Reducing your fuel costs in the summer months

Presented by Mike Zirbel

With many parts of the country already experiencing warmer weather, you can’t help but look forward to packing your bags, donning your sunglasses, and driving, top down, to your favorite summer destinations. But then you remember the price of gas.

Currently, the cost of gas is a hot topic. Experts in various industries have projected that it will go lower or higher, making it hard to determine whom or what to believe. So before summer begins, it’s wise to prepare for what to expect when you fill up and to do some thinking about how to save on fuel costs. If you keep the following tips in mind, you’re likely to become a bit less concerned with how much gas costs, benefit from some savings, and enjoy your summer more.

It’s true, gas prices typically go up in the summer

There are a number of factors that cause gas prices to rise, particularly in the summer months. For example:

  • Summer means more road trips and people traveling. The increase in driving causes the demand for gasoline to shift up across the nation.
  • In early spring, energy companies conduct maintenance on their refineries. This causes the refineries to shut down for a given time frame, thus limiting their capacity to produce gasoline until late May. Not only are supply levels affected, but the costs for this routine maintenance are also passed along to consumers.
  • Natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, generally occur in the summer. The consequent damage can limit the supply of gas by disrupting the transportation routes and damaging refineries and other infrastructure—all of which can negatively impact supply.
  • Winter fuel is less expensive to produce than summer fuel.

Winter-grade and summer-grade fuel

Fuel sold by gas stations in the summer is different from the fuel sold in winter. Summer-grade fuel costs more to produce, and the transition to making it can lead to a decrease in supply, as it takes time for the refineries to switch production lines. Why is summer-grade fuel more expensive? There are several reasons:

  • Compliance with the Clean Air Act. In order to limit smog, refiners have to make a special blend of gasoline that doesn’t evaporate easily in the warm summer air. This is aimed at reducing pollution and smog.
    • Because of the cost of raw materials, this fuel costs $0.05 to $0.15 a gallon more to make.
  • To keep the vapor pressure down in your car’s engine during the summer, special components are added to the summer-grade gasoline mixture. These components are expensive. In winter, when a higher vapor pressure is allowed, oil refineries can use butane, which is inexpensive and plentiful. This contributes to the seasonal change in prices.

How can you save against the seasonal transition to summer-grade fuel?

There are several actions you can take to reduce your gas costs, including:

  • Check your air filter. A clean air filter can improve gas mileage by as much as 10 percent.
  • Have your tires aligned and inflated. Poor alignment not only causes tires to wear out more quickly but also forces your engine to work harder.
  • Maintain your car with regular services. When was your last tune-up? A properly maintained engine can improve mileage by up to 4 percent.
  • Drive more slowly. Every 5 mph reduction in highway speed leads to a 7-percent reduction in fuel consumption.
  • Don’t rest your foot on your brakes. Riding with your foot on the brake pedal will both wear out your car’s brake pads and increase gas consumption.
  • Reduce the weight of your car. Empty your trunk, remove any unnecessary items from the seats, and pack as lightly as possible for vacations.
  • Stay cool using your windows. Roll down your windows instead of using your air conditioner at slower speeds, but consider rolling windows up in favor of A/C on the highway, as the “drag” from the wind can be a gas guzzler.
  • Don’t idle for more than 30 seconds. Besides causing pollution, idling wastes gas. Avoid using the drive-through, and turn off your car in heavy traffic or long stops.
  • Stay informed. Check out one of the many websites that post gas prices at the stations in your area. Some include Gas Buddy (gasbuddy.com) or Gas Price Watch (gaspricewatch.com).

Also consider cutting your gas bill by using public transportation, telecommuting, or walking or bike riding when distance and time permit.

What will you do with the dollars you save?

There’s a reason why a financial professional would write an article related to saving money at the pump—to encourage you to leverage those savings in better ways. Remember that even small changes and savings can result in big payoffs when it comes to long-term investment and planning goals. If you are unsure about how to best pursue your financial goals or simply want a second opinion, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Michael W Zirbel is a financial professional with 307 Financial Services, LLC at 416 E Main ST. Riverton, WY. 82501. He offers securities as a Registered Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC. He can be reached at 307-856-8200 or at [email protected].

Authored by Brad McMillan, CFA®, CAIA, MAI, managing principal, chief investment officer, at Commonwealth Financial Network®.

© 2021 Commonwealth Financial Network®