It comes as no surprise that in today's economy, just about nobody is happy with the cost of gasoline. It even becomes a major point of contention around the dinner table.
For those who are frugally watching their gas dollars, this calculator is designed to be part of your road trip preparation package. It's a versatile tool to give you an idea of how much a trip is going to cost, and even helps you split the bill if you're sharing a ride. In fact, you can even use this in your daily driving to track your commute to work and compare your expected gas mileage.
We'll include some practical tips on fuel economy, to help make you a better-educated driver. We all drive, so being well-informed on gas budgeting is a consumer right we all have.
How To Use It
1. Determine your planned distance. Let's say you're planning a weekend getaway from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, about 270 miles.
2. Find out your fuel economy. You can look this up online for your make and model of vehicle. Let's say we're in a Buick Encore getting 25/city - 30/hwy, MPG.
3. Input price of fuel. You'll have to do some research along the way. In the California / Nevada area, as of this writing, it was around $4.00/gallon.
4. This gives us total cost of $36. Input the number of people who will be splitting this cost, if applicable.
5. For two people throwing in half, that works to $18. Don't forget to figure for round-trip though, so that's $36 for two people - assuming you're coming home from Vegas after the weekend, of course.
Note the gas calculator can also convert between imperial and metric units so we can look up both miles per gallon of gas and kilometers per liter of petrol. It's even possible to input one unit then use the drop-down menu at the right side of the calculator to convert between those units on the fly, in case you know your car's KPM but not the MPG.
Gas Economy Statistics
Until we get the whole world on track with hybrid, electric, or otherwise renewable energy in cars, gas spending is still something we all have to live with. The AAA (American Automobile Association) reports the average American spending $3K on fuel annually.
Gas prices are affected by dozens of metrics. One surprising factor in gas prices is location; in our Los Angeles to Las Vegas example, we're tracking a trip between two major cities in one of the most expensive regions. As of this writing, the national average price of gas is $2.80 per gallon, with most of the country at that rate or lower and with the south-eastern US - Texas to the Bible Belt - enjoying gas at $2.40/ gallon!
Gas prices vary all over the world, too, with different countries in the EU having widely different rates. This is partly a matter of local taxes and partly a matter of plain old supply and demand. The west coast of California is one of the most-trafficked regions in the world, while fewer people are cruising through the wheat fields of Nebraska. California, being more transportation-conscious, also has to account for the staggering cost of road maintenance on all those L.A. freeways.
Gas prices have also been affected by things like oil refinery rates, international trade agreements, and sometimes politics too. During the famed 1973 oil crisis, OPEC (Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries) imposed an oil embargo for political reasons which shot gas prices up 400% in the USA. Whenever there's an unstable geopolitical situation near a Middle-Eastern country, drivers nervously eye the pump.
Even natural disasters can affect oil prices. For instance, whenever there's a hurricane, flood, tsunami, or other major weather events capable of submerging a whole city, local oil refineries are hit too, driving down the supply at the exact point where demand for gas goes up due to rescue efforts.
Recent decades have seen the US come up in oil production, now becoming a major oil supplier in terms of world economy. The US is currently producing 12% of the world's oil, putting it on an even footing with even Middle Eastern countries. However, the US uses far more than that share of the world's oil, so it still has to import the difference.
Fuel Efficiency Tips:
No matter your vehicle's fuel efficiency rating, you can still help squeeze some extra miles out of a gallon by following some common sense tips:
• Research prices online. Plan your route while you're at it.
• Consider fueling up away from the main freeway. Prices get more expensive near the freeway ramps, but cheaper only a few blocks away.
• Gas is gas - fuel is regulated according to strict guidelines, so the smaller mom-and-pop station sells the same gas as the major multinational brand, but usually cheaper.
• If you have the opportunity, join a rewards program or other retail cashback program. Typically a store chain will be affiliated with a gas station chain, buying groceries gives you a discount on gas at their stations and whatnot.
• Stay with the flow of traffic, trying to pick the most open lane on the highway. You want to cruise along at an even speed without undue acceleration or braking. Follow "the rule of least drama," deciding your course based on how little conflict you will have with other vehicles.
• Keep your tire pressure up to recommended levels. Soft tires waste gas.
• Use the AC sparingly, because that eats fuel too. Honestly, driving with the windows down on a road trip is one of the great joys in life anyway.
• Keep your car well-maintained - most important to fuel economy is changing the oil! A $20 oil change twice per year is a good rule of thumb and can shave dollars off your fuel budget not to mention prolong the life of your car.
Choosing A Car For Best Fuel Economy
Not all of us can pick and choose our vehicle based on fuel usage. Some of us need a big passenger SUV for a big family, some of us need a truck for work, and some of us drive whatever we can afford and keep on the road. However, if you have the choice, remember that just because you need a truck for work does not mean you need the widest, highest, heaviest truck they make.
In the US, which likes to live large compared to the rest of the world, consumers continue to prefer SUVs, pickups, and other bulky, heavy rigs in favor of small sedans. However, in recent years, electric and hybrid cars are starting to gain some popularity with consumers, with somewhere around 10% of Americans surveyed saying they'd consider a hybrid.
For small sedans, electric autos, and other small-body "green" options, the deciding factor is lifestyle. If you're a single person tooling around in the city every day, a small sedan or hybrid makes the most sense.
When you count in mileage, maintenance, repairs, insurance, and taxes, the annual cost of owning a car can vary by as much as a few thousand dollars between the smallest hybrid and the largest pickup truck. The average cost of owning a vehicle - not the sticker price nor factoring in resale value, but just out-of-pocket cost per year to be a driver - runs to about $8.8K per year.
Ranking vehicles strictly by fuel economy, from best to worst, works out to electrics, hybrids, sedans, SUVs, and pickup trucks, with the smaller size always outranking the bulkier size. For the record, car makes with the best fuel economy tend to be Asian imports: Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, Kia,
We hope this article has helped spread awareness of gas economy, personal budgeting, and even a little shed a bit of light on world economics. Remember, we're talking about the environment here too!