Save Money On Gas: Avoid These 12 Gas Saving Myths

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With gas prices once again on the rise, more and more people will be looking for ways to save money on gas. In their pursuit to achieve this goal, they very well may end up hurting their pocket book. Many people assume that they are saving money on gas when they really aren’t. Here are some common gas saving myths that people still do to their detriment:

Trading in a Gas Guzzler for a Fuel Efficient Car

OK, this will save you gas, but it won’t necessarily save you any money. In fact, there is a good chance that while you are saving money on gas, you’ll lose money overall making this move. The issue is that when gas prices get high, everyone is looking to trade-in their gas guzzler for more fuel efficient transportation. The result is that those vehicles that guzzle gas get undervalued when traded in and fuel efficient cars go for a premium since there is so much demand (and there are some contrarians who actually buy SUVs during high gas prices to take advantage of this). Even though you are going to be saving money on gas, will you be saving the thousands of dollars loss it costs you to make the trade when you are only paying an extra $10 per tank? If you are driving a huge amount of miles each week, it might. For the average person, however, it probably won’t.

The best course of action is to actually run the numbers. Figure out how much of a loss you will take for trading in your gas guzzler and calculate how long it will take for the increased fuel efficiency to make it a good financial move. Now, if your gas guzzler is old and you have been thinking about getting a new car, most definitely opt for a more fuel efficient car.

Fill Up at the Cheapest Gas Station

With all the Internet sites and phone aps that track what gas is selling for, it’s now much easier to know which gas station in your area is selling gas for the least amount of money. The temptation is to drive to whatever gas station is selling gas for the least amount to get the best savings, but this can be false savings. Much like the person that drives around to different grocery stores to save a few cents, if you end up driving out of your way to save on gas, you are likely using any savings that you get from the less expensive gas for the cost of driving there.

If you drive 5 miles out of your way to save $0.10 a gallon and you place 10 gallons into the tank, you end up saving $1.00 over what you would have paid at a closer, more expensive gas station. A dollar is a dollar, but you also put an extra 10 miles (the the gas station and back) on your car. How much it actually costs to operate your car will vary from make and model, but the IRS allows anywhere from $0.14 per mile (for charity) to $0.55 per mile (business) for 2012. Even if you take the lowest rate, the cost of costs and depreciation to get you to the gas station was $0.40 more than you saved.

The lesson is that less expensive gas is not necessarily saving you money if you have to go out of your way to get it. The best course of action is to choose the least expensive gas on your regular route where you don’t have to deviate from where you were going to be going anyway.

Paying Cash for Gas Saves Money

Many gas stations offer a discount when purchasing gas when you pay cash instead of by credit card (usually around $0.10 a gallon). Then there are some gas stations where the gas prices tend to be lower like ARCO, but they don’t accept credit cards. Many people look at the lower gas prices for cash and think they are saving money by using cash, but the truth is that they are paying more than if they use a credit card that pays 5% back on gas purchases.

If gas is $4.00 a gallon and you put 10 gallons into your vehicle, you save $1.00 when paying cash rather than a credit card. The reason this isn’t any savings is that if you paid with a gas rewards credit card that pays 5% cash back, you save $2.00, or 100% more. Again, you need to do the calculations to see which is actually ends up costing you less, but most times you’ll save more by using a cash back credit card on gas than taking the cash price. With this in mind, you want to look for the least expensive gas station on your regular route that accepts credit cards.

Gas Saving Devices Work

When gas prices start to increase, people begin to look for any way to get better gas mileage. Inevitably, they hear about devices that are supposed to increase gas mileage by increasing the airflow to the engine which is supposed to improve the car’s fuel efficiency. Consumer Reports has tested a number of these devices to see if their claims are true, and not only did they not save gas, but they actually increased gas consumption along with wear on the engine.

If any of these devices really did work, independent organizations would have long ago come out and given them their blessing. None have. Spending $50 or more on these devices will take money out of your pocket while not helpiong your car’s fuel efficiency at all.

Gas Saving Additives Work

Much like the gas saving devices, there are a lot of gasoline additives that claim that they can increase the fuel efficiency of vehicles by as much as 25% and getting people to pay a lot to use them. The problem is that there is no verifiable studies that indicate that any of these work. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has tested over 100 products that claim that they save gas and none has significantly improved gas mileage. As Consumer Reports notes, if any gas saving additive did increase gas mileage, there would be a huge rush by oil companies to market their new gas blend to gain a bigger share of the gasoline market.

Over Inflate Tire Pressure To Save Gas

The concept would seem sound. By over-inflating tires, the tires will have less friction against the road, which in turn means the engine doesn’t need to work as hard to keep the car’s wheels spinning. This should make over-inflated tires save a bit of money on gas compared to properly inflated tires. tested this and found that there was no noticeable difference in gas consumption of cars with over-inflated tires and properly inflated tires. Even if there is a slight improvement in gas mileage with over-inflated tires, this would end up costing you more in the long run. The problem with over-inflated tires is that they wear out more quickly and often times irregularly causing them to have to be replaced more often. Any savings in gas would be wiped out with the increased cost of replacing tires. Add to that the fact that over inflating tires increases the risk of accidents due to a decrease in stopping ability and poorer handling and this gas saving technique has the potential to be quite costly to your wallet in the long run.

Turning on the AC Wastes Gas

This is the classic “AC on with windows down vs. AC off with windows up” argument. While one might be slightly more fuel efficient than the other depending on the speed of the car and its aerodynamics with the windows down, most car sources and independent rating sites call this debate a tie.

This is one of those tips that may have been true years ago when using the AC put a lot of stress on the engine, but this is no longer the case with modern cars. While running the AC does pull some power from the engine (so not running the AC with the windows rolled up will get you a bit better gas mileage than having the AC on with windows rolled up), rolling down the windows increases aerodynamic drag which also decreases fuel efficiency so they basically cancel each other out.

Regular Tune-Ups Will Save Gas

This would seem to make sense on the surface. If a car isn’t properly tuned, then it seems pretty obvious that there would be a good chance that it was wasting gas. In the past with older cars, this was true and that is where this gas saving tip originates. The reason that this tip is no longer applicable is that most cars no longer need regular tune-ups due to advances in technology. Newer cars have computers which take care of all the engine adjustments needed to keep the car running well. The only ones that require you to take your car in is if the “check engine” light comes on or if it’s due for regularly scheduled maintenance as indicated in the car’s owner’s manual. Doing any regular tune-ups beyond these would be a waste of money and not increase your gas mileage.

Premium Gas Equals Better Mileage

This better mileage tip has it’s basis in reality, but simply doesn’t apply to the vast majority of people. If you purchase a car with a high performance engine that requires higher octane fuel, then you want to place premium gas into that car and it should make that car run better (and thus get better mileage) than if regular unleaded gas was put into the tank. The issue is that most car engines on the road don’t require anything beyond regular unleaded gas to perform at their best, meaning that putting in the higher grade gas won’t make them perform any better.

Fill Up in Cold Weather to Get More Gas at the Pump

This is a gas myth that has it’s origin in science. When gas is cool it’s denser than when it’s warm. Denser gas would give you more miles per gallon than gas that was less dense. Therefore the assumption goes that if you fill your car up with gas during the cooler periods of the day, you will be pumping gas that is denser in volume than if you pump the gas at warmer periods of the day giving you a better value for your money.

The problem with this is that gas is stored in underground tanks which are deep enough that the air temperature of the day doesn’t effect it. So even if you pump your gas in the heat of the day, the temperature of the underground tank remains the same meaning that you get the same amount of gas density no matter what time of the day you pump. In addition, most gas pumps today are engineered to equalize any temperature differences (because the underground tank’s temperature can vary during seasons) to ensure that density remains consistent.

A Clean Air-Filter Will Save Gas

This is another gas saving myth that gets it’s origin from older model cars where it was true, but new technology has made it obsolete and no longer the case. It was true when cars had carburetors, keeping the air-filter extra clean could help the car to get better gas mileage. Today, the car’s computer system regulates the amount of gas that is injecting into the engine so that the air-filter being a little dirty isn’t going to make a difference in gas mileage. This is especially true since today’s air-filters have also greatly improved to allow better airflow even when they begin to get dirty.

Now, if the air-filter is completely filthy, that’s another story. If the air-filter ever does get dirty enough to effect engine performance, the “check engine” light would likely go on, so constantly replacing air filters at the first sign of any dirt will end up costing you money for the filter without giving you any benefit of better gas mileage.

Leave the Engine Idling During Quick Stops

This gas saving myth comes about with the assumption that it takes more gas to start a car than letting it idle for a short time, so if you are running into a store for just a few seconds, it saves more gas to leave the car running than it would to turn it off and on again. The easiest way to dispel this myth is the hybrid car. The entire concept of the hybrid car is to save gas by shutting off the engine when it isn’t moving or moving slowly, and that is how it gets such great gas mileage. By not wasting any gas when you are stopped (if the engine is running and the car isn’t moving, you are getting 0 miles per gallon), the hybrid cars are able to get overall better mileage than standard engine cars. There is no extra gas used when turning off and on a car engine that is already warmed (there is a bit for engines that are cold), so if you want to save the most gas possible, don’t leave the engine idling anytime you are parked even if it’s only for a short period.

Everyone wants to save gas, especially when gas prices rocket to their current levels. That doesn’t mean that you should go out and try every tip you hear in order to try and get better gas mileage because, as the above list shows, there are a lot of times when you think you might be saving money when you actually aren’t. Always do a bit of research to make sure the gas saving tips are accurate and will actually help you accomplish the goal of saving money.

(Photo courtesy of °Florian)

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5 Responses to Save Money On Gas: Avoid These 12 Gas Saving Myths

  1. bobebob says:

    I can beat the gas prices in the picture:

    If picture doesn’t come out, it was taken in Furnace Creek in Death Valley and prices were:
    $5.409 for Reg
    $5.510 for Plus
    $5.629 for Supream and
    $5.779 for Diesel

  2. Old Man says:

    I have a better solution you just take the engine out of the car
    and the gas tank plus muffler an pipes. Go online and buy an
    Electric motor kit AC or DC install and forget the price of gas

  3. Frügal says:

    What actually works? Changing your driving habits can save you a LOT! I am saving over $600/yr by driving more efficiently.

    Here is a post from my old blog that gives a LOT of information:

  4. Marcus says:

    > The best course of action is to choose the least expensive gas on your regular route where you don’t have to deviate from where you were going to be going anyway.

    Completely agree, that’s why I built, a new gas prices web site that finds the lowest gas prices along a route.

  5. Ronald J. says:

    Yep, we’re pretty good at deceiving ourselves with obsolete information passed down from days-gone-by in the automotive world. It’s difficult to dispute just about anything mentioned above, but I still think a dirty air filter forces the computer to reduce the fuel mixture causing loss of power and performance. As the engine gets “lazy” due to reduced gasoline
    injected (which matches reduced airflow), the driver will apply more throttle in order to achieve the desired speed. It’s a never-ending loop of reduced engine performance v/s driver demands. Oh, there’s no need to scrutinize/replace the air filter element on a pre-determined, personal schedule unless driving conditions warrant it. It is a good idea to take a look at it once in awhile, especially if the vehicle is driven in dusty/harsh conditions other than suburban Americana. Obviously, many areas of the USA are much more engine UNFRIENDLY than others. Let local driving conditions help to determine what really is needed on this subject.

    As for VAPOR RECOVERY systems at filling stations…the recovery system WILL NOT suck liquid fuel back into the station’s tanks. Even the slightest hint of liquid fuel being pulled back into the recovery system causes the pump handle to “TRIP OFF”. I worked in a convenience store/gas station for 6 years and studied the vapor recovery system’s workings. This is just a “boogie man” myth created to demonize gas stations when the price of gasoline takes a spike. Hell, we’ve got to blame somebody for our woes, so the first entity to feel our wrath is the local gas station or the affiliated oil company! It’s got nothing to do with our insatiable demand for petroleum based fuels!

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