With the recent rise in gas prices, many people have been looking for ways to save money on gas. These efforts usually fall into two categories; reducing your fuel consumption, or finding a way to pay less. Realizing that because of the various uses for crude oil, gas prices are somewhat out of our control (especially if our only weapon is a gas boycott), we are limited in how we can reduce the price that we pay. Paying less for gas is really just a matter of either finding the lowest priced gas stations in your area, or using various credit card benefits to get cash back.
However, it is in the area of reducing fuel consumption, where people can get very creative. Unfortunately, some of these techniques can actually cost you money or make your drive more dangerous. Recently, Investopedia published an article outlining some of these methods. I thought it would be interesting to see which fuel saving techniques they highlighted and what they had to say about each one.
They are listed below, with my feedback beneath each one. Be sure to leave your comments below.
Table of Contents
Save Money On Gas? Not With These Techniques!
Devices To Increase Airflow
The Theory: High-tech devices designed to increase your engine's airflow will improve fuel efficiency.
The Facts: It sounds plausible, but the results don't back up the impressive claims. Consumer Reports tested several of the devices, such as Fuel Genie ($89.95, plus shipping), that purport to increase fuel economy by accelerating airflow to the engine. The tests found no noticeable gains in MPGs, despite claims of 50% fuel savings. While it's true that drastically increasing the airflow to an engine is a common way to increase horsepower (i.e. forced induction through turbo and superchargers), doing so will actually increase fuel consumption and increase wear on the engine, not to mention that this proven technology costs significantly more than its gimmicky competition.
I have to admit that I have never gotten so much into fuel efficiency that I've researched or purchased an airflow gadget. However, I know that some people have been willing to make significant investments in these types of gadgets in order to increase their miles per gallon.
If the problem of increasing the wear on your engine is true, then these gadgets will end up costing a lot more than what you pay for gas!
The Theory: The gas we buy can be improved by adding scientifically formulated chemicals that will increase fuel efficiency and, sometimes, horsepower.
The Facts: Clearly, some drivers believe the answer to their fuel woes lies in a magic elixir, because there are numerous fuel treatments that claim to increase MPGs, despite no scientific proof or explanation of how less fuel is burned. According to CNN.com, one common tactic used by shady fuel-additive makers is to tout the product's approval by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This suggests that a trusted consumer watchdog has approved the product's claims, but in fact, the EPA had only deemed that the product does not increase a vehicle's harmful emissions. The truth is, if there were an additive that made fuel burn more efficiently, oil companies would be racing to market their new gas at the pumps and gain a bigger market share.
I used to add a fuel treatment to my car every 3,000 miles. I never noticed a difference in how the car ran, or in the fuel efficiency, but I just figured it was because I wasn't paying close enough attention.
I think that the worthless EPA approval is pretty deceptive. The average person would think that the claims to improve fuel efficiency have been tested and proven to be true; however, it just means that it won't increase your emissions!
I don't think I've purchased this stuff since we got our new car over 3 years ago, but I always had a supply in my trunk before that!
The Theory: Premium gas provides increased performance and better gas mileage.
The Facts: This is true … if you own a premium automobile that requires high-octane gas, but these cars make up the minority of daily drivers. So if you're in the majority – drooling over Ferraris from the seat of your Corolla – your car's engine control unit (ECU) is programmed to run on the octane levels present in regular gas. Increasing the octane – either through buying premium gas or adding bottles of octane-boost – can actually cause the engine to be less efficient, as the car's combustion timing becomes altered and efficiency is lost. But the most noticeable loss will be the extra 20 cents per gallon you'll be wasting to buy high-octane gas. A safe bet is that if you can afford a vehicle that requires only premium fuel, you likely aren't concerned with gas prices or tracking mileage.
This is one I've always known about. I think the only time I ever purchased anything higher than regular was when the gas station ran out, and they charged the same price as regular.
Once in a while I would come across people who swore by a higher octane, but they could never tell me why. It was just another case of, “it costs more, so it must be better”!
I love what the article said at the end of this…it's very true. If you can honestly afford a car that needs a higher octane, you probably aren't worried about your MPG as much as most.
Over Inflating Your Tires
The Theory: Rounder tires roll easier, creating less work for the engine and therefore, better MPG.
The Facts: Again, this tip is true … to a point. Over inflated tires will have less friction with the road, which lessens the effort the engine exerts to keep the car rolling, providing slight gas savings. However, overinflated tires will wear out quickly and irregularly, causing you to need early replacements at a cost of about $50 to $100 per tire. What's worse is that the decreased contact with the road increases stopping distances and limits handling capabilities. This all adds up to a large risk in costly accidents and injuries. Even if you are lucky and avoid a collision, it would take a lifetime (which could very well be short if you're riding on bald and bulbous tires) for your fuel savings to negate the cost of four new tires. According to Edmunds.com's testing, the fuel consumption difference between driving with over-inflated tires and tires at the recommended pressure is negligible. Sometimes, despite what GM's recent track record suggests, carmakers do know what they're doing and the recommended settings and levels do provide the best results.
I've actually never heard of this trick. It just seems so dangerous, because you have less of your tire making contact with the road – meaning it is more difficult to brake! Even if the increase in MPG were substantial, I would not feel comfortable doing something this dangerous!
I think that the cost of your new tires and the increased risk of being in an accident, would easily negate any gains you have from buying fuel less often.
Roll Down The Windows Rather Than Using Air Conditioning
The Theory: Operating the AC to cool the vehicle uses fuel, so it's more efficient to cool off by driving with the windows down.
The Facts: While it's true that some fuel is used to operate the AC compressor, as much or more fuel is lost when the windows are down. Rolling down the windows increases the drag on the car, which causes the car to work harder to maintain its speed. For even better mileage, you can improve your AC's efficiency by using the re-circulation setting on the car's HVAC system instead of forcing the AC to cool the hot air from outside. Heeding this tip will increase your mileage, as well as your comfort.
This has been a subject of great debate for a while now. Many people – including me for a while – will drive on the highway with the windows down in the summer, in order to save money by not turning on the AC. Actually, I do it because I love fresh air and I didn't want the AC to burn up gas. However, once you get over about 40 MPH, the drag on the car (from the air resistance) causes the fuel efficiency on your car to drop dramatically. Therefore, if you are driving on the highway, you will burn less gas by using the AC and keeping the windows up.
Now, I just have to weigh this fact against my need to feel comfortable. I am one of the few people who I know are more comfortable with air blowing on my face in the summer, than having the “conditioned” air blowing on me. If gas prices continue to increase, I may have to get used to running the AC (on the lowest setting, or course).
- What methods have you implemented in order to save money on gas?
- How often do you think about rising gas prices?
- What are some common myths that you've heard about saving money on gas?