Everyone is looking for a way to save on gas. That’s a big change in the last year.
Back in 2020, in the middle of the Covid calamity, the world appeared to be ending. Everything was shuttered. Traffic disappeared. With no demand, oil prices plunged and then dropped to negative values. Oil storage tanks were filled to the brim and there was no place to store the stuff. We never got to the point where gas stations were paying people to fill their cars. But we weren’t far from it.
Since then, the Covid restrictions lifted and people started traveling, The highways filled. Oil demand returned. Then Ukraine was invaded and global oil supplies dropped. Prices soared and we are all facing price pressure at the pumps. Is there a way to really save on gas?
The usual approaches to save on gas
Yes, you can get a gas loyalty card to save about 5 cents a gallon. That’s about 1.4%. If you drive 15,000 miles and your vehicle gets 25 miles per gallon, you buy about 600 gallons a year. At $3.50 per gallon, your gasoline spend is $2,100 a year. Saving 1.4% of that will put an extra $29 dollars in your pocket each year. Hmmm.
Another option is to get a gas retailer credit card or a card that offers decent rewards on gas purchases. The best of them will offer savings of about 5%. On $2,000 a year of gas purchases that is still only about $100 per year.
A bolder move would be to sell your fossil burner and move to an electric vehicle. Over the longer term, we will all be driving electric. In the short term, ranges are limited, costs are high and adding a home charging station tacks on another $1,500 or so.
Finally, you could do a downsize on your vehicle and move to something more fuel efficient. If recently added a vehicle, the switching costs could be high. If you have an older vehicle and it’s time to replace it, that may not be a bad idea.
But all these ideas offer either paltry savings or a major change to deal with. Is there a simpler way to save on gas?
Is there a gas savings device? Or a petroleum potion?
Google gas savings devices and your screen will light up with all manner of marvels. Secret sauces to pour down your fuel intake. Little widgets that are easy to install that promise an extra 20% of fuel economy. Some claim to aerate the fuel, improve the ignition, or otherwise magically reduce gas consumption. One even plugs into your cigarette lighter socket and claims to “helps stabilize, increase power, accelerate engine-starting, increase brake sensitivity, improve engine efficiency and power performance.” Wow! All from something that you plug into your lighter socket. An engineering marvel!
Consumer Reports did a review of a number of these gas saving devices and they found that…they don’t work. No real surprises there. Car companies have thousands of engineers tinkering tirelessly (pun intended) to wring out every bit of fuel economy. Their stakes are high: edging out the competition, driving sales and staying ahead of national fuel economy standards. Are they likely to be edged out by an Amazon seller promising better gas mileage by defying the laws of physics? I think not!
The gas saving idea that saves 45% on your fuel
On to the big stuff. An idea that I recently test that actually works. And lets you save on gas. Really. As in saving an actual 45% on gas. With nothing to buy. No cars to trade in. No need to spin wrenches, get your hands dirty, or crawl underneath your car.
In fact, everything you need, you already have. Specifically, the chunk below your right ankle. Yep, your foot. Turns out it can change your fuel economy. A lot. By far the easiest and best way to save on gas.
Living in Cleveland, with friends and family in Toronto offers lots of opportunities to catch up on podcasts, admire the bucolic scenery and eat road food. Given that the terrain is flat and there is minimal traffic, it also offered a perfect opportunity to do some real world fuel economy testing.
On one such trip, I reset my fuel economy gauge, dialed my cruise control to my customary 75 mph and drove for exactly one hour and clocked in my fuel economy at 28.3 MPG in my Honda CR-V AWD Touring edition. For the next hour, I repeated the process at 70 MPH with a result of 38 MPG. For the final hour, I dropped down to 65 MPH, got passed quite a bit, but managed a remarkable 41.1 MPG. I had Siri take notes on everything then checked it out once I got back to my office.
Here is what the graph looks like:
Wow! That’s a big improvement. As we slow down from 75 to 65, the fuel economy improves from 28.3 to 41.1, a difference of 45%. Along the way, I improved my safety and lowered the wind noise in the cabin. My Canadian friends can convert the MPG to km/hr and the MPG to L/100km, but the bottom line stays the same. A remarkable 45% difference and a real way to save on gas.
But what if I actually need to get there?
Cruising at 65 MPH does seem a bit sleepy. On highway 90, along the southern shore of Lake Erie, the speed limit is 70 MPH, so at 65, you are a touch below the limit, relegated to a relative crawl in the slow lane. Mad me feel a bit aged beyond my years.
And what if you actually need to get somewhere? Wouldn’t it take forever traveling at just 65 MPH? Well on a 3o mile commute, the difference in slowing from 75 to 70 MPH is just 2 minutes. And another 2 minutes to slow down to 65 MPH. Most of us fritter away those 4 minutes and then some. The average American watches 28 hours of TV a week or 4 hours a day. No the 4 minutes don’t really matter.
Maybe it’s time to slow down a bit as a powerful way to save on gas. If 10 MPH seems like too big of a drop, try 5 or 6 MPH as a start. Like any habit, give yourself some time to adjust. At these slower speeds you can enjoy a quieter ride, more time for a good podcast or a stimulating conversation, reduced maintenance, a safer trip and, of course more cash in the bank. As your savings pile up, be sure to use them to pay down debts or increase your investment contributions.
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