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Want to save money on your next road trip? Here are some simple ways to do it

Posted at 4:13 AM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 07:29:45-04

FARMINGTON HILLS, Mich. (WXYZ) — Cue up the National Lampoon's Vacation theme song! Summer road trip season is in full swing, folks.

Many Michiganders love a good road trip and mapping out ways to save makes it that much more fun.

Kathy, a viewer tweeted, in part, “…I always go grocery shopping before we leave…I don’t buy anything unless it’s on sale! I’ll start weeks ahead of time. Prepack coolers and eat before we leave.”

I also got some good advice from Autoline automotive expert John McElroyand travel blogger Melissa Popp – a contributing writer for the website TripSavvy.

What’s the number one way people can save money on a road trip?

“Planning ahead would always be the number one way to save,” said Popp.

“The longer out you can book a trip, a campground, an RV park, a car rental, or even an RV rental, the more you’re going to save,” she added.


So, her advice is to make reservations as soon as possible.

Popp says a lot of campgrounds are even offering discounts on long-term rentals due to the pandemic.
But you often can’t find those deals online. She said you may have to go ‘old school” and call them on the phone to work out an arrangement.


Another pointer is to buy regular gasoline versus premium.

“Some cars mandate premium only. Well, maybe you don’t have to run it every single time. Run a tank of regular [unleaded gasoline] through there and you can save maybe 10-to15 bucks a tank,” said McElroy.

Typically, it’s the high-performance vehicles or luxury cars that require premium fuel due to the way the manufacturer has calibrated the engine. But McElroy said – even with those cars -- you usually can still run a gallon of regular fuel through those tanks every now and then, and it won’t hurt the engine.


McElroy also said it’s important to properly inflate your tires for better fuel economy.

“If it doesn’t have enough air in the tires, that engine has to work harder, and you just end up burning more gasoline,” said McElroy.

He said it’s like riding a bicycle when the tires are not pumped up.

“Man, you got to really work to get that bicycle going. If you pump up the tires, you can just glide down the sidewalk -- no problems whatsoever. Same thing with your car. If it doesn’t have enough air in the tires, that engine has to work harder. And you just end up burning more gasoline,” explained McElroy.

On a related note, if you haven’t had an overall vehicle check-up in a while, Melissa Popp suggests you schedule one.

A busted radiator or transmission out on the open road will cost you huge – not to mention the time and trouble to fix it when you may be off the beaten path.. and in a pandemic.

“You are finding that mechanic shops, auto shops, even just the little Jiffy Lube’s – they have limits on how many people they can see a day,” said Popp.


Another big saver?
Mapping out gas stops in advance to find the best deals.

Popp recommends you use apps like google maps, waze, or gasbuddyto find gas stations away from the busy interchanges – which is where you usually see the highest prices due to convenience.

Sure, you might have to drive slightly out of the way, but the savings when you fill up should be worth it.


This may seem like an obvious one, but it’s important to drive within the speed limit, always park legally, and follow the rules of the road to avoid getting a costly ticket.

“You know, you get a 500-dollar ticket for parking somewhere or running a red light. The most common ticket – turning right at a red light,” said Popp.

And if you’re new to driving an RV, do your homework.

“RV-ing almost in all 50 states have different laws and regulations of things you can and can’t do on the road and where you can and can’t park them,” explained Popp. “If you’re renting an RV, you do want to look up on the Department of Transportation’s guidelines for RVs in the particular states you are traveling.”

Plus, she said police tend to notice “newbies” behind the wheel of large recreational vehicles.

“RVs are much bigger, they’re very obvious. It’s very easy to tell when someone doesn’t have the experience driving an RV which gets the attention of cops on the road.”


Whether it’s chips, crackers, candy, or drinks, plan ahead.

And, as our viewer Kathy noted, buying snacks in advance can save quite a bit of money.

Popp said buying those items at a grocery or wholesale store before you leave on your trip will typically always be cheaper than what you'll find once you're on your road trip.

"Stopping at 7-Elevens, at your gas stations are always going to be more costly," said Popp.