Is It Ever Worth It to Drive Around Town Looking for Cheap Gas?

eHow Money Blog

Yes, yes, times are tough. We get it. But how much money do you really save on that detour to the cheap gas station across town?

Well, it turns out it’s complicated. Which is why we’re here to break it down.

First, what you really want to keep in mind is the size of your tank. The more you spend, the more you save. If you’ve got an SUV or a pickup, you’ll save more at a far-away bargain station than if you’re in a smaller car.

Assuming the extra time you’ll spend driving is worth at least two bucks, and that you’ll be filling up your tank, here are some rules to drive by. If your car is a(n)…

Fuel-Efficient Vehicle with a Small Tank: Don’t bother driving out of your way unless there’s a pump that’s 20 cents cheaper within a three-mile radius—in which case you’ll save two bucks and change.

SUV: You can go up to five miles to a station with 20-cents-less-per-gallon gas and it’ll still be worth it (if by “worth it” you mean around $2.60 per fill-up). Don’t go more than a mile for gas that’s only 10 cents less per gallon.

Pickup Truck: It’s “worth it” to go up to 10 miles away for gas that’s 20 cents cheaper—you’ll save about $2.50. For the 10-cent-per-gallon savings, don’t drive more than two or three miles.

That said, cruising around looking for cheap gas ain’t so good for your carbon footprint. And you could probably do more awesome things with your time, like write out a genius plan to make way more than two dollars. A better, long-term solution to saving money on gas is to not drive like a moron. Read: Speeding and slamming on the gas or brakes wreaks havoc on your fuel economy.

How Do We Know All This? Cuz we’re brilliant. Also:

Mommy and onetime aeronautical engineer Kimberly Crandell did all the calculations about expensive and near vs. cheap and far gas: I’m feeling masochistic.
BargainBabe also busted out some higher math to solve this problem: Still feeling masochistic.
Livingston also created a very simple formula that only takes 8 pages to explain.
Way easier than the above: Don’t drive like an idiot’s Top 10 Fuel-Saving Tips
For your calculatory pleasure: Find your car’s MPG.

—Ariel Dreyer, Serious Coin contributor

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
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