Best Tip Ever: Run your car's a/c to save money this summer!

My Early Retirement Journey - money saving tips
Hi there, so I've been transporting my aunt around this summer. She's not doing well and I've graciously agreed to help manage her care and finances.  I've also been binging on catchy titles for the summer season challenge like the one that led you here. So without further ado...

Last weekend I drove from North Carolina to Maryland for my cousins' graduation ceremony. The trip is about 300 miles. I used to do this trip once or twice a month when I was in graduate school amassing my mountainous student debt.

Generally it was a game of chicken about 40 to 60 miles from my destination in Maryland. My gas light would come on and I would try to figure out if I could make it that last few dozen miles without stopping  Inevitably, I would have to stop as I tended to drive in the late evening to avoid traffic. It is my long-standing wish not be snatched in some backwoods. You get it.

In the past, I drove with the windows down jamming to various tunes or playing audiobooks courtesy of my favorite oldie. I guess I should just call her Aunty MERJ at this point since she seems to be featured a lot in my posts these days. I rolled the windows down because  I was always told running the air wastes gas, so I thought I was being fuel efficient. Boy was I wrong!

Never quite making the 300 mile drive on one tank, I was still pretty impressed with my fuel efficient 2007 Honda Fit (no affiliate).

However, in my last trip from NC to MD, we made it! The gas light did not come on until after we reached our destination! What the? We ran the air the entire time to keep Aunty MERJ comfortable. So, I had a passenger (approx 150 lbs) and about 100 pounds of luggage and goods.  I know the luggage was about 90 pounds because it had to be weighed and paid for when we flew Allegiant (no affiliate) from Tampa to NC.  There was also a 24 pack of Diet Mountain Dew and a 36 pack of bottled water.

I couldn't believe my eyes! Wow, I said. Maybe I could have pushed my journey to that last drop of gasoline all these years after all. But wait...

Even more amazing was the return trip. I made it home and still had what looked to be about 1/4 tank left! I couldn't figure it out. It was so hot and I have developed some funky seasonal allergies, so I left the windows up and ran the air most of the time- I was driving in the early evening, so the sun was going down; it was raining a bit, so the air was circulating between a/c and just whatever the air is when the dial is on blue but the a/c light is off. Nothing was blowing in from outdoors.

Mileage and gas on the way to work after trip


That was proof enough for me!

I even made it to work twice before needing to fill up.  When I did fill up, I had gone 350 miles and I only needed 8.7 gallons of gas.

By my calculations I got 40.2 miles/ gallon!
Per Honda, their estimated mpg for an automatic 2007 Honda Fit is is "up to 31 city/ 38 highway."

And my return trip included 2 hours of  "city" traffic to drive 40 miles trying to leave suburban DC.

How did I get so much fuel efficiency? And even more on the way back?

The greatest common factor: Running the a/c (air conditioner)!

Other honorable mentions:

  • Less drag from keeping the windows rolled up. 
  • Less cargo by 250 pounds on the return trip. 
  • Estimated average speed: 73 mph
  • Unidentified topography NC to MD vs MD to NC (to explain why the return trip had even better gas mileage). 
I did a cursory Google search to see if I could find anything definitive to substantiate my experience but after 6 plus years making this trek, the savings were enough to make me a believer.  At 1.5 gallons each way at $2.80/gallon = $8.40 each rdtrp or $4.20 each fill-up. That's a takeout meal for me or a lunch out, respectively!

What has been your fuel savings tips? Are you a window up/down kind of driver? 
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Comments

  1. That is amazing! I guess it's all about the wind drag you get when travelling at speed with the windows open. I try to keep windows open when travelling at low speeds - around town for example. I switch to air con when out on the open road as it gets very noisy with the windows down. I shall definitely make sure to keep windows up and air con on for everything other than slow moving traffic. Thanks for doing the math!

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  2. Yeah I'd always tried to keep the windows down too. Thought I was saving gas. Even in 2 hours of stop and go traffic, my fuel economy was noticeably better.

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    Replies
    1. Really? Well that's a bit of a game changer then. Windows up for all traffic situations, apart from that initial get-into-a-super-hot-car moment where you can't breathe and you absolutely need the window open!

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    2. Haha...we all love that moment. For me it's always a debate between superhot or open all the windows before I get moving and let the pollen in. #firstworldproblems

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  3. I have read this before.... That using car A/C is the best way to go, in summer.

    For which I am grateful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great! Thanks for stopping by, wisps of words.

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