The real MPG vs. sticker MPG

When shopping for a new vehicle, one of the key factors to consider is the miles per gallon. For some it’s environmental, for others it’s the rising cost of fuel, and finally there are some that want to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Whichever the case, you may need to do more research than looking at the number on the information sheet conveniently placed on every new car.

Consumer reports tested the fuel economy of 300 cars (every year roughly 80cars are tested). More than half of the cars failed to reach their posted potential. Most cite the testing done by the EPA is outdated. In addition these tests are testing the emissions not actual fuel consumed by the vehicle. Think back to your driving lifestyle 20years ago and you might also notice some changes, such as congestion and further commuting due to urban sprawl. We can also say the way we drive has affected true MPG ratings with faster acceleration and longer idle times being more prevalent.

Luckily there has been some change in the measurement standards. The 2008 models last year were required to undergo new modified tests that account for things such as air conditioning and faster speeds (two of my favorite things).

Overall the EPA’s goal is to match rates accurately for up to 75% of drivers. Personally, I would hate to be one of the 25% that doesn’t get anywhere near the posted millage on the sticker considering it is the second biggest investment one makes. Perhaps the EPA needs to test the test every so often, especially if the government is going to require more restrictions for carbon emissions.

Unfortunately for older cars there isn’t a reliable way to gauge its efficiency by government standards but you can do it yourself by keeping a log and measuring the miles for yourself. After you fill your tank note the mileage and the number of gallons purchased. Then, subtract the mileages and divide the result by the number of gallons purchased, or just use your trip odometer if you have one. Lastly when buying your next car research the MPG by third parties in addition to those posted on the window, look at consumer reports and talk to actual owners of the vehicle. Bigger is better but inflation is just not cool.