: unless your car requires high octane fuel, use regular. It’s a myth that higher octanes is better or improves gas mileage
- Avoid ‘miracle’ fuel saving gimmicks. If they worked, we’d all be using them.
As they used to say years ago, when gas was cheap: Happy Motoring!