Back in high school gas used to be about $1.00 a gallon. Sometimes it is hard to think back that far now, I was filling up at about $12 a tank in my old Neon. The car which I drive now, a Hyundai Accent, has roughly the same gas capacity and costs $24 to fill up. Go figure, twice the cost. Over this past summer when gas prices hit $3.50 or so it was costing a ridiculous $40 to fill up!
Back in the Days of Cheap Gas
Back in high school it was not uncommon to see people just cruising around for fun. I did it quite often. If I was ever bored and didn’t have anything to do I would jump in my car, crank some tunes, and drive around the countryside. Or take a drive to the mall, even though I had no intention of getting anything. The point was that it was a beautiful 80 degrees out, my windows were down, I was listening to great music, I was with some friends, and we were just enjoying ourselves to the max before high school came to a screeching halt and we had to make real life decisions in regards to college or jobs.
I never once calculated how much it cost me to drive to the mall and back. Or what my weekly gas budget was. Times were different then… gas was cheaper than most gallons of water (at least at convenience store prices).
But, as we know, those times have become fond memories of our generation and all we have to look forward to is $2/gallon gas prices. And while we are looking forward to those prices we are worrying our butts off that prices don’t go back to nearly $4/gallon. With that comes a whole new responsibility of budgeting much more appropriately for the pleasure of driving our cars. No longer do I take a drive to the mall “just for fun.”
Tracking Gas Mileage
My first step into nailing a budget down for my fuel costs was figuring out my approximate miles per gallon. This is a rather easy feat and soon I had excel sheets full of data. I would reset my trip-o-meter, fill my tank, and then record the mileage on the receipt when I filled up next. When I got home I would input the receipt into the workbook. Rinse and repeat.
Once I had amassed a few months of data detailing what my average mpg was I could then approximate my monthly budget for gas. My driving habits were usually pretty steady, so all I had to do was bust out some quick math. (e.g. I drive 1,000 miles per month at an average mpg of 24 at an average $/gal of 1.90… that equals roughly $80/month) As life events occurred such as getting a job further away from home, I would just recalculate my expected monthly expenditures based on the new monthly mileage forecast.
But, soon after, I realized I was still driving my car without consciously knowing how much it costs. Sure, I knew it was costing me about $80/month to drive the 1,000 miles. However, when I drove to the grocery store I figured it was only a few miles and, therefore, did not attribute a cost to that trip. How many times had I done that? After a while it adds up.
So, I Finally Found Fuelly
Fuelly is a website that lets you enter all of your gas receipt data. It does all the calculations for you in regards to MPG and cost per mile driven. I will not pretend this is hard math. It isn’t… at all. But what Fuelly does for you is allow you to see a graphical representation of your data with your only responsibility being data entry.
Watch the video below to see the features of Fuelly:
Now that I have been tracking my car for more than a year I know, at any given time, what my cost per mile is. What is my cost per mile? $.08 per mile in gas costs. There have been a few instances where I have decided to re-route my intended plans. Sometimes I consider driving to the grocery store and then to another store like Best Buy. I MapQuest it real quick only to find out that in total I will have to drive about 25 miles round trip. In other words, it will cost $2 in gas to make that trip. I realize at that moment that it really isn’t worth it and I decide to stop by the grocery store on my way home from work, thus negating any added fuel costs.
That’s all fine and good, but you can do that quite easily without Fuelly. What else does Fuelly allow you to do? There is an added social networking feel to the site that lets you compare your cars mpg to other people’s mpg with the same car. If you see that you are averaging about 25 mpg but other Accent owners are averaging 32 mpg then you may have a problem. Is it a maintenance issue? Maybe you need to get some tune-up work done. Is it a driving habits issue? Do you floor it as soon as the light turns green, do you ride peoples bumpers, etc?
After using the site for a while I realized my driving habits were causing my mpg to be about 3 less than the average across the site. I decided to start driving more consciously and since then I have brought myself up to 1 mpg better than the average! For myself, at an average of 1,000 miles per month, what does this mean for me?
A savings of 4.5 gallons per month, or about $10. It also means I am most likely driving my car more sanely and decreasing the wear on my engine and transmission.
Is Fuelly Really Needed?
So in the end my car should last a little longer and I will save about $120+ year. Not too bad, huh?
By no means do you need Fuelly to do this, though. If you start practicing safer and more practical driving habits you will most likely experience the same results. What Fuelly allows you to do, though, is pinpoint your problem and acknowledge that the problem exists. Once you have done that it is up to you to create and implement a solution.
Fuelly exists, for me, purely as a way to mitigate any effort I would have to put into this cause otherwise. The effort I put into tracking my car’s mileage per gallon is inconsequential but my rewards are a bit more substantial.
Let me know if you have used Fuelly for similar results or if you have another system!