Pulling up to the pump can result in a bad case of sticker shock these days, with gas in some parts of the country topping $5 a gallon. Those eye-watering prices might have you breaking out in a cold sweat as you calculate the shortest route to work.
Rising gas prices are putting a real strain on household budgets. So how much is a gallon of gas these days? Average gas prices reached $4.18 per gallon in the first week of April 2022, according to AAA. Just one year ago, the average gas price was $2.87 per gallon.
Why are gas prices so high? And is there anything you can do to protect your wallet against the climbing cost of gas? Chime has got your back to help you combat spiking fuel prices.
Why are gas prices going up?
Who controls gas prices? The short answer is the global market. Different factors that can influence price movements, including:
- Oil prices
- Supply and demand
- Market and geopolitical conditions
When crude oil prices rise, companies pay more for base materials like oil, and they pass those higher costs on to people like you in the form of higher gas prices. Overall, crude oil prices make up about 50% of the price of gas, according to the American Petroleum Institute.
But what drives up crude oil prices? Factors like geopolitical and market conditions can cause oil prices to climb. For example, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted many countries to ban Russian oil imports. Oil prices jumped because demand remained steady while fewer oil supplies were in the market.
Higher crude oil prices = higher gas prices, even for drivers in countries that aren’t dependent on Russian oil supplies. How much a gallon of gas costs you is indirectly tied to how much a gallon of gas costs someone else a continent away!
High oil prices can contribute to inflation, or rising consumer prices. Inflation affects just about everything you spend money on, including gas.
Of course, taxes add to the price of gas as well. Federal, state and local taxes get tacked on to the retail price of gas. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the federal gas tax is 18.40 cents per gallon, and the average state and local tax is 31.02 cents per gallon.
When will gas prices go down?
The question of when gas prices will go down is a tricky one to answer, as there’s no one thing driving gas prices right now. It’s a combination of geopolitical issues, supply-demand breakdowns, and the overall global market.
In the U.S., the federal government is trying to bring some relief to consumers at the pump. The Biden Administration announced in March 2022 that it would step up efforts to increase domestic oil production while also moving ahead with a release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Specifically, the President said they would release one million barrels of crude oil a day for six months.
More oil supply should mean lower gas prices, assuming the supply outweighs the demand. Will these efforts bring gas prices below $4 or even $3 again? How much Americans are driving and what happens with crude oil prices in the coming months will help answer this question.
Gas prices vary based on where you live
According to AAA’s gas price tracking numbers, there are some signs that gas prices are beginning to ease up a little. But how much of a break you get at the pump can depend on where you live.
As of the first week of April 2022, drivers on the West Coast, including residents of Alaska and Hawaii, were paying $4.41 to $5.84 per gallon for gas. The average price for a gallon of gas was the lowest for drivers in the Midwest, ranging from $3.73 to $3.86 per gallon.
Bottom line? Gas prices could take weeks or even months to go down. In the meantime, you might need to adjust your spending to make sure your budget isn’t running on empty.
How to save money on gas
Gas prices aren’t something the average driver has control over. But that doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to slash your gas budget and save money when you’re behind the wheel. Here are some things you can do to rein in spending on gas while you wait for gas prices to come back down to earth.
Use gas apps to save
Gas apps can save you money in one of two ways.
First, some apps can help you find the lowest gas prices near you. GasBuddy, for example, lets you plug in your zip code to find the cheapest gas near you. You can filter by gas type (i.e., regular, midgrade, or premium) or by the gas brand. The app is free to download, so you can search out the cheapest gas prices without spending a dime.
Other apps will reward you with cash when you buy gas at partner locations. For instance, GetUpside is a free app that pays you cashback when you buy gas at brands like Shell, BP, and Conoco. This is an easy way to save on gas, even when gas prices are through the roof.
Combine trips and reduce idling
Combining trips and rethinking your routes could help you save money on gas if it means less driving time. Also, consider what time of day makes the most sense for running errands.
Driving when there’s less traffic can mean less time spent idling at stoplights. According to the Department of Energy, idling wastes fuel, and it’s not great for the environment either.
Carpool (or ask about working from home)
Carpooling could save you money on gas if you’re driving your own vehicle less. You may have to chip in to pay your carpool driver for gas, but it may be less expensive than driving your car back and forth to work.
You could also ask your employer whether working from home one or two days a week is possible. Any days you don’t have to drive your car are days you could save on gas.
Maintain your vehicle
- Changing your oil regularly
- Keeping your tires inflated
- Using the right kind of oil
- Getting a tune-up
Also, make sure you’re using the right kind of gas for your vehicle. According to FuelEconomy.gov, using the wrong octane rating can cause your engine to underperform, reducing your fuel economy.
Walk or use public transportation
Walking, taking the bus, or calling an Uber could save you money on gas since you don’t have to drive. Whether this makes sense for you can depend on where you live. If you can drop even one driving trip by switching up your mode of transportation, you could save on gas.
You could go a step further and cut out unnecessary trips altogether. For example, you could plan some staycations at home if you normally take road trips during the summer. If you go out on the weekends for dinner with friends, try having a potluck get-together at your house instead.
Consider a gas credit card
A gas credit card could make sense if you’re earning cash back on gas purchases. For example, if you can get 2% back each time you get gas and spend $400 on gas per month, that’s $96 you could earn back in cash each year.
Before applying for a gas credit card, however, ask yourself the following:
- How much could I earn in rewards on gas purchases?
- Will I be able to pay the balance in full each month to avoid interest?
- If not, what’s the card’s APR?
- Is there an annual fee?
If you end up paying interest on a gas credit card or a steep annual fee, you might not save yourself any money on gas. So think carefully about whether a gas card might be right for you.
Financial tips for professional drivers
High gas prices can be especially painful if driving is a regular part of your job. Whether you drive for Uber or Lyft, deliver food for DoorDash, or shop for Instacart, higher gas prices can take away from your gig earnings.
In terms of how to save on gas, some of the same rules apply:
- Use gas apps to find the best gas prices
- Keep your vehicle maintained
- Consolidate trips or choose shorter routes
- Reducing idling time
There are also a few other money-saving tips that can give you an edge if you drive for a living.
Take advantage of discounts
Some companies that rely on gig workers offer discount programs to drivers. DoorDash, for example, has a DasherDirect prepaid Visa debit card for its drivers. Ordinarily, this card allows drivers to earn 2% back on gas purchases, and DoorDash has increased that benefit to 10% back to help drivers counteract higher gas prices. The company also introduced a weekly gas bonus for drivers to offset gas costs.
Lyft drivers can get 4% to 5% cashback through Lyft Direct. This is also a prepaid debit card that drivers can use to deposit their Lyft earnings and save on gas.
Instacart doesn’t offer a discount directly to drivers, but the company did add a new fuel surcharge for deliveries in March 2022. Uber has done something similar, and the company also offers special incentives for drivers who switch to electric vehicles.
Get Paid up to 2 days early² when you direct deposit $200 or more and activate your Chime debit card. With a Chime Checking account, you can also breathe easy at the pump with up to $200¹ of fee-free overdraft protection.
Choose gigs carefully
Most gig work apps that require driving give you the power to choose which trips to accept and which ones you want to take a pass on. If you want to limit your driving time to save on gas, you might rethink which gigs you accept.
While you might save on gas, passing on some gigs could affect how much you earn as a driver. Again, some of the top companies are now adding on a fuel surcharge to help offset rising gas prices for drivers. So think about how much a surcharge is likely to save you and what kind of tip you might earn to decide if a trip is worth it.
Consider other gig work that doesn’t require driving
If gas prices are eating up your gig earnings, you might consider putting the brakes on any driving-related work for the time being. There are plenty of other side hustle options you could try to make extra money, including:
- Getting paid to take online surveys
- Doing odd jobs through a site like TaskRabbit
- Selling things around the house that you don’t need
There are a lot of side hustles and side businesses you can do without even leaving home. Exploring other ways to make money can help you fill the gaps in your budget until gas prices let up.
When will gas prices go down? It’s still anyone’s guess, but you don’t have to let rising gas prices balloon your budget. Making simple changes to your driving routine and using apps can make it easier to cope with crazy gas prices. And once fuel prices do get back to normal, you can stick with those same habits to continue saving on gas.
Make your money go further – learn how to lower your car insurance payments to further slash your driving costs.