AAA Debunks Gas-Saving Urban Legends, Myths

by Katlyn Richter on March 25, 2011 · 0 comments

We’re thankful to AAA South Dakota for sharing this great information with us. Below, you’ll see a post that helps readers understand some myths and facts about fuel saving techniques. Thanks AAA South Dakota, we hope that you enjoy this read!

News from AAA South Dakota, March 24 – Gasoline prices have remained steady over the last ten days across South Dakota, according to The South Dakota average for self-serve regular is $3.549 per gallon today and $3.551 a gallon across the country. There is no guarantee this trend will continue, so many drivers are changing their habits and seeking ways to save money at the pump. However, cash-strapped and stressed-out motorists should be leery of some fuel conservation and money saving tips that are being offered. AAA South Dakota is debunking the latest myths, urban legends, fables, and old wives’ tales about saving fuel and money at the pump. 

Crusin' through Spearfish Canyon - Photo by SD Tourism

Myth #1: Boycotting filling stations one day a week will cause the oil companies to lower fuel prices.
False: This one makes the rounds via email chains and is a favorite of Facebook users every time pump prices soar. Unless you stop driving your car altogether, you are merely postponing the inevitable. “The United States consumed about 137.93 billion gallons (or 3.28 billion barrels) of gasoline in 2009,” according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

That works out to a daily average of about 388 million gallons or 8.99 million barrels, the EIA notes. Unless we curb our addiction to gas, it’s a matter of “pay me now or pay me later” at the filling station. At today’s price level, we are spending about 1.4 billion dollars a day nationwide on fuel purchases.


Myth #2
: Additives and products improve fuel efficiency.

False: AAA has found that these products do not work. Avoid speeding, rapid acceleration and braking to lower gas mileage. This can translate to a savings of 15 cents to $1 per gallon, according to the Department of Energy.

Myth #3: Driving the most fuel efficient car in your driveway will save you an extra $4,240 in fuel costs over five years.
True: Assuming one car gets 20 MPG and the other gets 30 MPG, and you drive 15,000 miles a year. With a fuel cost of $3.55, you will save that much over the five-year period. The average cost of owning and operating a sedan rose 4.8 percent to 56.6 cents per mile during 2009, according to the 2010 edition of AAA’s annual “Your Driving Costs” study. That’s $8,487 per year, based on 15,000 miles of annual driving.

The cost of owning and operating a small sedan, again based on driving 15,000 miles per year, was $6,496. Annually, it was $10,530 for a large sedan, $9,301 for a minivan, and $11, 085 for a 4WD SUV, the study showed. But that was based on an annual cost of regular unleaded at $2.603. It’s much higher now.

Myth #4: Trading your gas-guzzling SUV or large sedan for a more fuel-efficient compact or hybrid vehicle makes more money or economic sense.
False: It is “cheaper to keep her,” as the old saying goes. Unless your car note is already paid off, you are simply accumulating more consumer debt. “About 82 percent of new car loans today have terms of 60 to 77.9 months,” according to a study by J.D. Power and Associates.

Therefore, most Americans are “upside down” or “underwater” in their car loans, meaning, as borrowers, they still owe more money on the car loan than the vehicle is really worth. The average owed at trade-in is $4,221 more than the vehicle is worth, one study shows. If you trade-in your vehicle, the dealer will simply roll the old loan into the new loan, increasing your debt load. Plus, when fuel is high, the trade-in value for a gas-guzzler falls.

Myth #5: Premium-grade gasoline is better than regular gasoline.
It depends. Depending upon where you fill-up, premium is 18 cents to 25 cents higher than regular blend. It’s tempting to switch to save a fistful of dollars.  But your owner’s manual is your Bible.  Follow it to see what blend your car really needs. Back in 1988, 15 percent of passenger cars sold in the US required premium. Today, premium gas accounts for about nine percent of the gas sold in America today.

Here’s the catch. Some vehicles, but not all, operate just fine burning regular-grade gas. There’s a world of difference between “recommended” and “required.” That’s often not the case with many sports and luxury models. The fact is, engines with higher compression ratios need more octane. Ask yourself, is the $4.00 you save per fill-up worth the engine knocking?

Myth #6: Set the fuel nozzle on the lowest setting to get more fuel and less air/vapor in your tank
True: Station nozzles are designed so that little air/vapor takes the place of the gas you’re pumping. If you wish to have a fuller tank, pump more slowly. However, you’ll still have to pay for it.

Myth#7: Hypermiling can improve your gas mileage.
False: The goals of hypermiling are positive, such as eliminating aggressive driving and saving energy, notes AAA. Unfortunately, some motorists have taken their desire to improve fuel economy to extremes with techniques that put themselves, as well as their fellow motorists, in danger.

Examples of dangerous hypermiling techniques include: cutting off the vehicle’s engine or putting it in neutral to coast on a roadway, tailgating or drafting larger vehicles, rolling through stop signs and driving at erratic and unsafe speeds. These practices, notes AAA, can put motorists in treacherous situations, especially where there’s heavy congestion. You could lose power steering and brakes or be unable to react to quickly changing traffic conditions, putting you into harm’s way.

Myth #8: Over-inflating tires will improve fuel efficiency.
False: Over-inflating tires does not improve fuel efficiency, tire makers and highway safety experts, including AAA, say. It merely results in tires wearing more quickly and having less traction on the road. Improve fuel economy by maintaining the recommended pressure.

Myth #9
: A vehicle uses more fuel to shut down/restart than to leave idle.
False: When a vehicle is running but not moving, it is achieving negative miles per gallon. In addition, a warm engine uses minimal fuel to shut down and restart. If you’re stopping for longer than a minute, it’s a good idea to shut down your vehicle.

AAA Contact –  Mark Madeja: 605.221.1623 / 605.222.2723 / For more information on AAA releases, visit

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