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updated 7/27/2012 10:52:09 AM ET 2012-07-27T14:52:09

While we all probably know the basics about how to save money on gas — don’t crank the AC (as if that’s an option this summer!), don’t tool around town aimlessly (duh!) — here are some lesser known ways to cut the cost of gas this summer:

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1. Buy discounted gas gift cards

Sites like PlasticJungle.com and GiftCardGranny.com sometimes sell discounted gas gift cards for gas stations like Shell, Gulf and Mobil.  This means you could get a gas card worth, say, $100 but only pay about $95 for it. That’s $5 in free gas!

2. Drive like a sane person
Sure, traffic jams, slow drivers in the left lane and rubberneckers may make you crazy.  But “angry driving” — like rapidly accelerating — can cost you big, says Kelli Grant, the senior consumer reporter for SmartMoney.com. “If you peel away from a traffic light like you’re in the Indy 500, you’re going to pay for that,” she says.  In fact, in a test by Edmunds.com, accelerating slowly from a green light and stopping gradually for a red light cut fuel consumption for someone driving a Land Rover by more than 35 percent and for a Mustang more than 27 percent.  Furthermore, the study found that cruise control is the way to go on the highway: A Land Rover got roughly 14 percent better mileage using cruise control set at 70 mph compared to a driver cruising between speeds of 65 and 75 mph; for the Mustang, it was 4.5 percent better mileage.

3. Strategically time your trips to the pump
During a regular week, you want to fill up your tank on Wednesday or Thursday before 10 a.m., says Chris Faulkner, president and CEO of Breitling Oil and Gas, a Dallas-based independent oil and gas exploration and production company.  The reason: “Gas prices rise on Thursdays in anticipation of weekend travel” and “10 a.m. is when most station owners make their price change for the day,” he writes.  “Unless it is an emergency, do not buy gas Friday, Saturday or Sunday.”  During the holidays, some experts say that prices could rise in anticipation of more drivers on the road.

4. Use your smartphone
Use the AAA Triptik or GasBuddy apps to find the cheapest gas in your area, says Grant.  You can also use your smartphone (the Maps app on the iPhone, for example, shows you traffic) to check the traffic before you leave the house so you can avoid gas-wasting backtracking and idling.

5. Consider a gas rewards card (your grocery store might even offer one)
If you drive a lot, it may make sense for you to get a credit card that rewards you for buying gas. To see if one makes sense for you, check out NerdWallet.com, where you’ll enter in your spending, and it will recommend good credit cards for you.  (NerdWallet.com also just launched a site to help you find cheap gas in the area.) However, it’s important to note that most rewards cards carry high interest rates, so unless you pay off your balance in full each month, these cards probably aren’t right for you (instead, look for a low-interest card).  Furthermore, “grocery chains like Safeway, Kroger and Winn-Dixie offer gasoline rewards programs,” says Jim Toedtman, editor of AARP Bulletin, which publishes a list of gas saving tips. “Get friends and family to share the card so points pile up faster,“ he adds.  However, it’s important to remember that the price at that gas station might not be the best price out there, so even with the savings it might not be the best deal, says Grant.

6. Don’t let the engine idle too long
“Don’t let your car idle, either when you warm it up or when you are at a standstill,” Faulkner writes. “If you’re going to be standing for more than a minute, running your engine wastes more gas than restarting the engine.”

7. Pay the right way
Some gas stations charge a premium to pay with credit cards to offset the processing fees that the credit card companies charge them. So, if you want to pay with a credit or debit card, “look for gas stations where paying cash costs the same as using a credit or debit card,” says Faulkner.  If you’re having an attendant fill up your car, double check with him to ensure that “if you are paying by cash, that ‘cash’ is noted on the pump, he adds. “You could lose $.05 a gallon if he mistakenly presses ‘credit.’”

8. Do the proper maintenance
Keeping your tires filled with air and your air filter clean can help you save big. “Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage and affect the handling, braking and tread life,” says Robert Campbell, senior VP of operations at Express Oil Change & Service Center. The reason: “When your tires don’t have enough air in them, their rolling resistance is dramatically increased and it simply takes more gas to get anywhere,” says Faulkner. In fact, you could improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure,according to the Department of Energy.  Furthermore, “cleaning air filters in your car can improve your gas mileage up to 7 percent, which can equate to a savings of about $72 for every 10,000 miles,” says Xavier Epps, the founder and financial adviser at XNE Financial Advising, LLC.

9. Be picky about where — and how — you fill up
“Avoid the convenient gas station on the side of the highway as you drive home from work, which can be up to $0.15 more per gallon,” says Faulkner.  And even though warehouse clubs like Costco often have low prices on gas, they don’t always — so check that gas app (see tip #No. ) before you just automatically fill up there, says Grant. Furthermore, don’t just automatically go with the premium gas. “Confirm with your mechanic what octane gasoline your car’s engine really needs,” says Faulkner. “Most car engines do not require high octane though the manual will say it’s ‘recommended.’”

10. Don’t tote around your entire apartment
OK, this sounds totally obvious, but people often don’t think about what’s in their car.  Bottom line: Don’t lug around a bunch of crap in your car, as “every 250 extra pounds eats up an extra mile per gallon of gas,” says Faulkner.

For more tips on how to save money on gas, check out this piece from moneycrashers.com.

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Video: Gas prices jump after recent decline

  1. Closed captioning of: Gas prices jump after recent decline

    >>> if you've been enjoying declining gas prices over the last couple of months, we have bad news for you. they are back on the rise from coast-to-coast. nbc's mara schiavocampo is at a gas station here in new york city . good morning to you.

    >> reporter: matt, good morning. after weeks of watching prices go down they started moving in the other direction, much to the chagrin of people all over the countries. if history is any indication, they may be here to stay for a while. the pump got more painful.

    >> probably my biggest expense.

    >> reporter: with gas prices once again ticking back up.

    >> not with the gas prices .

    >> reporter: just how bad is it? last week the national average jumps to $3.38 from $3.33.

    >> it's only been about $0.05 a gallon but it's pretty significant because this is the first time we've seen prices rise in about three months.

    >> reporter: in fact, the trend was going the opposite direction with prices dropping 75 of the previous 77 days from their peak of $3.94 a gallon back in april prompting many to hit the road. an estimated 35.5 million motorists traveled for the fourth of july, a ten-year record. so what's fueling this new increase? oil prices have been fluctuating.

    >> we can't be satisfied.

    >> disappointing jobs numbers released last week didn't help.

    >> everything has to do with consumer confidence in the economy and also whether or not oil prices are rising and falling. gas prices are intimately related to oil prices .

    >> analysts say while it's hard to predict what will happen with gas prices moving forward, they typically go up this time of year and are likely to remain high all summer. the good news here, things could be much worse. these prices are still down $0.21 from this time last year and $0.55 a gallon from april. matt.

    >> mara schiavocampo, thank you very much.


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