Gasoline prices: regular, mid-grade or premium
When I was young, my father would often load us in the car and we would go for a nice sightseeing drive in the countryside on Sunday afternoons. We watched farmers working in their fields, watched dragon-shaped clouds float by, and felt the wind whipping through the open windows. But that was it when driving was one of the cheapest forms of entertainment. Now, not only do I drive very little unnecessarily, but I scratch my head trying to find ways to make my car go a little further with each gallon of fuel. Do I go another round with my boss to try to convince him that he should be able to work from home? Do I spend the extra on premium fuel to see if it really works better?
Getting to the gas pump is when we make the final decision on whether to buy regular unleaded, mid-grade, or premium. The price of the regular is enough to make you cringe, let alone pay the price of the premium. However, on the instrument panel it says “Premium Fuel Only”. The question is, do we follow the rule or do we just buy the fuel we can afford?
Before we can play the game of roulette to buy gas, we need to know what the difference is between the octane levels we see at the pump. The octane number of our fuel is measured at three different levels. There are 87 octane unleaded regular, 89 octane unleaded mid-grade, and 91 octane unleaded premium. The octane level refers to the burning properties of the fuel, the higher the level the cleaner it will burn in your engine. Most vehicles are built for 87 octane, but using 89 or 91 octane is recommended because the fuel will burn cleaner and help reduce or eliminate buildup in the fuel injection system. High octane fuels also burn faster, increasing vehicle performance. Depending on how much time you spend in your car, you may want to burn the higher octane simply to prevent buildup and maintain performance. However, if your car is used simply for quick trips to work and short trips otherwise, you may be ahead of time to buy regular unleaded gasoline and save some money.
As fuel prices start to approach $4 a gallon, we start not only counting pennies, but also counting the miles we have to drive. It’s no longer about taking time for a vacation, but can we afford to buy the gasoline to take a vacation? It was around this time last year that we started hearing the word “staycation,” those stay-at-home vacations that were affordable. People could afford to decorate the patio and buy some special items to make the stay more fun, instead of spending all that money to go somewhere. The word “hyper-mile” also came up. That phenomenon which means a driver is driving to get every possible mile out of the gallon, so he skids down a hill and stops, drives without the air conditioning on, never exceeds the speed limit, etc. All of these things that maximize vehicle mileage are done on a daily basis. Everything that is necessary to make the fuel last longer is on everyone’s mind.
When it comes down to it, do you know how to calculate your mileage and how much it costs to go to the grocery store? If we know the miles per gallon (mpg) we are getting, then we can calculate how much a $.10 increase in fuel prices will affect our budget or how perhaps getting a car with better mileage would lower monthly costs. The first step in finding out the number is to go to the gas station and fill up the gas tank. Then record the mileage on the odometer before walking away from the pump, or simply reset the trip odometer. Drive your car as you normally would and let your gas tank go down to at least half a tank of gas. The lower you let your tank go, the better average rating you’ll get, but you don’t want to run out of gas, either. Go back to the gas station, preferably the same one as before, and refill your tank. Record the amount of gasoline it took to refill the tank and also record the mileage from either your odometer or trip odometer. Remember if you are using the normal odometer; Subtract the original reading from the new reading to get the miles driven. Divide the miles driven by the number of gallons it took to refill the tank. The result will be your car’s average miles per gallon. It is important to note that you must redo this calculation for each different octane fuel you use, so regular, mid-grade, and premium unleaded fuel.
Once you have these calculations for each type of fuel, you can apply the price per gallon of fuel to calculate the cost per mile. Just divide the price of gas by the mpg of your car to get the cost per mile. For example, the current average cost of regular unleaded gasoline is $3,517 divided by 22 mpg = 0.159 cents per mile. For the medium grade it would cost 0.1658 cents per mile and for the premium it would cost 0.171 cents per mile. It is obvious that regular unleaded gasoline is cheaper. However, if you get several more miles per gallon using a medium grade, it might be worth paying the extra 1.5 cents to upgrade. That’s why it’s important to calculate the average miles per gallon for each grade of fuel so you can truly determine which grade of fuel works best in your vehicle. Saving cash at the pump can cost you more in miles than it’s actually worth and means you’re using more fuel than saving money.
Many newer vehicles today have their own computer that tells you the miles per gallon on each tank of fuel, so most of the above calculations may not be necessary for you, and you simply need to keep track of fuel mileage. of your car on a piece of paper and apply the cost of fuel. The important thing is to know all the numbers to make an informed decision on which octane to buy, rather than just deciding based on label shock.
In addition to staying home and hyper-miling, we can also follow up on a few maintenance checks to boost our mpg a bit. If your vehicle has recently failed an emissions test, fixing the problem could improve your mileage by an average of 4%. Repairing a problem like a bad oxygen sensor can improve your mileage by up to 40%. Maintaining the proper air pressure in your tires can improve mileage by up to 3.3%, as well as improve tire life. Using the proper grade of motor oil can improve your mileage by 1-2%. Each of these tips can make a small mileage improvement, and if you can take advantage of a couple of them, you can see a marked difference the next time you fuel up.
Aside from starting to walk everywhere or bike everywhere, we still have to buy fuel. With current situations, we simply need to buy smarter and hold smarter. It’s all about getting to know your vehicle and then knowing how to make it last longer and perform better. If you can remember to stop and go down the hills, that’s free miles and more power for you. For those who find themselves in constant stop-and-go traffic, do the best you can and keep your car maintenance up to date. Remember, when you’re waiting in line at the bank, the fastest deposit you can make is to turn off your engine and save a few pennies. There’s not much we can do about rising fuel prices, but we can do a little about how much we use and how much mileage our car keeps. Go ahead and hop on the drive, but educate yourself on how to make it cost as little as possible.