Americans have always cared about gas prices given the nature of its volatility; it suddenly goes up, it suddenly goes down, all without an obvious explanation.
GasBuddy recently released its annual Pump Habits Study that found that nearly a third of
Americans care more now about saving money on gas than before the start of the pandemic.
“The more unpredictable life is, the more people think about gas prices,” said Patrick De Haan,
head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “Nobody can disagree that the past 10 months has been as unpredictable as it could get.”
Despite the major disruptions to traffic, commutes, and household incomes that have occurred
over the past year (all declining), GasBuddy’s 2021 Pump Habits survey found that many of the
same money-wasting behaviors when it comes to buying gas are still prevalent, leading
consumers to overpay by as much as $300 per year.
Eighty-three percent of drivers admitted to purchasing gas, only to drive by a cheaper gas
station moments later. Case in point: a recent tweet about not checking the gas price when
filling up went viral, causing thousands of drivers to respond to the woman’s tweet with ways on how they’re saving every penny they can at the gas pump.
“Traffic is no longer an excuse when it comes to ‘having’ to fill up at the first station you see off
the highway,” De Haan said. “Shopping around for gas is one of the most valuable ways to save money. Gas prices commonly vary by over 10 cents but in larger cities can vary over $1 per gallon.”
Drivers can save $200 per year by checking gas prices in their area before their fill-ups.
Four out of five drivers have a station they regularly go to. While 58% of drivers say they go
there regularly because they think it has the cheapest gas around, nearly 30% of them say that
the reason they go to the same station is because it’s the closest one to their work or home,
regardless of price.
“Going to a station because of location or convenience is a big money-waster, as drivers are
missing out on the potential discounts from stations just around the corner,” said De Haan.
“Conversely, if you’re going to the closest gas station because you’re running out of gas, you’re
missing out on those same savings. Our study found that more than a third of drivers have
actually run out of gas.”
Another way to help bring down the price at the pump is to sign up for gas station loyalty
programs. Forty-four percent of drivers do not belong to any gas station loyalty program, a
similar percentage compared to 2019 (43%) and 2018 (45%).
“There are many gas station and grocery store loyalty programs out there that give you rewards
on every purchase to use at the gas pump,” said De Haan. “If you frequent particular brands,
signing up for one could save you nearly $50 a year. Many of these programs even stack with
your payment method.”
How drivers pay for gas can largely affect how much they save. Credit cards continue to be the
most popular payment method (46%) in line with previous years. Yet consumers continue to
carry credit card debt especially given the current state of the economy
In fact, recent studies have found that 55% of Americans do not regularly pay off their credit cards. Failure to make payments on a cashback credit card negates any savings they may have
received due to the interest accumulated with missed payments.
Using debit cards is the second most popular way to pay at the pump (24%), however they often get charged the credit price and have no cashback rewards associated with them. Six percent of respondents use cash at the pump.
“The price is only half the story, the way we pay is other,” said De Haan. “More and more
companies are offering alternatives to a debit card that offer rewards like Pay with GasBuddy. It
saw a 110% increase in usage from survey respondents from 2018 to 2021, even when gas
prices were historically lower.”
Drivers can also save $50-$100 per year on average by changing their payment method to a savings card option at the gas pump and making sure they pay off their credit cards in full every month.