Gas prices are hitting highs that have never before been seen in Canada.
The retail price of regular gas surpassed the $2 per litre mark in many parts of Metro Vancouver Friday, with the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) putting averages for Toronto at $1.67 per litre, for Montreal at $1.84 per litre and St. John’s, N.L., at $1.77 per litre.
And prices aren’t expected to ease anytime soon.
As Canadians brace for another tough weekend at the pump, there are a few ways to reduce your personal gas bill, as well as a few common strategies experts say might be overblown.
Smarter driving can cut gas bills by 20%: CAA
Kristine D’Arbelles, senior director of public affairs at CAA, says the organization’s top tip for trimming the gas bill is to drive smarter and not brake harder.
CAA’s advice to coast your vehicle into a stop rather than slamming on the brakes and to slowly accelerate afterwards might not be news to Canadian motorists, but they may be surprised to learn the cumulative effect that gradual slowing down and speeding up can have on your gas bill. Done over the course of the year, D’Arbelles says these driving techniques can save up to 20 per cent on fuel consumption annually.
Citing research from Natural Resources Canada, she also says that a hard stop and rapid acceleration typically only cuts down on four per cent of travel time but increases fuel consumption by almost 40 per cent.
“Weighing the pros and cons there, you might want to be OK with the extra minutes on your travel if you’re going to save close to 39 per cent in your fuel consumption,” she says.
Is there an optimal time to fill up?
While D’Arbelles says the Friday before a long weekend — when demand is highest — is typically the worst time to hit the pumps, she says there isn’t necessarily a “best time” of the week to fill up at a discount right now.
Dan McTeague, president of Canadians for Affordable Energy, told Global News Morning this week that Canadians should expect rising prices for the weeks ahead no matter when they’re heading out.
“Sometimes drivers can find a bit of a break in the evenings, but with prices moving up by three, five, seven, 10 cents a litre, week over week, it looks like we’re going to have to, as it were, buckle up and hunker down for the next several weeks, at least,” he said.
Some drivers can find discounts using comparator apps such as GasBuddy to check prices at local gas stations to save a few cents per litre.
But D’Arbelles cautions drivers against going too far out of their way to save on gas.
“Driving 20 or 30 minutes to the cheapest gas station is probably not going to (save) you as much as you think … The reality is you’re not going to see a significant difference from one gas station to another. It’ll be a couple of cents here and there,” she says.
The ideal time to use comparator apps is when you’re already heading out on a mostly set route, like the daily commute to work, D’Arbelles says.
Checking around a few gas stations along the way to find the one that offers the best bang for your buck is a good way to cut down on costs without adding to your mileage.
Consider fuel efficiency when buying
With little clarity on when or if gas prices could come back down, those in the market for a new vehicle should keep the current — and possibly rising — costs of gasoline top of mind, D’Arbelle says.
In addition to the sticker price of the car, she says gas costs will add an extra $2,000 to the average Canadian’s vehicle budget per year.
Conversely, the costs to charge up an electric vehicle, if such a purchase is in the cards, falls to around $300 per year, she says.
Though electric vehicles typically have a higher upfront cost than their gas and diesel cousins, the long-term fuel savings and peace of mind at the pumps could well be worth it.
“With the cost of gas going up, it might be the time to switch to an electric vehicle, and then you’ll never have to worry about gassing up again,” D’Arbelles says.
Here are some other CAA tips for cutting down on fuel consumption:
- Check the air pressure of your tires, especially as temperatures fluctuate in the lead-up to spring
- Don’t idle. If the car is running for more than 60 seconds without moving, turn it off
- Decrease drag by removing items like roof racks when you’re not using them
- Use cruise control on the highway and avoid speeding
— with files from Global News’ Kevin Nielsen