You’re driving home from work when you realize the gas station up on the right is much cheaper than you remember it being yesterday. It’s also a few cents cheaper than any other gas station on the street.
You think this is too good a price to pass up, but here’s the thing: you just filled up the other day and your tank is still 80% full.
Is it worth it to get just a couple of gallons for this cheap price? Will the price be the same tomorrow? Will it go back up or will it go even lower? You’re rapidly approaching, and you need to make a quick decision.
We’ve all been there. While it’s impossible to perfectly predict fluctuating prices or even your own car’s fuel consumption, there are some patterns you can try to follow to better your chances of getting the most bang for your buck.
Playing with Prices
If your chief concern is getting gas for the lowest price possible, there’s good news and bad news.
The good news is there’s a clear answer. In most parts of the United States, gas is typically cheapest on Mondays.
The bad news is this isn’t applicable for all parts of the country, and it can keep changing. As recently as a few years ago, it was Wednesday that was cheapest on average.
Of course, all of this still varies based on market trends and how far your geographical location is from where the oil is coming. That being said, the first three days of the work week tend to see cheaper gas prices than the other four.
Interestingly enough, it’s Thursday that has the most expensive gas prices on average nationwide, rather than any day on the weekend proper.
Reading the Meter
Others among us might be wondering about the best time to fill up in relation to their fuel gauge.
Should you refill early and often or keep driving until the warning light comes on? Should you fill up all the way? It’s all going to add up to the same amount of money in the end, right? Does your car have a preference?
There is some truth to the notion that if you fill up too often, you’re wasting your time, if not necessarily your money, with frequent refills.
However, there’s another benefit to waiting awhile to fill up: because your car is lighter for carrying less gas, it gets better fuel mileage.
But it’s still best not to wait too long. While it’s true it’s risky to have a low tank in case something bad happens and you need to drive without a chance to refill, there’s also the matter of how gas tanks accrue damage when they constantly have to drive on fumes.
When you literally dehydrate your gas tank, the fuel pump suffers from having to suck up anything it can, which may include dirt and debris you don’t know are in your tank. It goes without saying that replacing a fuel pump will be much more expensive than frequent refills.
Many of the experts recommend refilling when you’re at one-quarter of a tank remaining. That way you’re not cutting it too close, but you’re still saving time (and saving a bit of money from increased fuel mileage).
Should you refill all the way? Absolutely. This again saves you time while also keeping you prepared in case some emergency, like a snowstorm, hits.
There may be situations where it makes sense not to fill up all the way, like if you’re on a strict budget or if you think you might break down suddenly and don’t want to buy gasoline you’ll never use (although in that case, you’ll probably have bigger concerns).
But if you can fill up all the way, go for it.
That’s why you pass up that gas station with the oddly cheap gas, knowing in all likelihood your car will be fine on fuel until next Monday.
Something strange might still happen, like gas prices jumping again or you’ll need to unexpectedly drive halfway across the state this weekend.
But statistically, mechanically, and chronologically, you made the smart choice.