How much does it cost to drive? Driving cost calculators and tools

My girlfriend recently bought a new car. After 23 years, she sold her 1997 Honda Accord to a guy who’s more mechanically inclined than we are. Kim upgraded to a 2016 Toyota RAV4, and she loves it.

One of her primary considerations when searching for a new car was the cost to drive it. In her ideal world, she would have purchased a fully-electric vehicle but it just wasn’t in her budget. The RAV4 hybrid was a compromise. According to fueleconomy.gov, it gets an estimated 32 miles per gallon. (And actual users report 34.7 miles per gallon.)

Cost to drive a RAV4 hybrid

Kim’s quest for a fuel-efficient car prompted me to revisit apps and online tools that help users track their driving and fuel habits. I’ve written about these in the past — and, in fact, this is an updated article from 2008! — but haven’t looked into them recently.

Here’s a quick look at some of my favorite driving cost calculators, tools, and apps.

Cost to Drive

Cost to Drive (stylized Cost2Drive) is an easy-to-use web app that estimates how much you’ll spend to drive from point A to point B. Enter your starting point (address, city, state, or zip code) and your destination, enter your vehicle information, then click a button.

Cost to Drive input

That’s it. Cost to Drive calculates travel distance, approximate driving time, and an estimate of your fuel costs. Here, for instance, is how much it would cost to drive from Portland to visit Kim’s brother in Groveland, California.

Cost to Drive output

This tool is handy for road trips, of course, but it’s also useful for extended journeys. Before Kim and I set out on our R.V. trip across the U.S., I used Cost to Drive to estimate how much we’d spend on fuel. (I was way off, but that’s not the fault of the tool. I overestimated the fuel economy of our motorhome!)

This isn’t the sort of tool that you’ll use every day, but it’s certainly useful enough to bookmark for later use.

Folks in Europe — and possibly the rest of the world — might want to play with the Via Michelin app, which offers route planning and driving cost calculations.

Fuelly

While we only used the Cost to Drive once for our R.V. trip, we used the Fuelly app every single day. And I still use it today.

Fuelly is primarily a smartphone app with which you can track your vehicle’s fuel economy. Whenever you stop to pump gas, you enter mileage and pricing info into the app, and it computes how much it costs to drive.

Here, for instance, are two screencaps from Fuelly showing how it tracked info for our motorhome.

Fuelly cost to drive screenshot  Fuelly cost to drive info

To get more accurate estimates of the cost to drive your vehicle, you can also log maintenance info in Fuelly. And, as you can see, the free version of the app is ad supported. Ad-free premium versions are available, and they include added features.

While the Fuelly website doesn’t offer a lot, there’s one feature that I think GRS readers will find interesting. If you select the browse vehicles option from the main menu, you, you can get a profile of driving info for all Fuelly users. Here, for instance, is what the app has tracked for other folks who own a 2004 Mini Cooper, like me.

Fuelly individual model info

Fuelly cost to drive info

GasBuddy

A decade ago, GasBuddy was a gas price aggregation tool. It collected fuel price info from across the United States, and served it up so that visitors could find the best prices in their area.

Today, GasBuddy is still that website, but it’s a whole lot more. For instance, you can look up a chart of gas price trends over the past couple of years.

Gas price trends

Or you can find local maps and national maps of current gas prices.

Local gas prices

National gas prices

And because it’s 2020 now, GasBuddy offers a smartphone app featuring all sorts of tools to help you calculate (and reduce) your fuel costs.

FuelEconomy.gov

FuelEconomy.gov is the official U.S. government source for fuel economy info. Like all U.S. government sites, it’s a treasure trove of data and resources.

The site includes a car finder (and comparison) tool (also available for iOS and Android devices), a vehicle power search, a fuel savings calculator, and more. There’s even a page exploring extreme MPG!

The site also provides some widgets for site owners (like me!) to share with their audience. Here’s

Find a Car Tool

This tool lets you look up official EPA fuel economy ratings for vehicles back to the 1984 model year.

   

Gas Mileage Tips

This tool displays a fuel-saving tips and provides links to additional tips on fueleconomy.gov.

Each year, the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency produce a Fuel Economy Guide to help buyers choose fuel-efficient vehicles. You can find guides from recent years in the Get Rich Slowly file vault, if you’re interested: 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015.

If you’re into alternative fuels and advanced technology vehicles, the U.S. Department of Energy has a bunch of different widgets to play with at their Alternative Fuels Data Center.

Sidenote: Many folks want a new Tesla or Prius in order to minimize their impact on the environment. This isn’t as straight-forward as it might seem. The calculations are complicated but the bottom line is this: In many cases, it makes more sense to keep (or buy) an older fuel-efficient vehicle than to buy a new one. That’s because the manufacturing process itself is the source of roughly 25% of a car’s environmental impact.

The Bottom Line

It’s important to note that even the best driving cost calculator has limitations. Most of these tools track only fuel costs, which are a small portion of the overall cost to drive your car.

Your true cost of car ownership includes the purchase price,insurance, maintenance, and more. According to the American Automobile Association, the average new vehicle costs 62 cents per mile to drive. AAA figures the average driver spends $9,282 per year on her automobile.

To truly determine how much you’re spending to get around, you need to take matters into your own hands. Find a cheap notebook or pad of paper. Grab a pen or pencil. Whenever you make a trip – even if it’s just down the street – log the time and the distance. Write down how much you spend on fuel and maintenance. Tally your car and insurance payments.

Do this long enough and you’ll begin to get a picture of your personal driving costs. At any point, you can simply divide the amount you’ve spent on your vehicle by the number of miles you’ve driven to learn how much it costs to drive.

What you do with this info is up to you!

Note: This is an updated article from the GRS archives. The original version from 03 December 2008 was woefully out of date. Some older comments have been retained.

Source: getrichslowly.org

7 Small Ways to Save Big on Gas

7 Small Ways to Save Big on Gas

Gasoline can get expensive, but most of us have to drive at some point or another. Driving around to find the cheapest gas  in town is one way to cut a big chunk out of your monthly gas bill. But there are many tips and tricks that can reduce what you pay at the pump. Here are seven strategies that can help you save money on gas and reduce your environmental footprint.

See what the average budget looks like for someone in your neighborhood.

1. Service Your Vehicle Regularly

Properly maintaining your vehicle can improve its fuel economy. You’ll need to replace dirty filters as often as possible and use the right motor oil whenever you top up. Using the wrong oil could waste gas by making your engine work harder. If you aren’t sure which grade of motor oil your car needs, you can check your owner’s manual.

It’s also important to keep your tires properly inflated. Tire pressure should always remain at the level recommended by your car’s manufacturer. And you’ll need to make sure your tires are aligned. When it comes to gas mileage, a simple tune-up can go a long way.

2. Use A/C Wisely

In some cases, you can waste gas by cranking up the A/C. But it all depends on where you’re driving. If you’re driving fast because you’re on the highway, for example, having the windows open can increase drag and reduce fuel economy. So using A/C when you’re speeding down the freeway won’t prevent you from trying to save money on gas.

In most cars, the A/C turns on when you try to defrost the windshield. Using a less powerful setting is one way to avoid wasting energy.

3. Find Cheap Places to Fuel Up

7 Small Ways to Save Big on Gas

Generally to find cheap gas, you’ll need to stay away from wealthier neighborhoods and check out stations in the suburbs if you’re driving through a major city. Apps like GasBuddy, AAA TripTik Mobile and Waze can help you find low gas prices in your area.

If you’re trying to spend less money on gas, waiting until your gas tank is empty and filling up a little at a time throughout the week isn’t a good idea. In fact, doing that could damage your car. It’s best to wait until you have a quarter tank of gas and fill it up all the way.

Related Article: States With the Worst Drivers

4. Earn Rewards for Buying Gas

If you drive a lot, it may make sense for you to get a credit card that rewards you with cash back or points for buying gas. Depending on the kind of credit card you qualify for, you could earn gas rewards of up to 5%.

5. Travel Lightly

Carrying around a heavy load can add unnecessary drag. That’s why it’s a good idea to clean out your trunk and remove anything from your roof that you don’t need. By removing excess weight, you’ll be able to maximize your vehicle’s fuel economy.

6. Drive Slower

7 Small Ways to Save Big on Gas

Cars often use more gas when drivers speed up. Exceeding your car’s optimal speed can reduce your gas mileage. In many cars, it’s best to drive at around 50 mph if you want to save fuel.

When you need to accelerate, it’s best to tap the gas pedal lightly. Speeding up too quickly or hitting the brakes too hard can reduce your miles per gallon.

Related Article: How to Trade in a Car

7. Drive More Efficiently

In addition to monitoring your speed, you can drive more efficiently by paying attention to details. For example, it’s a good idea to turn off the engine if your car has been idle for a while. Avoiding potholes and sudden stops can also make a difference when you’re trying to save money.

Using cruise control while you’re driving long distances may also help you use less gas. If you want to go the extra mile, consider buying a more fuel-efficient car. Spending a bit more on a new ride might make sense if you want better gas mileage.

Final Word

Sometimes you have to get creative when you want to cut costs. By making some adjustments to the way you drive and maintain your car, you can save big bucks on gasoline.

And if you can capitalize on the best times to buy gas, you probably should. Usually, it’s best to get gas either early in the morning or late at night.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/CasarsaGuru, ©iStock.com/Geribody, ©iStock.com/Kesu01

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