In today's car market of rising gas prices and an urge to be recognized as eco-friendly we frequently hear discussion regarding a car's miles per gallon, or MPG. The higher the MPGs the less money spent on gas and the less gas consumed, hopefully starting a trend towards lower foreign oil dependency (not likely anytime soon). Just a quick side note: I personally feel people in general associate the original development and overall interest in hybrid and fully electric vehicles with increased gas prices over the last decade or so; cars consuming less gas would save the consumer money of the length of ownership thus benefiting the consumer and allowing the manufacturer to meet the desires of their target audience while meeting such government regulations as the CAFE and CARB standards which impose MPG averages that the manufacturer must meet across their entire fleet of cars. The consumer is now satisfied because they are in essence in saving money at the pump, never mind whether or not they attribute the fact that this increase in fuel efficiency was not to save them money but rather to reduce pollution; the consumers savings is an unintended consequence of sorts.
Moving on, what does this have to do with our mission here at Prorate? Well we like to explore all things financial and the statement that a car with a higher MPG rating than another will have a lower fuel cost than that competitor is in our sights today. Consider this, my car, which has been the topic of some controversy, is rated at 28 MPG on the highway (we will only be considering highway mileage as I drive about 97% of my miles on the highway, plus the results wouldn't be much different using city or combined MPGs). Sounds decent and also signifies another trend in which manufacturers are turning towards small displacement turbocharged engines that produce high power output and high MPG. In contrast, we will compare this to a 2011 Ford Mustang GT that is rated at 26 MPGs when fitted with a manual transmission. Now a difference of 2 MPGs may not sound significant but imagine if each had a 15 gallon tank, those 2 MPGs would become 30 miles additional between fill ups and if you filled up twice monthly, 720 extra miles annually. Put different, if you drove 15,000 miles a year those 2 MPGs would become about a $130 difference per year.
This brings us to the entire point of this discussion, as if you couldn't get it from the title, this is all based on the octane! My car, again being turbocharged, requires 91 octane fuel; the 2011 Mustang runs on 87 octane, only sacrificing 10 horsepower compared to burning 91. Based on our most recent Triple AAA survey of nationwide gas prices 87 octane will save you $ 0.30 per gallon.
So let's bring in the all these statistics and see how they compare over a year:
My car has a higher MPG rating and cost less to fill up each time, but in the course of the year is more expensive to pump gas into due to the 91 octane requirement. Maybe the $40 difference does not seem significant enough to consider; well consider the fact that I personally drive about 20,000 miles annually, exponentially increasing the cost as compared to the car with the lower MPGs, and all things being equal, when comparing two cars which would you choose? Keep a close watch as manufacturers gravitate towards small displacement turbocharging due to the higher advertised MPGs when today's modern technology is already producing engines with larger displacements, such as the 5.0 liter Mustang in this example, and respectable MPGs.