Auto Club: Consumers Should Watch Vehicle Speed To Avoid Draining Gas Tank And Wallet

Fuel Economy Gauge by Raniel Diaz
Photo by Raniel Diaz https://www.flickr.com/photos/ranieldiaz/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

What does driving faster than the speed limit do to your vehicle’s fuel efficiency and budget?  Since gas prices are increasing because of demand and rising crude oil prices, the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Research Center (ARC) tested vehicles’ fuel economy to find out how aggressive driving can impact fuel economy and impact consumers’ budgets.

“It’s logical to say fuel economy will decrease as a vehicle’s speed increases,” said the Auto Club’s ARC Manager Megan McKernan.  “But we wanted to know by how much. So we tested vehicles by increasing speed from 60 miles per hour to 85 miles per hour in 5-mile--per-hour increments.”

The ARC found that fuel economy decreased by an average of 9 percent when traveling at 70 mph instead of 65 mph.  That’s equivalent to paying 38 cents more per gallon on average, or $4.94 per fill up based on the average 13 gallon small car gas tank, according to McKernan.  “Adding it up comes to a difference of about $168 annually, while paying $3.75 per gallon. And that is just for a modest 5 miles per hour increase—it gets much more expensive the faster you go - $309 at 75 miles per hour and $491 at 80 miles per hour. 

“And the larger the vehicle, the bigger the drain,” said McKernan.  “Many full-size pickup trucks carry double that amount of fuel since most come with a standard 26 gallon tank.”

Auto Club Automotive Research Center Fuel Efficiency Testing:

 

Fuel Economy (MPG)

Vehicle

60 MPH

65 MPH

70 MPH

75MPH

80 MPH

85 MPH

 

         

 

Toyota Prius

58.1

54.8

47.5

45.8

41.9

38.4

Nissan Versa Note

50.7

47.0

42.8

39.2

35.7

32.0

Ford Fusion Hybrid

44.9

41.4

37.3

35.3

31.7

30.4

Audi A3

41.3

38.3

35.8

33.3

30.6

28.6

Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

35.3

32.4

30.2

27.2

24.9

23.0

Nissan Quest

35.0

31.9

29.2

26.6

24.2

22.0

Dodge Durango

33.3

30.5

27.9

25.8

23.9

21.8

Ford Mustang GT

28.4

26.8

25.0

23.4

22.0

20.5

Cadillac Escalade

29.5

26.3

23.2

21.5

19.9

18.4

Toyota Tacoma

24.8

22.9

20.8

19.0

17.6

16.4

Ford F150

24.0

21.7

19.4

17.4

15.4

13.7

 

         

 

AVERAGE

36.6

33.8

30.7

28.5

26.1

24.1

Annual cost ($3.75/gal, 15k mi)

$1,537

$1,664

$1,832

$1,974

$2,155

$2,334

Annual cost ($4.00/gal, 15k mi)

$1,639

$1,775

$1,954

$2,105

$2,299

$2,490

 

MPG Difference from 65 MPH

Vehicle

60 MPH

65 MPH

70 MPH

75MPH

80 MPH

85 MPH

 

         

 

Toyota Prius

3.3

0.0

-7.3

-9.0

-12.8

-16.4

Nissan Versa Note

3.7

0.0

-4.2

-7.8

-11.2

-15.0

Ford Fusion Hybrid

3.5

0.0

-4.0

-6.0

-9.6

-10.9

Audi A3

3.0

0.0

-2.5

-5.0

-7.7

-9.7

Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

2.8

0.0

-2.2

-5.2

-7.5

-9.5

Nissan Quest

3.1

0.0

-2.7

-5.3

-7.7

-9.9

Dodge Durango

2.7

0.0

-2.6

-4.7

-6.6

-8.7

Ford Mustang GT

1.6

0.0

-1.8

-3.4

-4.8

-6.4

Cadillac Escalade

3.2

0.0

-3.1

-4.8

-6.4

-8.0

Toyota Tacoma

1.9

0.0

-2.1

-3.9

-5.3

-6.5

Ford F150

2.3

0.0

-2.3

-4.3

-6.3

-8.0

 

         

 

AVERAGE

2.8

0.0

-3.1

-5.3

-7.7

-9.8

Annual cost increase ($3.75/gal)

($127)

$0

$168

$309

$491

$670

Equivalent per gallon increase

($0.29)

$0

$0.38

$0.70

$1.11

$1.51

Annual cost increase ($4.00/gal)

($136)

$0

$179

$330

$524

$714

Equivalent per gallon increase

($0.31)

$0.00

$0.40

$0.74

$1.18

$1.61

 

When Would Consumers Change Driving Habits of Offset Higher Gas Prices?

A recent AAA survey found the vast majority of consumers would change their driving habits or lifestyle to offset higher gas prices.  One in four across the nation say they would start making changes at $2.75, while 40 percent say $3 a gallon is their tipping point. 

The AAA survey also found that the price at which consumers would start changing habits or lifestyle varies by region.  In the West, 44 percent of consumers said they would start changing their habits or lifestyle at $3.75 a gallon; at $4 a gallon, 66 percent said they would begin making changes. 

“Motorists can significantly reduce fuel consumption and save money by adjusting their driving style,” said McKernan.  “Driving style impacts motorists’ wallets because warming up an engine, “jack rabbit” starts and speeding can needlessly use up precious gasoline.”

Other Auto Club Fuel Saving Tips for Consumers

In addition to driving the speed limit, instead of over it, the Auto Club and the Automotive Research Center offer some other ways to conserve fuel this spring and summer:

  • Optimize your daily driving habits.  Maintain steady speeds. A car uses more fuel accelerating.  Cruise control may be a fuel-saving option for motorists who do a lot of highway/freeway driving because a steady speed conserves fuel. 
  • Minimize last minute braking. Anticipate traffic conditions. Be alert for slow-downs and red lights and coast up to them, if possible.  Drive smoothly, avoiding “jack rabbit” starts.  Remember, however, that traveling slower than traffic flow can cause a safety hazard.   
  • Make sure you shop around.  Looking for low gasoline prices in their local communities may save motorists money, according to McKernan.  Consumers may easily shop around online by using tools such as the free AAA app, which automatically displays the lowest gas price near the user on the home screen.  Traveling long distances to save a few cents wastes fuel and may cost motorists more money.  
  • Share work or school rides by carpooling or consider public transportation. Sign up for carpooling through your employer or ask around your office and neighborhood if ridesharing is possible.  Employers, in some cases, offer a monetary incentive for car or van pooling.
  •  Do not use your trunk for storage.  The heavier your car, the more fuel it uses.  Remove golf clubs, full backpacks, and other items that don’t belong in the vehicle, but leave the spare tire, if there is one, in the trunk.  Reducing extra weight can save up to two percent fuel economy for every 100 lbs. removed from the vehicle, depending on the vehicle.  Also lose the roof rack, if it’s not being used regularly. Carrying things on a roof rack increases aerodynamic drag and reduces fuel economy year round, not just in the spring and summer.
  • Combine errands.  Plan your route and look for a location where you can take care of all or most errands. If possible, park in a central spot and walk from place to place. 

 

Media Contacts

Elaine Beno
(714) 885-2324
Beno.Elaine@aaa-calif.com