What are engine stop-start systems and do they work?

Although practically impossible to calculate exactly, literally millions of gallons of gasoline are wasted every year due to one thing; idling cars. Not only do we waste an immense amount of gasoline while we’re stopped at traffic lights or stop signs but we’re also putting a ton of extra emissions into the air. Suffice to say that experts have been trying to figure out a way around both of these problems for quite a few years and, with the new stand-alone engine stop-start systems that are now being used in some new cars, they have gotten us a step closer.

The new system actually shuts down a car’s engine when it comes to idle and, as soon as the driver hits the accelerator or lifts their foot off the brake or clutch, it immediately starts the engine back up. It’s not exactly a new technology, to be sure, as it can be found in practically every conventional hybrid automobile on the market, but it is new to conventional cars. The new system is slowly beginning to appear and, by 2015, experts predict that 40% of all cars and light trucks sold in the United States will be equipped with a stop-start system.

The main objective is to cut down on wasted gas, obviously. As it stands, the new systems can reduce gas consumption by approximately 3 to 10%. The reason is that they eliminate idling, something that as mentioned before wastes an immense amount of gasoline. These systems deliver their best fuel economy improvements when they’re used in city driving situations that involve a high amount of stopping and starting. The good news is that it seems they can do it for a relatively low cost.

For example, Ford Motor Company is now offering its first stand-alone stop-start system at a price of just under $300. When you consider that a fully functional hybrid system can tack on up to $6000 to the price of a car, you can see why there are many advocates of this new system.

In real-world numbers a $300. stop-start system investment would pay for itself in approximately 3 years. There are a number of $300 systems that are touting 10% fuel economy boosts, a difference that means the system would pay for itself in approximately 13 months if you take into account gas being $4.00 a gallon.

The new stop-start systems are run by a computer program of course but the driver, and the way they use their accelerator and brake pedals, determine how they function. When a person depresses their brake pedal it sends a signal to the computer program and its engine controller. As soon as a car comes to a complete stop this controller will shut the engine off as well as pre-positioning the starter motor, transmission and also the fuel injection system so that, when the driver releases the break or presses the accelerator, the engine’s ready to instantaneously restart. This usually happens within less than half a second.

There are a number of downsides to be found with the new system however. For example, when most car’s engines turn off the air conditioning and or the heating system stop functioning as well because they need a lot of electricity. When the car’s engine is off it doesn’t generate sufficient power to keep them going. Some drivers also find it a little bit disconcerting that the engine turns off every time they stop.

There have also been some complaints, especially about the system from BMW, that they cause unexpected starts and stops when the engine starts and stops. It’s for this reason that many stand-alone stop-start systems come with the ability to be turned off and on at will by the driver.

As with all technology this newest automobile technology will certainly need to be refined and all the bugs sorted out. That’s good because it’s is estimated that, by 2020, 10 million new cars per year are going to be made using the new system. Even though it might not be perfect yet, the fact is that these new start-stop systems may well save billions of gallons of gasoline a year as well as helping to greatly reduce damaging automobile exhaust emissions. No matter how you slice it, that’s pretty good news.

How to reduce the rising cost of car ownership

All drivers are acutely aware that gas prices keep going up every time they pull in at a service station to fill up their tanks. What most people don’t seem to realize however is that the cost of car ownership in general is also going up. According to a recently released report from AAA it is more costly today to own and operate a motor vehicle than it has ever been. Gas of course is one of the most obvious reasons but there are several other factors that are making car ownership more expensive as well. With that in mind we put together a blog for you, our dear readers, that will hopefully help you to keep the cost of owning your car as low as possible even as gas prices keep going up. Enjoy.

Interestingly, the cost to maintain and insure a car is actually going down. Most cars of today are much easier to maintain and there are plenty of service stations so competition for driver’s dollars is high and prices are stable and competitive. The question is then, what exactly is causing the increase in car ownership costs? The answer; the increase in gas prices (duh) as well as the increase in both tire costs and depreciation costs.

When it comes to gasoline the reason that prices keep going up is probably not exactly what you’re thinking. Yes the world supply of oil is declining and yes there is unrest in the Middle East (isn’t there always?) but in fact the rising cost of gas has more to do with what’s happening on the stock market in New York than anything that might be happening in Libya, Iraq or other Middle Eastern countries. The reason is simply this; on the New York Stock Exchange you have speculators making huge bets on oil prices every single day and these bets cause prices to sometimes swing wildly up-and-down. (Mostly up it seems.)

When it comes to gas the best bet that you have is to either buy a more fuel-efficient car, use your car less or go back and read one of our various blogs about the best tips and advice for lowering your gasoline usage. Frankly, gasoline prices are completely out of the average consumer’s hands and, unless you own a gas station, you’re just going to have to deal with whatever prices that they give you.

Another reason that the cost of car ownership is increasing Is that the cost of raw materials, energy and transportation (due to rising gas costs) have all had notable increases in the last two decades which has led to increased tire prices. When you combine that with the fact that many automakers tend to equip their cars with premium grade tires right out of the box you have a trend that makes car ownership a little bit harder to swallow.

There are a number of ways to deal with this including asking for moderately priced tires when you purchase a new car as well as taking very good care of the tires that you already have so that they last as long as possible. Simply put, ignoring your tires and not checking to make sure that they are properly inflated as well as not having them rotated on a regular basis is going to ensure that they wear down more quickly. Once that happens you’ll have no choice but to buy new ones and new tires these days are so expensive that you practically have to take out a second mortgage on the house to get a full set of 4.

Lastly we have depreciation which is basically the slow loss of your cars initial value. AAA notes that depreciation is the single largest cost for motor vehicle owners but is also one of the most frequently overlooked factors when a car buyer goes to determine the actual cost of owning and operating a specific automobile. Pair that with the fact that a typical new car loses about 40% of its value within the first three years and you can see why many financial experts are advocates of buying used cars instead. We recommend that as well and, if you do your research and use your common sense, there are plenty of opportunities to buy excellent used cars and reduce the financial loss of depreciation greatly.

We mentioned above that insurance and maintenance costs are actually on the decline but frankly that’s no reason to ignore them completely. Raising deductibles to their highest levels, making sure that you get all of your discounts for good driving habits and doing an annual revision of your automobile insurance are all excellent ideas to make sure that you’re not overpaying.

As far as maintenance is concerned you should simply make sure that you maintain your car at a high level and have a good relationship with your local maintenance and repair shop.

One last bit of advice; if possible don’t borrow money to buy a car. Financially speaking, borrowing money to buy an asset that depreciates is a big no-no. If you have no choice try to borrow as little money as possible and pay it back as soon as you can.

With the cost of gas taking such a bite out of your budget using the information and advice above to keep your ownership cost down is going to help you a lot.  We humans certainly love our automobiles but that doesn’t mean that we have to let them run roughshod over our finances.

We hope that our blog today has been, at the very least, enlightening and that you come back and visit us again sometime soon. Until then, take care and happy driving.

More Money Saving Tips Gasoline Tips and Advice

In our continuing effort to bring our readers the most up to date tips on saving money at the gas pumps we’ve put together a new blog with some more tips, advice and ideas that are sure to help reduce the sting of filling up your car’s gas tank. Since gas prices seems to be going up every five minutes we figured that instead of the usual fun banter we get right into it. Enjoy.

Most experts will tell you that it pays to accelerate at a moderate rate of speed. Most math teachers will also remind you that the basic law of physics, that force = mass  X acceleration, will work in your favor if you do a little bit of offensive driving and lay off of the brakes. (And by offensive we don’t mean that you use your horn constantly or give people ‘the finger’.) Simply put, if you use your car’s acceleration to bring you to a traffic light rather than usual breaks and then accelerate and then use your breaks and then accelerate again, etc. etc., you will definitely save gas.

The reason is that you won’t lose your acceleration and waste it on the friction that your breaks cause. Indeed you can easily get 10 to 20% better gas mileage by keeping your foot off of the gas pedal and letting your car’s momentum carry you to a stop sign, stoplight or whatever.  Keep in mind that by the time you actually reach the point of having to stop, if you’ve done it correctly, you should not have to jam on the brakes.

Some hybrid car owners may disagree with this as hybrids have the interesting ability to be able to convert braking power into electrical energy and then store that energy in their batteries. While this is certainly true, if you need to decelerate to fast you will still lose a ton of energy and will have to use even more to power yourself to the point of eventually having to stop.

You’ve probably heard about not using your air conditioner to save money on gas and, while this might be true in some cases, if you live in Arizona, Nevada or other areas of the country where the heat can be oppressive it just doesn’t make sense to turn the AC off, especially during the middle of the day. What you can do however is park your car in the shade, in your garage or in a parking garage during the day if possible. Also, when you first get moving, open the windows for a few minutes and get the hot air out of your car so that the a/c doesn’t have to work as hard or as long to cool the interior down. One last thing that you can do is turn you’re a/c off 5 to 10 minutes before you arrive at your destination to save a little bit more.

If you do a lot of highway driving one of the best ways to increase your mileage is to draft behind a larger car, truck or bus. This takes a bit of skill and definitely all of your attention but it is one of the best ways to increase your mpg on the highway because it cuts down on wind resistance greatly. One caveat; don’t tailgate in order to do this because that’s not only rude but dangerous. If you own a pickup truck and it doesn’t have a cab you might consider putting the tailgate down as well to cut down on drag.

If it’s not brutally hot or cold out you may find the temptation to open the windows, especially around town, a big one. We suggest that you don’t only because the extra turbulence can cost you fuel. Better to use your car’s ventilation system instead and save gas.

Many people are still in the habit of changing their cars oil every 3000 miles. While this certainly isn’t bad for the car the fact is that most oils and most cars will be just fine up to 5000 miles.  While it might not affect your MPG greatly it certainly will cost you less and oil changes over the life of your car.

Are you going to be renting a car while you’re away on vacation or a business trip? If so, and you are not going to be taking other people or trying to impress anyone (and it’s possible you may) we would suggest that you rent a smaller, economy car then a bigger, more luxurious but more wallet damaging gas guzzler. The fact is, you could save enough money on gas by using a smaller car on vacation that you might be able to upgrade your hotel room or afford a couple of extra fancy meals.

One last tip that we have is one of the best; don’t fill up at any gas station near the highway. Usually that’s where the gas prices are the highest. Find one in town or, if you’re on the highway, drive a few miles away to find a cheaper price.  The smartphone app ‘GasBuddy’ can help you locate the best price around.

10 Easy Ways to Save on Gasoline

With prices that slap you in the face every time you pull up to the pump, it’s no surprise that most Americans are desperately searching for any way possible to lower their consumption of gasoline. We’ve certainly had our fair share of blogs filled with tips and advice but, for those of you who might have missed them, we present to you a blog with 10 of the best (and easiest to implement) ways to save more gas. If all 10 of these are already on your to-do list or on your ‘I-did’  list then good for you. If not what the heck are you waiting for?! Get them on your list and start saving at least a little bit more money on gas today. Enjoy.

  1. Drive slower. Now, were not suggesting that you drive like a 75-year-old grandmother on Sunday, just that decreasing your highway speed and keeping it at about 65 mph will use less gas because most cars are optimized to run at this speed. Any slower and you become a nuisance but any faster and you start wasting an inordinate amount of gas per mile, in some cases as much as 20%.
  2. Quick starts like Mario Andretti at the racetrack not only will use much more gas but will also capture the attention of local law enforcement officers, something that you may wish to avoid. Indeed, accelerating at a regular, normal speed can save you as much as 33% and is much better for your car’s engine, something that will save you money on maintenance costs too.
  3. Tried and true, planning several small trips and taking care of them at the same time will definitely save you money and time. We suggest that you go to the furthest location first as, once you are car is warmed up you will use less gas even if you have to stop for up to 30 minutes.
  4. 2 words; car pool. If it’s at all possible to drive into work with either people you work with or people that work nearby you’ll not only save a ton of money you’ll also lower your maintenance costs and possibly end up with some long-term friends. Who knows, you may even develop business relationships that will enhance your career.
  5. Although the jury is not completely in on this one, turning off the A/C unless it’s unbearably hot is probably a good idea. If you are doing over 50 mph on the highway however you’ll probably want to close the windows and use yourcars vent system instead.
  6. If you don’t take your car in for regular oil changes and maintenance you’re not doing your wallet any favors. Yes, we know that you hate to pay for something that you can’t see, touch or use but a properly maintained car will have much fewer problems and, in the end, cost you much less than any maintenance costs.
  7. Checking your tires at least once a week to make sure that they’re not wearing badly and that they are properly inflated is something that’s easy to do and takes mere minutes. Use the psi number that’s located on the inside door frame (driver side) rather than the number on the tire, which is the maximum PSI and not the correct PSI.
  8. If you use your car or truck for work and it’s full of tools we can’t fault you for that but, if your car is full of junk because you don’t bother to clean it out you’re not only messy but you’re wasting money on gas. Even 20 pounds of stuff, which really isn’t much, can lower your MPG by 10% so clear out that junk.
  9. Idling car for long periods of time and warming it up in the morning are two things that are completely unnecessary for most new cars and waste huge amount of gas. Unless your car is an antique warming it up is unnecessary and, if you sit for long periods of time with your car idling for no reason well then, we’re not sure if we could be friends with you. (Okay, we’ll be your friend but please stop doing that, okay. It wastes gas and it’s bad for the planet.)
  10. Drive less. Yes, we know it’s sometimes not that simple with work, the kids, the gym and basically everything else that life tends to throw at us. All we’re saying is, when possible, use a bike, use your feet or even use mass transit. You’ll definitely save money on gas and you might even get in better shape because of it.

And there you go ladies and gentlemen, another fact filled blog full to the brim with great advice and excellent tips. We hope you enjoyed it and that you come back to see us again sometime soon. See you then.

Top 6 Tips When Buying a Fuel Efficient Car

Buying a fuel efficient car isn’t rocket surgery but there are a few things to consider before you buy one that can save you much more money over the life of the car and not just on your initial purchase price. The next 6 Tips will give you a lot to think about before you make this large, important purchase.

First you should consider what you need the car for. Is this a car to go back and forth to work with just you driving or is it for the family? How many people will be in it most of the time? If you get a car that’s much bigger than you really need you won’t save nearly as much gas as you could.

That being said, the right size and model is important. If you have 3 kids in high school a minivan is probably better than a sports car even though the sports car may get better mileage. On the other hand if you’re single and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon a smaller car may be your best bet and will save you a lot on gas.

Sports car or compact car?  Let’s be honest; if you’re young and impulsive a sports car may look ‘cool’ but it’s going to suck up gas like a kid sucks up candy and, in the end, who are you really trying to impress?

Do your research and check out the best mileage models. If you go online you can find out which cars in the type of model you want get the best mileage.  Unless you have other criteria the one with the lowest mpg number is your best bet.

A Hybrid vehicle is a viable option and important to consider.  What you may want to do is figure out approximately how many miles you drive each year and see if the higher cost of a hybrid is going to save you money over the length of the car’s life. Consumer Reports says that the average time to recoup the extra cost is 5 years.

Consider Diesel if possible but remember that you’ll pay more at the pump per gallon and the amount of extra miles that a diesel gets may not be worth the extra cost of the fuel itself.  If you don’t do excessive amounts of driving it may be worth it however.

If you use these 6 Tips wisely you will be able to make a better choice and save some real money in fuel over the life of your new car.

Tips to Get More for Your Gasoline Dollar

Buying gasoline has become quite the costly proposition over the years, and it doesn’t look like it’s getting any simpler any time soon. Because of that, it’s time to re-evaluate your fuel economy and figure out what some of the best ways are to use less gas, and in turn, save some precious money that can be used elsewhere!

 

Do Your Research

In the market for a new car? Do your research on fuel mileage. Many new cars nowadays have picked up on the trend of high gas prices, and there are models from all shapes and sizes to be fairly gas-friendly and fuel-efficient.

 

Figure out not only which style car you may be in the market for, but what might be a good fuel mileage for you to strive for when it comes time to buy. This can save a lot of money, time, and a headache at the pump.

 

Walk

Yeah, walk! Maybe not across town, but re-evaluate all of your trips and figure out exactly what and when you could be walking instead of driving. Heading to the post office a mile away from your home? Walking might be easier, and it will certainly save money on gasoline.

 

Go through all the daily trips you make, and your errand route, and figure out exactly how and where you might do best walking instead of driving your car.

 

Public Transportation

Public transportation can be a big hassle depending on which city you reside in, but if you take the time to figure out bus routes or subway stops, you can come away a winner. In many cities, public transportation has become seamlessly integrated into life, and everybody can gain some value from it.

 

So do research in your city, and figure out exactly where you can use public transportation. Even if it’s only once or twice a month for certain trips, those miles add up, and every time using public transportation is a time not spent on gasoline in your precious automobile.

 

Make Efficient Trips

Re-think how and where you make your trips, and start to plan on doubling up errands and more. Instead of making two trips here and there, or running inefficient errands on opposite sides of town, figure out where you might be able to piggyback these trips, and save some cash on gasoline. It may not be huge, but even a few dollars can make a huge difference!

 

All in all, it’s up to you and you alone to become more fuel-efficient and travel smarter. Gasoline prices will continue to rise. Instead of acting like they surprise you, be proactive and save some money in the process!

 

Easy Ways to Save on Gas Money: Part Three

This is part three in my Easy Ways to Save Gas Money series.  I feel this topic is so important that it deserved an entire series devoted to ways on saving money on gasoline.  If households were to check their monthly and annual cost consumption on gas they might be shocked to see just how much it is costing them.

Here is a simple tip that too few people follow, keep your tires filled up with the appropriate level of air.  Believe it or not this can go a long way to saving you money on gas.  Properly inflated tired actually increase the miles per gallon for a vehicle.  Most newer vehicles even have an electronic system that monitors your tire pressure at all times.

I’ve talked in the past about buying a smaller car, or a hybrid, but what about buying something other than a car altogether.  Motorcycles and mopeds are a very efficient means of transportation.  They have small tanks, tend to be lightweight, and they consume a fraction of the gasoline that cars do.  Of course this only makes sense if you live in a warm weather region, and you ignore the forgone safety with these types of vehicles.

Make sure you drive at a consistent speed.  There is nothing new about this type, though many people often ignore it.  Speeding up and slowing down are gas guzzling no-no’s.  Staying at a steady consistent speed with help you maximize the miles per gallon that your vehicle can achieve.  That means that you shouldn’t be tailgating the car in front on you which will only lead to constant braking and speeding up.  Likewise, you needn’t worry about others tailgating you either, let them just pass you by, meanwhile you can maintain your slow and steady speed.

Easy Ways to Save on Gas Money: Part Two

As promised in my previous article I’m back with some more gas saving tips to help you save money!  To me this is a more important topic than most since a majority of us spend a ton of money gasing up our vehicles each and every day.  Just consider that wars are started over oil, gas prices affect the tourism industry, and they especially effect the types of vehicles people purchase.  Think about how quickly the residual values dropped on SUV’s and how important small car manufacturing became after the economic crash in 2009.  So read below for additional ways to save on gas money.

Car maintenance may be one of the most important factors in achieving maximum miles per gallon for your vehicle.  It’s quite simple, keep up with your oil changes, tire rotation, and routine annual maintenance and you will be surprised at how much better and more efficiently your car will drive.  Also, if you live in a cold weather state you need to make sure you winterize your car each year as well.

Discounted gift cards! Yep, that’s what I said, discounted gift cards area a great idea for saving money on gasoline.  I have touted this idea for savings on Christmas shopping in the past, but it actually works quite well for saving on gas as well.  If you go on one of those discount gift card sites you can purchase a discounted card at a fraction of the full price.  Even if you save 5% – 10% off a $100 gift card, that amount can really add up over a year, and unlike most other gift cards, you are guaranteed to get your use out of these.

Eco-friendly vehicles are great, but sometimes a smaller car is just better! If don’t have a large family to cart around then buying a smaller car can not only be less expensive, but the gas to fill them up will cost less as well.  Smaller fuel efficient vehicles can produce huge savings when you tally it up over a year.  The Big 3 have made huge strides over the past three years when it comes to small fuel efficient vehicles, so now you don’t have to compromise style or safety either.

Easy Ways to Save on Gas Money

Saving money on gas isn’t always that easy since we can’t always change the amount of miles we have to drive.  Being a recently married man I’ve started to realize just how much money two people spend on gas each month, and it’s not a small amount.  In fact, it’s one of our large routine expenses, and probably outpaces our monthly food bill.  This is exactly why I want to provide you with some helpful tips on how to save money on gas.

First and foremost, consider the distance you are driving to and from work each day.  I understand that we can’t always change jobs or change homes based on a long commute, but sometimes we can.  There was a time I worked in the city and the drive was quite a pain from where I was living, when my lease ended I cut my commute (and gas bill) in half!  If you have the opportunity to move closer to your work it shouldn’t be an idea that is easily dismissed.

I’m not a big fan of credit cards, but if you can use one properly then they can be a gas savers best friend!  I have a Costco card that provides an additional cash back discount on all gasoline purchases each year. In fact, even though I’m a Costco member I signed on to this card for the gasoline incentive.  They provide 2% back on all of our gas purchases throughout the year.  With as much as spend this could be an added $100 back each year, combined with the other card incentives that isn’t half bad.

Hybrid eco-vehicles are too often dismissed as well.  They are becoming more mainstream and less expensive than they once were.  While I see the future being in battery/solar vehicles I don’t think the technology is quite there, and certainly not affordable enough for the everyday consumer.  However, we recently bought  Jeep that utilizes an eco-friendly engine and works sort of like a Hybrid.  This adds MPG which is a great thing!

Stay tuned for follow up articles with more gas saving tips!

Suburban Sprawl and It’s Effect on Gas Prices

Suburban sprawl has been an issue in many metro areas over the years.  In fact, I live in Metro Detroit, an area that has long been affected by suburban sprawl.  Essentially the population in the area was once mainly confined to the city of Detroit, and then as time went on and the automobile became more prevalent people began to venture to more rural areas outside the city.  I happen to live in one of these suburban areas myself and I enjoy it very much, but I’ve also worked in the city and experienced the troubles with commuting downtown.  We have all the conveniences of businesses, shopping, and more importantly safety in my city, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t travel downtown quite often.  The issue with suburban sprawl is that it has created a dependency on autmobiles and gasoline.  Higher gas prices means that we are handcuffed to paying more for a daily commute we often cannot change.

The United States, and more specifically Metro Detroit, is so dependent on the auto industry that we have often lagged behind other areas that have made great strides with mass transportation.  Other countries, and some cities like New York, have dependable and cheap mass transit that cuts down on the effect that ever changing oil prices have on our wallets.  I feel that we need to step up and spend more public dollars on developing mass transit throughout our country.  I’m also a proponent of introducing light rail options in the metro Detroit area as well.  I think that we can work in tandem with the auto industry to help make them the technology leader of these rail systems and rail cars.  In turn we could cut down on pollution, congested traffic jams, and our dependency on foreign oil.

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