Tracking Fuel Economy

by Lori Straus

Tracking fuel economy will help you better understand the costs that go into your vehicle. Although government data will tell you the average fuel economy for your vehicle, real mileage for your vehicle is actually a range that will fluctuate throughout the year. In this blog post, we’ll cover why you should track fuel economy and how to do it. We’ll even include a paper method, no app or phone needed.

Why You Should Track Fuel Economy

This basically comes down to reducing gas usage, which will save you money. There are many efficient ways to drive, but how do you know what’s worth your effort? Recording fuel economy at each fill-up can help.

Tracking your vehicle’s fuel economy also helps with budgeting. If you’re considering a new job and understand your vehicle’s mileage, you can calculate the change in your household budget to help you decide if the job is worth the extra expense.

Lastly, tracking fuel economy will help you detect any drop in your vehicle’s performance. If your calculations show your fuel economy decreasing, it could signal a problem:

  • inaccurate coolant sensors
  • clogged air filter
  • malfunctioning oxygen sensor
  • incorrect tire pressure
  • worn or dirty spark plugs
  • bad fuel injectors
  • wrong motor oil for your engine
  • faulty fuel pump

Some of these problems are easy to fix yourself, like cleaning your air filters or adjusting your tire pressure. Others require a trip to your mechanic. But as is often the case, getting your mechanic to check these issues out early often saves you money in the long run.

The Paper Method of Tracking Fuel Economy

Keep a notebook and pen either in the glove compartment or the driver’s side door panel. Write these headings at the top of the page:

  • Date: the day you’re filling the tank
  • Odometer: the odometer reading once you’ve parked at the gas station
  • Trip meter: the reading from your trip meter once you’ve parked at the gas station
  • Litres: the number of litres on the gas pump after you’ve filled your tank
  • Cost: the amount you paid for gas
  • Notes: any observations, e.g., if you drove a lot on the highway since your last fill-up
  • Mileage: divide the number of kilometres recorded on your trip meter by the number of litres you filled up to get your km/L rating

Over the next few months, you’ll notice your actual fuel economy.

Apps to Track Fuel Economy

Apps are a beautiful thing: they save you the manual work of calculating fuel economy. Go to your phone’s app store and search for “fuel economy calculator.” Read the reviews and check when the last update was uploaded (if the last fix was last year, for example, chances are the company is no longer maintaining that app). If you’re satisfied with what you see, download the app and start tracking.

You can also do the reverse: calculate how much a trip will cost you. Plug in the required details at this site, and you’ll get an estimated fuel cost.

Stay Consistent

Tracking mileage and gas prices to calculate your fuel economy only works if you keep your efforts consistent. So, when considering different options for tracking and calculating fuel economy, don’t automatically grab the next shiny thing. Select a method that is easy for you to maintain.