Anyone who owns a car knows gas prices are rising. The average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline nationwide has risen from $3.38 on July 1 to $3.54 on Aug. 2 to $3.73 on Aug. 27. But what most people don’t know is that just as you should buy shorts in the fall and coats in the spring, there are financially smart times to fill up as well.
The folks who own and manage gas stations may not want the world to know this, but there is a best time of day and best day of the week to pump gas. The best time of day is in the morning, but it’s probably not for the reasons you’re thinking. While it’s true that gasoline may be more dense during the coldest time of the day – very often the early morning – it is only slightly more dense early in the day. So those who claim you get more for your money by buying gas then are only slightly right.
Similarly, Wednesday is usually the best day of the week to buy when gas prices are increasing. This may not be true every single week, but prices generally are lowest then. Closer to the weekends – and especially holiday weekends — gas prices often rise to pick the pockets of leisure travelers. The price hikes often begin on Thursdays, when long weekend trips start, and when many drivers who aren’t leaving until Friday fill up.
What about the age-old question of whether you can save gas by turning off your air conditioner and rolling down your windows or whether you’re better off leaving your windows up and turning on your air conditioner?
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It all depends on how fast you’re going. The tipping point is 60 mph. If you’re driving 60 mph or faster, it makes sense to roll up your windows and turn on the A/C. On the other hand, if you’re driving slower than 60, you can get better gas mileage by rolling down your windows and turning off the A/C. This has to do with aerodynamic drag. The faster you drive, the more drag, so if you roll up your windows, you reduce drag.
Finally, here are some tried-and-true gas-saving tips that always make sense:
- Avoid gasoline with ethanol, whenever possible, because ethanol stores less energy than pure gasoline.
- Use the cheapest unleaded fuel that will allow your car to run well.
- Make sure your tires have the right amount of air in them.
- Avoid idling for more than a minute, even if that means turning off your engine while you wait for a traffic light to turn green.
- Coast as much as possible and avoid sudden starts and stops.
- Don’t weigh your car down with things you don’t need, especially rooftop carriers, which can cut your mileage by as much as 15%. In a test conducted by Consumer Reports, a rooftop carrier lowered the gas mileage of a Toyota Camry traveling at 65 mph from 35 miles per gallon to 29.
Long-time journalist Mark Di Vincenzo wrote the New York Times best-seller Buy Ketchup In May And Fly At Noon: A Guide To The Best Time To Buy This, Do That And Go There. This month he released an app based on that book called WHEN; and an all-new, second edition on the best time to buy things, called Buy Shoes On Wednesday And Tweet At 4:00: More Of The Best Times To Buy This, Do That And Go There, will be released on Sept. 11.
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