Personal finance

Gas prices are at a seven-year high and expected to keep rising. How to save at the pump

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You may want to get used to higher prices at the pump, at least for now.

As of Monday, the average cost of a gallon of gas was $3.30, up 7.5 cents from a month ago and $1.08 higher than a year ago, according to fuel savings app GasBuddy. By Tuesday, the average had crept up to $3.32 — a price not seen since 2014.

“It just continues to go up,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “I think it’s just a matter of time until we get to $3.35 and maybe $3.40 until things get caught up.”

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Global demand for oil remains high, yet supply remains tight. The cost of crude is above $80 a barrel, according to AAA. In August, the price per barrel was in the low $60s. Crude accounts for roughly half the price of gas.

The states with the highest average per-gallon prices are California ($4.45), Hawaii ($4.13) and Nevada ($3.90). The lowest average prices are in Texas ($2.92), Oklahoma ($2.94) and Arkansas ($2.97).

There are ways for drivers to save on gas. For starters, you can drive more gently, which can make your car’s engine operate more efficiently, De Haan said. In other words, don’t do things like speed or race from light to light.

“But it’s hard to convince motorists to back off their lead foot,” he said. 

Additionally, shop around for the best price. Depending on where you live, there can be big price swings between gas stations. And even if the difference in price per gallon may only be a few pennies, it can still add up to hundreds of dollars per year. Even prices from one state to another can vary significantly.

“Too many motorists just pull up to the closest pump and end up overpaying,” De Haan said.

Additionally, there are apps — including GasBuddy, Gas Guru and AAA TripTik — you can use to find the best prices along your route. 

It’s also worth looking into loyalty programs, which many major gas station chains have. They generally are free and can offer cents-per-gallon discounts, De Haan said.

However, credit cards that offer discounts for gas purchases might not be the best option unless you routinely pay off the card’s balance. In other words, you could end up paying more in interest than the discount itself.

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