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The average American household spends almost $2,000 per year on gas, according to a report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. And with the average price of a gallon of gas hovering around $2.80, that number isn’t going to get any lower. Because of this, any methods you can use to spend less on gas are worth implementing.
This is even more important if you’re a rideshare driver. Because you use your vehicle to drive passengers around, your gas costs will be even higher than average. And the more you drive, the more you’ll spend on gas. Sure, more driving also means more fares, but those extra gas costs can really eat into your profit margins.
Don’t worry, though. In this article, we’ll show you 16 ways you can save on gas as a rideshare driver — like using a certain app, joining a rideshare fuel rewards program, and replacing a car part that can eat up your gasoline. This way, you’ll be able to put less of your earnings toward gas and more towards the things that matter to you.
1. Don’t Wait Till Your Tank Is Almost Empty to Fill Up
When you’re driving for Uber or Lyft, it’s easy to lose track of your gas tank levels. You get caught up in picking up passengers, only to find that you’re near empty. In a hurry to log off the app for as little time as possible, you pick whichever gas station is closest to you, no matter the cost.
This isn’t the way to shop for gas if you want to minimize your costs. That’s why you should be sure to refuel well before you’re approaching empty. Get familiar with the different gas stations around your city and plan ahead so that you can shop only at the ones that offer the cheapest gas.
Of course, driving around the city to find the cheapest gas price is a waste of gas in and of itself if you’re just randomly searching for the best price. To save you time and money, we recommend using GasBuddy.
It’s a smartphone app that will show you the cheapest gas prices near you. The prices are based on user-reported data, and you can see when they were last updated to make sure that they’re accurate.
3. Get a Gas Rewards Credit Card
If you can qualify for a credit card that gives you cash back on gas purchases, it can seriously help you save. The types of rewards out there vary. Some will give you cash back on all gas purchases, while others will reward you for buying gas at specific gas stations. Some credit card companies will even let you exchange your reward points for gas gift cards, which can offer you further savings (some gas stations offer a discount for using a gift card).
We won’t recommend a specific gas rewards credit card since the card you should get depends on your credit scores and specific situation. Check out NerdWallet’s guide to the best gas credit cards of 2018 to learn more about your options.
4. Buy Gas Where You Buy Groceries
If you don’t want to get a gas credit card (or can’t qualify for one), you can still save money on gas using shopping that you already do. Many grocery stores will give you a gas discount for shopping at their store.
All you have to do is use their rewards or membership card (which are free) when you buy groceries. Then, simply swipe the same card when you buy your gas at the grocery store’s station (or one of their affiliates). This can result in significant savings per gallon, making your gas cheaper than at any other station.
Of course, you can also use a similar approach by signing up for a membership card at gas stations themselves. These may give you discounts based on how much gas you buy or give you a flat rate discount for being a cardmember.
Qualifying Uber and Lyft drivers have access to a rewards program that gives them fuel discounts at select gas stations. The details of each program vary based on whether you’re driving for Uber or Lyft, so we’ll discuss each of them in turn.
Lyft Fuel Rewards Program
If you’re a Lyft driver who participates in the Accelerate Rewards program, you can get a discount on gas at participating Shell stations. The discount amount is based on your Accelerate Rewards level. Here are the different discounts:
- Silver: $0.05/gallon
- Gold: $0.05/gallon
- Platinum: $0.07/gallon
Because the levels of the rewards program are based on how much you drive, you’ll get increased fuel savings for driving more.
Here’s how to activate your fuel rewards:
- Open your Accelerate dashboard
- Select your Fuel Reward to create or link your account. Your Fuel Rewards card will be mailed to you after completing sign up. To check if your account is linked, see the Connected Services page.
- Visit a participating Shell station and swipe your Fuel Rewards card. To find participating Shell stations, visit fuelrewards.com or download the Fuel Rewards mobile app.
Uber Fuel Rewards Program
The program that Uber has is a little different. Instead of offering a rewards program, Uber has partnered with GoBank to offer the Uber Visa Debit Card.
This card gives drivers a discount on a variety of products and services, including discounts at Walmart, Sprint, Jiffy Lube, and Urgent.ly Roadside assistance. You can also cash out your earnings for free up to five times per day (no fees required).
Relevant to our discussion of gas savings, the Uber Visa Debit Card will give you 3% cash back for gas purchases at Exxon and Mobil stations as well as 1.5% cash back at all other gas stations.
To qualify for the card, all you have to do is be an Uber driver. No credit check is necessary — just submit your ID and you’ll be good to go. For more information on how to apply for the card, visit Uber’s website.
Note: You may see people mention an Uber Fuel Card program online. Uber discontinued this program as of April 25, 2018. Therefore, you should get the Uber Visa Debit Card if you want to enjoy the same fuel discounts. Indeed, the new card offers even more discounts than the old program, so it’s an all-around win for drivers.
6. Check Your Tire Pressure Regularly
If your tire pressure is too low, you can spend a lot extra on fueling your car. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, every 1 PSI drop in your car’s average tire pressure can lower gas mileage by about 0.2 percent.
This doesn’t sound like a lot, but that inefficiency can add up quickly, especially if you’re doing a lot of driving. Pay special attention to your tire pressure in the winter, as colder temperatures will cause your tires to lose pressure more quickly. You can find the optimum tire pressure for your tires by consulting your vehicle’s owner’s manual (or by talking to a professional mechanic).
7. Avoid Idling
Whenever you have the engine on but the vehicle isn’t moving, you’re wasting gas. Some idling of your car is unavoidable (such as when you’re waiting at a traffic light). Anything longer than that, however, is something you should avoid.
For instance, don’t let your car warm up in the winter for any longer than necessary. We know sitting in a cold car isn’t fun, but the few moments of discomfort will help you save gas that would otherwise go to waste.
Another common situation in which you might idle for long periods of time is when you get stuck at a railroad crossing because of a passing train. You should turn your engine off if this happens. Not only will it save you gas and money, but it will also go a long way towards reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
8. Minimize Air Conditioning Use
This is a tricky situation. Running your air conditioning does cause your car to use more gas, so limiting air conditioning use can help you save money on gas. However, you don’t want to take this too far.
When you’re transporting passengers, you should always ask if you can adjust the heat or air to suit a passenger’s comfort needs. The extra money you’ll spend on gas is worth it in this case, as accommodating your passengers will lead to higher ratings and better tips.
When you’re not driving passengers, however, turn your A/C off (or at least to a lower level) in order to boost your gas savings.
9. Slow Down
This one is easy to do but just as easy to overlook. The faster you drive, the more gas you’ll burn. If you exceed the speed limit, then you’re increasing your fuel consumption beyond necessary levels. We’re not saying you should drive excessively slow. Just drive the speed limit. It not only saves gas, but it’s also safer for you, your passengers, and other drivers on the road.
An old or faulty air filter can reduce your car’s fuel efficiency. When you replace a dirty filter with a new one, you can expect to see an improved MPG of up to 10 percent and a gas cost savings of close to $0.15 per gallon.
Of course, these numbers assume that your air filter is in really bad shape. The best policy is to have your vehicle regularly serviced by a professional. They can tell you if the filter needs replacement.
Indeed, you may have noticed a trend here: Proper regular maintenance is one of the best ways to save money on gas. If your car is working at its peak levels of performance, then better fuel economy will follow.
11. Only Use Premium Gasoline If Your Car Requires It
As you’ve no doubt seen at the gas pump, premium gas is significantly more expensive than regular gas. Unless your car requires it, you shouldn’t use premium gasoline. You’re just wasting money if you do so.
Many cars will recommend premium, but this is not the same thing as saying that the car requires premium gas to function properly. You can check the car’s owner’s manual or the manufacturer’s website to find out what kind of gas it requires.
12. Close Your Windows
Open windows increase your car’s air resistance, which means that your engine has to work harder (and burn more gasoline) to go the same distance your car would if the windows were closed.
This is why driving with the air conditioning off and the windows down is a false economy. You might as well drive with the windows closed and the A/C on if you want to stay cool. Driving with the windows down just wastes gas a different way.
13. Remove Excess Weight from Your Car
We’d be willing to be you have some junk in your car that you could remove. Maybe it’s that bag of old clothes you’ve been meaning to take to the donation center but haven’t yet. Perhaps it’s all the gear from your last weekend camping trip.
Whatever it is, you should get it out of your car. Not only is that stuff taking up space that passengers might need for their belongings, but it’s also making your car heavier. The heavier your car is, the more gas you have to burn to move it. So do yourself (and your passengers) a favor and get rid of all that junk.
14. Coast When You Can
Changing your driving habits can boost your gas mileage. One new habit to adopt is that of coasting. You burn the most gasoline when you’re accelerating. Therefore, any movement that you can get “for free” as a result of your car’s existing momentum is worth taking. This can take some practice to implement, but the best way to think of it is that you should minimize both braking and accelerating as much as possible.
Instead of slamming on the brakes and having to accelerate a moment later to maintain your speed, drive a bit more slowly so that you can coast along when the car in front of you slows down or changes lanes. You can also put this technique into practice when going down a hill. Just coast and let gravity do some of the work.
15. Buy a More Fuel-Efficient Car
So far, we’ve focused on things you can do to spend less on gas for the car you already have. No matter what you do, however, your gas savings will still have a finite limit based on your car’s fuel economy. For this reason, buying a gas-saving vehicle is one of the number one things you can do to permanently reduce your gas costs.
You have to strike a balance, however. It doesn’t make sense to spend thousands on a brand new car if it’s only going to save you $50 a month on gas. If you’re in the market for a new car anyway, however, then you should make gas mileage one of your top priorities when selecting a vehicle.
You can always check the manufacturer’s information to find out the car’s gas mileage, but we also recommend a third-party source such as fueleconomy.gov just to confirm how the car performs in the real world. You can also use that site to see lists of the most fuel-efficient cars currently on the market.
16. Ditch Gas Entirely
If you check the list from fueleconomy.gov that we linked to above, you may notice that all the top picks are electric cars. To get serious about saving money on gas, you could consider opting out of the gasoline system.
An electric vehicle will bring your fuel costs down to almost nothing, especially if you use the many free charging stations now available. The range of electric vehicles only continues to grow, and the newest models have plenty of range to drive passengers around in town all day.
If you don’t want to make the switch to electric just yet, you can also consider a hybrid vehicle. The latest models allow you to use gas when you need to (such as in a remote area with no charging stations) but rely primarily on electric battery power. This reduces emissions and fuel costs.
For a list of the latest and greatest electric and hybrid vehicles, check out this guide from Consumer Reports.
Save Gas to Boost rideshare Profits
Implementing the fuel-saving tips in this article will help you spend less of your rideshare earnings on getting your vehicle around and more on the things you’d like to. Of course, reducing your gas costs is just one way to increase your rideshare income.
For other strategies to make more as a rideshare driver, take a look at our list of 17 ways to make more money as an Uber driver (most of the tips apply to Lyft as well).
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.