Is it Worth Driving Further for Cheaper Gas? (How to Calculate)

With gas prices reaching record highs this year, we’re willing to do whatever it takes to pay less for gas. But does driving across town for slightly lower prices make sense?


Tina Chang
Updated 8 April 2022
Is it Worth Driving Further for Cheaper Gas? (How to Calculate)
Sections on this page
  1. Average Gas Prices Across the Country
  2. Factors Contributing to Gas Usage
  3. Is Driving Further for Cheaper Gas Worth it?
  4. How to Find Cheap Gas Prices Near You
  5. Other Ways to Save Money on Gas

Although gas prices are starting to decline after reaching record highs, it’s still easy to feel robbed after filling your car up at the pump. For some, we search for the lowest prices, wait in line for an hour at Costco, or drive several miles to save ourselves 5c a gallon, bypassing several other gas stations along the way. 

Although you are saving some money on gas, one thing to consider before making the trek across town to a cheaper pump is how much gas your car uses. 

Average Gas Prices Across the Country

According to AAA, average gas prices in the U.S. range from around $3.70 to $5.80, depending on the location. The West Coast has the most expensive gas prices, while states like Texas and Oklahoma in the South are on the cheaper end. 

Average gas prices in the U.S.
(Source: AAA)

These prices are about 50% higher than they were a year ago. 

Although the national average price of gas is decreasing after reaching record highs, it’s still more expensive than we’re all used to, making driving less enjoyable for many of us. 

Factors Contributing to Gas Usage

When figuring out how far is reasonable to drive to save on gas, you need to take into account:

  • The type of car you drive and how efficient it is with gas (i.e., how many miles per gallon your vehicle gets)
  • How much the gas is per gallon at the station that’s further away. 
  • The type of gas your car uses. 
  • How far away the cheaper gas station is.
  • How much gas you need or will be getting. 

If you want to get more accurate, you’ll also want to consider the time of day you’re driving. For example, if you’ll be driving in peak hour (stop and go) traffic, your car may use more gas than if there are fewer cars on the road.

What Type of Gas is More Expensive?

Right now, the most expensive type of gas is diesel, which can be almost a dollar more expensive than regular gasoline. The cheapest is usually E85, which not many cars have the option of using. 

Which Cars Use More Gas?

Some cars are known to be gas guzzlers. In general, the types of vehicles that use the most gas are non-electric and non-hybrid:

  • Trucks 
  • Minivans
  • SUVs

The most fuel-efficient cars are hybrids (e.g., Toyota Prius) and compact 4 cylinder cars. But, of course, if you have a fully electric vehicle (EV), you don’t have to worry about gas at all!

Generally, your car has decent fuel efficiency if you can get around 30mpg in a non-hybrid, non-electric vehicle. Of course, if you have a hybrid car, you’ll want to bump that number up to around 50mpg. 

Is Driving Further for Cheaper Gas Worth it?

If you know that a gas station a few miles further away has lower prices, you’ll need to do some calculations to see whether it’s worth driving there or not. 

First, write down the following information:

  • Gallons of gas you need (G)
  • Mileage of your car (MPG)
  • Price (per gallon) of the closer gas that’s more expensive (P1)
  • Price (per gallon) of the further gas that’s cheaper (P2)
  • How far away the other gas station is (M)

Here’s an example:

  • G: 10
  • MPG: 35
  • P1: $5
  • P2: $4.90
  • M: 3

Next, you want to use the following formula to calculate your savings by driving to the cheaper gas station further away: 

Savings = (G * P1) – ((G * P2) + ((M/MPG) * P1))

If math isn’t your strong suit, don’t worry. Just replace the letters with the numbers you’ve written down corresponding to each letter. In the example I used above, the formula would look like this:

Savings = (10*5) - ((10*4.9) + ((3/35) * 5)

Remember, you’ll need to calculate the numbers in the parentheses first. So the next level of the formula would look like this:

Savings = (50) - ((49) + ((0.085) * 5)

Savings = 50 - (49 + 0.429)

TOTAL SAVINGS = $0.57

So, yes, in the scenario above, it is cheaper to drive an extra 3 miles away to get gas that’s cheaper by $0.10/gallon. But, since you’re only saving 57 cents total (not per gallon), is it really worth it? You should think about how you value your time and effort too!

If You Needed Less Gas

Using the same example as above, but changing the amount of gas you need, here’s how the cost savings would differ. We replace the 10 gallons of gas required with 5 gallons. 

Savings = (5*5) - ((5*4.9) + ((3/35) * 5)

TOTAL SAVINGS = $0.07

If you only need to get 5 gallons, you’d only be saving 7 cents total by driving 3 miles away to the cheaper pump. 

Other Variations

It’s not just the amount of gas you need that changes whether or not it’s worth driving further for cheaper fuel. For example, if the gas price at the pump further away were only 5 cents cheaper per gallon (instead of 10), it probably wouldn’t be worth driving to—even if you had to fill up 10 gallons. 

The distance between the two gas stations also plays into the calculation. If the gas station across the street is $0.05/gallon less, it would be worth it. But if you had to drive 5 miles for it, you’re probably doing yourself a disservice. 

Use an Online Calculator

For an easier way to calculate whether or not it’s worth driving further for cheaper gas, there’s an online calculator you can use. You will need some additional information, like the wear and tear cost on your car per mile and the value of your time.

How to Find Cheap Gas Prices Near You

Finding cheap gas is easier than it was back in the day. You no longer need to be driving around wasting gas to shop for the best price; you can simply look it up online. 

Find Cheap Gas Near You Using Google

Google is forever making life easier for us by adding features and functionality to its search engine. When you Google “cheap gas near me” or something similar, the top results will show you your closest gas stations and the price of regular gas. 

You’ll also be shown a map of where these pumps are located. 

Using Google to find cheap gas near you.

Google's price data comes from the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS), which provides real-time retail fuel prices. OPIS gets its pricing information from most major retailers, using direct feeds, surveys, and other methods to provide the most accurate numbers possible. 

GasBuddy App

Several gas apps show you just how much fuel costs at different gas stations. One of the most popular apps is GasBuddy, which has been around for more than 20 years. 

The data for this app comes from user reports and gas stations themselves, so it’s not always accurate.

Gas Guru App

Gas Guru is another app that shows you the gas prices at stations near you. They get their information from the OPIS, like Google. 

Other Ways to Save Money on Gas

Looking for cheap gas is the main way to save some money, but there are other things you can do to avoid spending so much on fuel. These include:

  • Driving more economically
  • Signing up for rewards programs
  • Buying quality gas

Driving More Economically

When it comes to fuel economy, your driving habits definitely play a part. The general rule of thumb is faster you drive, the more gas you use because your engine needs to work harder. 

This is also the case when you accelerate quickly or more often. Therefore, to get the best fuel efficiency from your car, you should accelerate slowly and smoothly, avoid braking suddenly, and use cruise control whenever possible. 

Sign Up for Rewards Programs

Several rewards or loyalty programs are available that give you a discount at certain gas stations. For example, Shell offers a discount of 5c/gallon to its members. 

Various banks may also have programs that give you a discount or cashback when using their credit card to buy your gas. For example, the Amazon Rewards Visa card gives you 2% back at gas stations. 

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Buying Quality Gas

Gas quality differs from station to station and can make a big difference in your mileage. According to The Automotive Dude, better quality gas can improve your fuel economy while also reducing emissions. 

You can find some of the best quality gas at:

  • Chevron
  • Costco
  • Shell
  • Exxon
  • Mobil

Of course, you’ll probably notice that these gas stations may be higher priced than your lesser-known gas station companies, but you’ll also probably notice you don’t need to fill up as often. 

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