CARS.COM — MSN Money recently compiled a list of 10 things that could potentially save you money next time you go to the gas station. Surprise, surprise: It turns out that for-profit entities like gas stations, oil companies, credit card companies and a host of others may not have your best interest in mind. If you’ve ever wondered:
- Are all gas brands alike, or do some maintain better quality that can affect a car’s performance than others?
- What’s the best way to pay at the pump: Debit? Credit? Gas card?
- What are the best deals at gas station convenience stores?
Then this is the insider guide for you. Start learning the tips about what gas stations don’t want you to know.
- Shop for the best deal. Most gas stations buy from their proprietary company, so they don’t have the luxury of shopping around. Luckily, you do. The cheapest gas in your area may not always be at the same station, so it’s to your advantage to search out the best price.
- Gas stations take the hit when prices rise, and that’s when they especially hate the credit card fee, because they’re turning over a large percentage of their cut to card companies. That’s why prices can rise quickly but tend to fall more slowly as station owners attempt to make up lost revenue. Some stations offer better deals to consumers who pay cash.
- There’s no such thing as “better gas.” Companies like Chevron try to tell you their gasoline is superior because it has Techron in it. However, all gas has detergents that prevent clogging in the fuel injector, and no brand of gas is better quality than any other for your vehicle. Our advice? Hold off and don’t buy more expensive fuel just to get a brand name; otherwise, you’re paying more than enough money for the same quality fuel.
- Don’t use a debit card. When you pay with a debit card, the bank sets aside a certain amount of your funds to cover the transaction. You could pay $15 for gasoline but have $50 held by the bank before the transaction goes through. This could potentially lead to a bounced check, which can cost you in more ways than one.
- Gas cards are probably a bad idea. Most gas cards have high annual percentage rates and lack certain fraud protections, and if you hold one, it may discourage you from shopping around for a better deal. Check CardRatings.com, but in general these cards end up costing more than they save.
- Use the internet. Sites like GasBuddy.com can help tip you off to the cheapest gasoline in your area. GasPriceWatch.com and Gaswatch.com could also help you find cheap fuel in your area — but with 174 local sites, as well as maps and message boards, GasBuddy remains the most extensive.
- Make sure a gallon is a gallon. States check the accuracy of gas pumps, but there’s no standard operating procedure and some don’t do it very frequently. Arizona, for example, has only 18 workers to check 2,300 stations. For starters, keep your eyes on the numbers and make sure they don’t start moving before gas is flowing. Old equipment especially can come up with inaccurate results, and that’s no gasoline transaction you want to be part of.
- Buy coffee, not soda. Trying to make up more revenue from the convenience store, gas stations often charge more for soda, candy and other food products. Coffee, cigarettes and beer, on the other hand, remain cheap because they’re high-volume. Once again, GasBuddy has you covered with their map of the best gas station coffee in every U.S. state.
- Don’t count on a service station. The divorce between car repair and fueling up has become almost complete. Gas stations are no longer in the repair business, so there’s no guarantee you’ll have a pump to check the price on.
- Search out E85. If you own a flex-fuel car, E85 is typically less expensive than regular, premium or diesel (though it also cranks out fewer miles to the gallon, so do the math to make sure it works out in your favor).
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