Everyone feels the pain at the pump during periods of high inflation, but there are practical lessons to learn even when the price of gasoline or diesel becomes “reasonable.” Lessons that not only minimize the dent in your wallet, but also protect one of your most costly assets: your vehicle. We go over some tips to help you save money and debunk common myths associated with gas stations.
First off, Gas Stations Never Water Down Their Gasoline
This could get them into a lot of hot water with regulators (hefty fines), and ultimately water in a modern-day engine would destroy the internal components, leaving the gas station on the hook for costly repairs. Water also tends to sink to the bottom of gas station storage tanks and there are also filters that work to remove any contaminants before they reach your car.
Get Gas in the Late Evening, Middle of the Week, or Before Holiday Weekends
Gas stations will always raise their prices before a holiday long-weekend in anticipation of a rush of customers. They also tend to raise prices in the beginning and latter half of the week in general. Try to find that sweet spot right in the middle (typically on Wednesdays). For those of you awake after midnight, this is when gas retailers will lower prices (when warranted) to attract a new influx of customers. This also doubles as a great excuse to your significant partner or use as an alibi.
Gas Stations Actually Make Slim Margins on Selling Gas
Next time you queue up to pay for your cost and you are biting your tongue, believing you are being gouged, consider that most gas stations only make a few cents per liter in profit. This is why when you walk into a station you are greeted by all these temptations to buy food, and beverages, and other miscellaneous items, as this is their actual profit mainstay. This slim margin is due to the fact that operating costs are high and credit card surcharges are tacked on to your fuel purchases. Yes, the merchant bank will charge the gas station operator 1.3% to 3.5% on every credit card transaction to use their processing network. Furthermore, this is why you see fractions-of-a-penny differences in gas prices per station—operators are trying to “hide” a tiny premium while your attention is fixed to the dollar cost (often displayed in a larger font).
Swipe/Pad Payment Terminals Present but You Are Often Asked to Pre-Pay Inside?
Do you find yourself frustrated by having to walk inside a gas station store to prepay even though the payments terminals at the pump seem to be working? Even during standard business hours/broad daylight? Gas station operators do have to deal with the problem of “drive-off’s,” where theft of gas or diesel occurs. However, many gas stations have good surveillance coverage to record the offender(s), and gas station losses from drive-off’s can be claimed as a tax write-off. Furthermore, they often have insurance to cover these incidents.
Consider that you are just being corralled into the store as your potential to spend more increases when inside. The clerk is often obliged to upsell the customer on other items and can’t really do that when you’re doing the quick-pay and drive-off bit at the pump. Convenient for you, but not so much for the retailer.
Gas Apps & Memberships
Many popular apps which are free have hit the market to inform you of gas station locations with the best prices. They can even plan your next trip with costs kept in check. It’s not a bad idea to try out one of these apps as gas stations operate on their own set margins and discounted rates from the supplier, meaning prices can vary apart from the actual commodity price set in the market. The competition’s prices are also factored into the calculus, so if you feel like your favorite station is taking certain liberties to ply you away from your money—consider a change.
Franchise memberships are also a great way to earn points on all your gas station trips. Earning potential can typically range from 2%-4%, depending on the retailer. Think of it this way: any sizeable business fleet will have a business membership with a gas retailer. They do this to save money, so why aren’t you? Next time when the clerk asks you if you want a points card, instead of declining them just sign up and be done with it. They are doing you a favor. Usage of a points-earning credit card can also accomplish this same task.
Never Run a Vehicle Low on Fuel
This stresses out the fuel pump and can cause pre-mature failure due to excessive heat. In this regard, gasoline acts like a coolant. A tank that is consistently low will also see corrosion, sediment, and water condensate build a lot quicker than if the tank is consistently filled.
Do Not Fill Up with a Tanker in Sight
When you go to the beach on a hot summer’s day and place your foot into sandy water, it will kick up a cloud of sediment and obscure your view of the bottom. This came concept occurs when tanker trucks are filling up storage tanks—they kick up any contaminants that have settled to the bottom just by pumping in fresh gasoline. These contaminants can then get into your engine and cause havoc over time. Remember that many modern-day engines operate on very fine tolerances when it comes to space and lubrication.
Cheap Fuel is Hard on Your Vehicle, so Use Recommended Octane
Using no-name branded fuel and filling up outside of the recommend octane grade will certainly do damage to your engine over its lifetime. This because vehicle manufactures explicitly test and fine-tune their engines to operate on specific grades of fuel. Cheap, low-octane fuel causes chaotic burning in an engine’s combustion chambers, which creates carbon build-up and ultimately destroys the efficiency of your engine.
Consider the Use of a Fuel Cleaner
Suspicious about pouring unknown substances in your gas tank? Don’t be. High-grade fuel system cleaners achieve exactly what they are intended to do: clean dirt, debris, and corrosion from your engine. It is preventative maintenance that should be performed at least once a year, especially in harsh climates and if you live near a salty ocean.