How To Lower Your Gas Bill at the Pump in One Easy Step

Gasoline prices in the U.S. hit a record high of $4.33 this week 8 photos
Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Gas pumps at a gas stationGasoline prices in the U.S. hit a record high of $4.33 this weekGas pumps at a gas stationGas pumps at a gas stationGas pumps at a gas stationMen filling up big canisters with fuelVarious Fuels US
Gas prices have gone way up in the past weeks, and usually, developments like these prompt people to be creative in saving fuels and money. There are many ways to lower your gas bill, and we’ve been covering most of them, but there’s one area where Americans can still improve.
The best way to save on fuel and money is to not drive at all, obviously, but this is not an option for many people who depend on their vehicle for a living. The next best advice is to drive responsibly, avoiding unnecessary trips or at least grouping several short trips to maximize efficiency. There’s also worth considering to switch to electric vehicles, a trend that is in full swing right now.

But even without an electric vehicle, you can still make the most out of your ICE car. There is a lot you can do to save on the fuel bill, mostly by adopting sensible driving techniques that some people call “hypermiling. But there’s another way that instantly reduces your fuel expenses with very few downsides, if any. Bear with me.

We’ve found out that the average national price for a gallon of gas hit a record high of $4.33 this week, but this is not the whole story. That price is for the regular gas, while the mid-grade is at an average of $4,70 at the time of writing. The premium fuel averages at $5,00, according to AAA. In the western part of the country, the fuel prices are even higher. What can you do about that?

An AAA survey shows that the $4 per gallon price is the tipping point for most Americans, and we’re past that already. It’s the moment most Americans (59% of people surveyed ) start to consider changing their driving habits or even lifestyle. At $5 per gallon, three-quarters would change their driving habits, and this means driving less and carpooling. Also, it’s the moment Americans 35 years, and older increasingly consider cutting down on shopping and dining out. This is disturbing.

Gasoline prices in the U\.S\. hit a record high of \$4\.33 this week
Photo: AAA
This should not necessarily be the case, or at least not for most people. There is something else that you can do to lower your gas bill in one easy step. Remember how the average fuel prices above have a generous bracket between the regular and the premium grades? There are at least 50 cents between the cheapest and the most expensive gas variant. So what if you buy the cheapest gasoline instead of the more expensive grades? Can this cause any problems for your car?

This might sound shocking, but some studies show many Americans fuel their vehicles with top-grade fuel even when the carmaker does not mandate this. An AAA study says that U.S. vehicle owners wasted more than $2.1 billion in 2015 by using premium gas instead of regular. So in most cases, switching to regular gas is just the right thing to do; just follow the manufacturer’s recommendation.

Some vehicles, particularly high-performance models, recommend or even require using premium fuels. For instance, Ford recommends Ford Mustang GT owners use premium 91-octane gasoline to get the most performance out of the 460-horsepower V8 engine. But the car can run on regular 87-octane fuel without any issues.

There’s another story with the Mustang Shelby GT500, for which Ford mandates at least 91 octane. For the full performance of the 760-horsepower V8, the owner’s manual indicates that 93 octane is preferred. But this is for a racing day at the track, not a ride downtown. Whatever the case, just stick to the manufacturer’s recommendation, and you’ll be just fine.

Various Fuels US
Photo: Wesley Tingey on Unsplash
Another study by Consumer Reports tried to show what happens when you fuel a vehicle with lower-grade gasoline. Interestingly, the conclusion was that premium gasoline is a waste of money, to put it bluntly. This is because modern engines, the most likely to require higher-grade fuel, can adjust the burning process to accommodate for different fuel characteristics. The older models that do not come with electronics to take care of the whole suck-squeeze-bang-blow process are most likely tuned to work on regular gas alone.

So, to sum it up, can you save on gas by fueling it with lower-grade gasoline? Absolutely! Is it wise to do so? In most cases, the carmaker does not mandate higher-grade fuel, so you’re good to go. In some cases, the producer “recommends” using higher octane fuel, but you’d be just fine using regular. Only when you drive a high-performance vehicle, you are required to use premium fuels. The car would still work with lower-grade fuel, but there could be problems if you use it for long. In those cases, your warranty might be void, so proceed with caution.
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Editor's note: Always follow the manufacturer's recommendations for your vehicle. Using the wrong fuel can result in your warranty being void. cannot be held responsible for any damages to your vehicle while using the wrong fuel.

Pictures in the gallery shows various fuel pumps with prices that were accurate at the time they were taken.

About the author: Cristian Agatie
Cristian Agatie profile photo

After his childhood dream of becoming a "tractor operator" didn't pan out, Cristian turned to journalism, first in print and later moving to online media. His top interests are electric vehicles and new energy solutions.
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