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Finances & Money Frugality

Forced to get better gas mileage

No, this isn’t an article about Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that force automakers to make more fuel efficient cars. Instead, it’s my own personal story of how I was forced to get my best-recorded mileage in my Honda Ridgeline ever.

A bit of background

I’m sure I’ve gotten short stints of excellent gas mileage before, but they never showed up on my radar because I only calculate the mileage after I fill the tank. By then, I’ve probably blown the fuel economy with jackrabbit starts and high speeds. But in the time I’ve owned the Honda Ridgeline, I’ve never seen anything higher than about 21.5mpg.

In fact, since they added 10% ethanol to the gas mix, I’ve only seen my gas mileage above 20 once. Normally, I’m getting about 17-18mpg (mixed city/highway). And in May, I recorded my worst gas mileage ever…13mpg!

The Cars

This past weekend, we drove to central PA to see family, and we decided to take the truck. Sure, the MINI Cooper is more efficient, but I just wanted to drive since I never get to anymore (and Stacie doesn’t let me drive the MINI, even though it’s technically “my car”).

But we weren’t just going home to see family. We were going to pick up the Pontiac Grand Am we took back in early May for inspection and some repairs. Now that we have the car, I might sell the truck, but that’s a different story.

The Police

So on the way home Sunday evening, I drove the truck and Stacie followed in the car. We both had a full tank of gas to begin. Here’s where the trouble (for me) begins. I’m used to driving fast, especially on the interstate. I generally go about 10-20 over the speed limit (max 80mph usually), but I was being followed by the police the whole way. No, not the real police. The “Stacie Police”.

You see, Stacie will only go at most 10mph over the speed limit, and since I was being the good husband, I didn’t want to leave her and speed along my merry way. So right there, I was limited to 65-75mph max.

Men at Work

Wait, are my headings making a theme of their own (the 80s)? Anywho, the summer is road construction time for Pennsylvania because they can’t get anything done the other 11 months of the year (what, you thought PA had 3 full months of summer?). So for a good portion of the trip, we had to go 50-55mph through miles of traffic barrels or risk double-sized fines (from the real police). In these instances, I just put the truck into cruise control so I wouldn’t be tempted to gun it.

And then on the PA Turnpike, thanks to Stacie’s speed limit rule, I got stuck drafting behind a semi for about 10 miles. That definitely helps fuel economy!

Blondie

Ok, that heading has nothing to do with the story, but I wanted to throw in one of Stacie’s favorite 80s bands.

So shortly after entering into Maryland on I-70, we got stuck in stop and go traffic (no accidents, just too many people). I’m positive my fuel economy would be even better if we didn’t hit traffic. We ended up getting off the interstate and took a scenic route.

Along the way, I spotted gas for $3.89 per gallon! Screeeeech! That’s 20 cents cheaper than anywhere near our home, and since we were both down close to a half-tank left, we stopped for fuel. And that’s when I got a surprise.

I got 23 mpg!

Some of you may say “woopdidoo” or “sucka, that’s what you get for owning a truck”, but I don’t care because I already know. But this is a big deal. I didn’t think my truck was capable of more than 22mpg any longer. But it is, and maybe even better!

Even the EPA says my truck should only get 15-20mpg (the new numbers) or 16-21 (old numbers).

The Moral of the Story

So the takeaway here is that you too can get more efficiency out of your car by just driving a little slower (i.e. closer to the speed limit). The other tip is to drive consistently. Don’t gun it to pass people just to get one car ahead in a line of 30. Slow and smooth, like Barry White would do, slow and smooth. Awwww yeahhhh.

About the author

Clever Dude

8 Comments

  • My car usually gets about 28mpg highway, but a few weeks back I drove 200 miles on the highway, and forced myself to stay at 55mph. I got 34mpg.

    My truck generally gets about 17mpg on the highway. A couple years ago I drove 800 miles at 55mph, and got 21mpg. Mind you that’s in a 7500 pound truck. I was able to drive the full 800 miles without filling the tank once (40 gallon tank).

    So whenever I hear people complaining about high gas prices, I look at the number of peopel speeding (and single-occupancy vehicles), and realize that it’s just whining. It’s well within our reach to save substantial amounts of gas, but we choose not to.

  • but people drive slow enough, aka the left lane vigalanties.

    if you drop the speed limit 10 miles slower again, then the llv’s would drive even slower, leading to more road rage. thats the last thing we need nowadays, is more upset people.
    also, most people chose to ignore the law anyway.

    to quote the great thespian of our time, homer simpson: “Sure, it’ll save a few lives, but millions will be late!”

    (and don’t say repeal the gas tax…that is the stupidest idea ever…just think what the gas tax pays for…thats right, it pays for the upkeep of roads…but then again, look who is pushing it…the guy who is just learning about this intrawebs, and still thinks that czechoslovakia is still a country…)

  • I don’t know if it was how fast you drove, or the fact that you drove more consistently. I have a 2001 Subaru Forester that gets about 20 mpg (I don’t drive it that much, only 4 miles to work each day). But I drove it from Los Angeles to San Diego and back on one tank, very light traffic (so very little braking), going about 75 mph with intermittent cruise control and posted 25 mpg.

  • yuup… I found this out a few weeks ago. The most I’ve ever gotten out of my 2002 Honda Civic is 44 mpg (not that I’m complaining, lol). But I drove 400 miles at 55 mph and I got 51. At least, that’s what I figured. But I’m still not sure I believe it. I guess I’ll have to do another experiment.

  • Definitely the easiest way to save on your fuel cost is to reduce the speed and drive consistently. I am also trying to add Acetone to my tank next time I fill up and do a long business trip (approx 1000 miles). I have done some research on the internet and curious to see if I can improve my mpg by 10-30% as reported. If you have an older car/truck, it might be worth looking into as well.

  • LoL. I can relate – Husband and I drive similar to you and Stacie. I generally don’t drive more than five over the speed limit, if that, and Husband, well, we’ll just say he drives a bit faster than I do 🙂

    My mom said she’s found that by driving 55 or 60, instead of 65 or 70, she ends up getting another day out of her tank of gas. As an added bonus, she doesn’t have to worry about trying to pass lots of people – she can just sit in the right lane while everybody passes her (she hates driving in traffic).

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