Gas Mileage Expenses – Busting the Myths to Budget the Costs

Knowing your gas mileage expenses is critical if you like to have more control over what you spend. Prices fluctuate so drastically these days that it's virtually impossible to predict. Or is it?

There are a lot of myths floating out there, that might make you think you’re getting better mileage than you actually are. With gas prices changing so much in recent years, a simple equation can start you well on your way to better estimates on your actual fuel costs.

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When the price of gas is on the rise, getting around can become difficult. More people today are looking to maximize how far they can travel on one tank of gas. With further price fluctuations predicted for some time to come, it’s important to know how to estimate and extend the distance.

To cut down on mileage expenses, you will need to know how many miles your vehicle gets per gallon. Figuring out your miles per gallon (MPG) isn't hard. You just need to know a couple of simple numbers! As gas prices fluctuate however, you will need to repeat the process every time prices change, unless they are minor adjustments.

To Calculate Your Gas Mileage Expenses (MPG) – (How Much It Costs You to Drive One Mile)

  • Next time you fill up, jot down your odometer reading or trip your odometer to zero. (To reset your odometer, push in the little knob underneath the odometer which will set it at ‘0’. If you have a newer vehicle with a computerized console, consult your manual for instructions.) Also write down the exact number of gallons you purchased to fill up your vehicle or simply save your sales slip.

  • Drive your vehicle until it's as empty as possible without running out of gas.

  • Note the odometer reading when you fill up again - subtract the first (odometer) number from the second (odometer) number. (If you reset your odometer, the number you end up with when you stop to fill up again, will be the difference.)

  • Divide the difference (from subtracting the two odometer numbers) by the number of gallons you purchased the first time you filled up with gas. That number is your vehicle's MPG.

    The cost of gas alone is only a part of your mileage expenses planning. If you will be traveling, you will also need to factor in lodging, meals, maps, and other vehicle costs, like oil or windshield washer fluid. In other words, if you had to open your wallet for your car, it counts! To save even more on gas mileage expenses, make sure you know what's truth or myth.

    Gas Mileage Myths

    Mileage Myth - If your owner's manual says 'premium fuel recommended,' you must use premium gas! (Otherwise, you'll ruin your car by filling it up with regular.)

    Mileage Truth - Unless you're driving really, really, really, really, really fast, using regular gas in your car should be fine. Remember that when a manual suggests using premium gas, its just their recommendation, not a must-have!

    Using regular gas can save you around 25¢ per gallon.

    Note: There is no legitimate need to ever put premium fuel in your vehicle. Using regular gas could cost you a few horsepowers when you're driving at higher speeds but chances are, you won't even notice the difference, and it definitely won't hurt your car. Your engine's fuel-management system is perfectly prepared to handle lower-octane fuel.

    On the other hand, switching to regular gas in a car for which premium fuel is 'required' (as it often is for a few high-performance luxury rides that you and I don't drive), could cause noticeable knocking. Over time, that could lead to faster engine wear.

    Those cases aside, just how much could switching to regular gas save you on mileage expenses?

    Mileage Myth - In the summer, you should only buy gas at night or first thing in the morning when the air is cooler.

    Mileage Truth - Buying cool gas is a lot harder than it sounds, and the potential savings are scarcely worth it.

    Consumer Reports tested this theory using their own underground tank, similar to those used by gas stations. They found that it's surprisingly hard to accurately predict whether a given tankful of gas will be cold or warm.

    For starters, if gas was a given temperature when it was delivered from the tanker truck, it tended to stay that temperature, even after it had been delivered. Not only that, but the first gas to be pumped in a given day could be warm because a certain amount of gas collects in the above-ground pump. So even if you manage to be the first customer of the day, you might still be buying warm gas.

    After all that, even if you're successful in buying cold gas, the difference in density is so slight; perhaps a maximum of 1 percent per fill-up, that the savings are at best, marginal.

    Mileage Myth - Shopping around for cheaper gas is seldom worth the extra fuel you burn up trying to find it.

    Mileage Truth - It's easy to find where the cheapest gas stations are online, and crossing state lines when you can saves plenty on mileage expenses.

    The AAA's TripTik Travel Planner (just fill in your zip code), not only gives you point-to-point driving directions, but also allows you to highlight gas stations along your route, including frequently updated gas prices for each location. You'll have to zoom in to get a detailed view of your route, but using the tool allows you to plan where to stop for gas ahead of time instead of roaming around looking for good prices. You don't even have to be an AAA member to use the tool.

    Planning ahead, especially on an interstate road trip can save you a significant amount of money because of different state taxes on gas. Some states with the lowest average cost per gallon are next door to some of the highest-cost states, such as New Jersey and New York. Check ahead on the gas prices in the states you plan to visit and fill up in the lower cost state before crossing state lines.

    Mileage Myth - For the best gas mileage, you should keep your speed at or below 55 miles per hour.

    Mileage Truth - Fuel efficiency doesn't really drop until you reach speeds higher than 60. And how smoothly you drive makes much more of a difference on gas mileage expenses, than how fast you drive.

    In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), most vehicle's fuel efficiency peaks at speeds from 35 to 60 miles per hour. At speeds higher than 60, fuel efficiency drops significantly. The DOE says that every five miles per hour you drive above 60 is like paying an additional 24 cents per gallon for gas. That's because at higher speeds your vehicle encounters more wind resistance and the tires encounter more rolling resistance.

    Once you get your car going, though, it takes remarkably little energy to keep it going, even at 60 mph. Getting your vehicle to 60 mph creates more mileage expenses, which is why you should accelerate slowly. Continually accelerating and decelerating can cut your mileage by as much as 33 percent.

    The simple truth is that easing up on ultra fast accelerations and not constantly weaving in and out of traffic, will save you more money than puttering along at 55.

    Mileage Myth - A car with a manual transmission (gears) will always get better mileage than an automatic, and cut costs on mileage expenses.

    Mileage Truth - Newer automatic transmissions get the same highway mileage as manual transmission, or even slightly better in some instances.

    Following previous gas hikes, there was a rush on cars with manual transmissions because at that time, they got better mileage than automatics did. However, that's less true now, especially at today's top highway speeds. Older three-speed automatics had to work a lot harder at highway speeds than today's 4 or 5 speed automatics. Newer automatics produced in the last years have an 'overdrive' top gear that reduces an engine's RPM's at higher speeds which definitely cuts down on mileage expenses.

    When driving in the city at slower speeds, manual transmissions tend to get better gas mileage, but on the highway and long trips, your automatic may get as good or even slightly better mileage over a manual. If you have a vehicle with both, use the manual in town and the automatic on the road.

    Mileage Myth - Your vehicle's tires don't matter when it comes to mileage.

    Mileage Truth - Underinflated tires only add more expense to your pocketbook! To keep your mileage expenses from creeping up, remember to regularly inflate and rotate your tires!

    Another suggestion is to change your tires when the treads are getting worn.

    Mileage Myth - To save gas, open the car's windows and shut off the air conditioning.

    Mileage Truth - At higher speeds, leaving the windows open increases wind resistance so much that you'll probably wipe out any real gains you'd get on mileage expenses by shutting it off.

    Air conditioning does burn up gas, which is why it's recommended that you at least turn down the AC as much as possible. Reducing AC usage when the temperature is above 80° can save up to 10 - 15 percent on mileage expenses.

    At speeds above 50 miles per hour, lowering your windows increases wind resistance to the extent that you're better off closing them and turning on the AC to a moderate temperature. It's also good to remember that once a car is cool inside, it takes a lot less energy to keep it cool. Some of the best AC-related mileage boosting you can do occurs when the car's not moving. When it's steamy outside, park in the shade when possible.

    In recent years, there's been a rapid decline in leisure travel, mainly due to ongoing uncertainty about the strength of the economy. This is due to the rapid rate of unemployment and declining personal income. The recent gas fluctuations in gasoline prices may also cause some travelers to limit holiday and/or vacation plans, although its impact on overall vacation costs remains minimal.

    Gas mileage expenses are hard to predict when gas fluctuations happen so quickly and so often. Limiting what you spend today will only help you get more MPG and help predict the amount of money you need for gas on a weekly basis.

    Related Pages on This Site

    Go Green to Save on Gas and Reap the Financial Rewards

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    Renting a Room in Your House – Earn Extra Income but Don’t be Fooled!

    Ecology Friendly Around the House

    Air Conditioning Costs - How to Save Money and Energy!

    Save Money on Heating Costs and Save Energy

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