180 Miles on 4 Gallons of Gas

180 miles on 4 gallons of gas, 45 MPG

by Tim Castleman

Noting a recent article seeking to prove or disprove the potential savings that result from obeying the speed limit and never exceeding 55 MPH,  I decided to do a test myself on a recent journey from Sacramento to Oakland, California, a 180 mile round trip. I rented a 2005 Kia Rio from Hertz and topped off the tank just before I left at 11 AM on Tuesday, November 1st, 2005.

The Kia is a compact 4 door with a 4 speed auto transmission. It is equipped with a/c but I did not need it. The car did not have cruise control, so I manually kept the speed between 55 and 60 MPH, I accidently hit 65 a couple of times. I used the on board trip meter which indicated I had driven 180 miles when I pulled in for gas upon my return to Sacramento.

I arrived in downtown Oakland at 12:40 PM, one hour and forty minutes! I did some shopping and visited a client. By 3 PM I was back on the freeway headed toward Sacramento. This time traffic was thicker and an accident closed several lanes so it took 3 hours to get home. 

A little after 6 PM I pulled in to a local station and filled the tank - it took exactly 4 gallons. This means that I got 45 MPG in this $10,000 4 door car, (rated by EPA at 32 MPG hwy) and clearly didn't lose a significant amount of time on the first leg of my trip. 

It is important to note the return trip took an extra hour and a half because some lead-foot speeder had overturned his SUV on the freeway, shutting down several lanes for hours as rescue workers labored to free the fool and clean up the mess. 

As I watched drivers dart in and out, weaving between lanes and racing ahead only to slam on the brakes when they reach the next group of cars, I wonder where the law enforcement officials are. These monsters are real hazards on the road and their reckless actions cause most accidents, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands every year. I also notice that the worst offenders are oversize SUV's and trucks, driven by amazingly rude and selfish people who are always in a hurry to get to the next red light first. Where are the CHP? Why is this mayhem allowed to continue? No one drives the speed limit, not even 18 wheel big rigs and recreational campers towed by inexperienced drivers. They all fly by me - often only to be seen again soon at the next pile up and resulting delay, or exit when they stop to refuel their hungry beasts. 

Surely we can do better, can't we?

How about take the train instead. The Amtrak Capitol Corridor takes 2 hours each way and I can rest in a roomy comfortable seat, eat, use the restroom, meet people and enjoy my journey. The cost for the train is less than half at $34 roundtrip as compared to $78.43 for the car as follows: 

Rental car: $54.72

Gasoline:   $10.71

Parking:     $10.00

Bridge toll: $  3.00

Another common way to calculate cost is to allow .40 cents per mile for a private car, plus parking and bridge toll which would add up to $85.  In Oakland I can walk, bike, taxi, bus or Bart to wherever else I need to go, I could even spend the $50 on taxis and let the cab driver fight traffic to get me where I need to go if it is too far to walk.

View receipts here: