Finances & Money

The Mental Effects of a Gas Mileage Computer in Your Car

How many of you have a gas mileage computer in your car? It’s that little readout somewhere on your dash that says you’re only getting 3 mpg in the Hummer H2 every time you floor the gas.

We have one in our Chevy Malibu, and every time I drive the car, I seem to have a competition.

Man vs Machine…who will win?

I’m not a competitive person by nature. It’s too much work to be competitive. However, when I drive the Malibu, I constantly monitor the screen to see how my driving patterns affect the gas mileage. One time that we were coming back from Pennsylvania, I was yelling at my wife to not go more than 5 over the speed limit. Why? We were getting 40 mpg. For a mid-size American car, that’s pretty darn good, right?

By nature, I’m a lead-foot. I go too fast. You may have read my Tip for Aggressive Drivers article earlier this year. Although I’m not competitive, I do have a temper.

But when I’m in that Malibu, I can’t help but drive the speed limit (or just above it). I try not to over-gas at lights and stop signs (aka “rabbit jumps”), and I stop accelerating far in advance of a red light. I’ve even tried shutting off the car at long lights (too scary for me though).

That mileage meter is just too tempting of a competition for me.

Any of you have the same habit? Or do you ignore the mileage meter? What about those of you who don’t have a mileage computer?

About the author

Clever Dude


  • We don’t have a mileage computer, but I find myself calculating our mileage on long trips (I need something to occupy myself on 7-8 hour drives). I also like to play a game where I see how far I can go on a tank of gas. It scares my wife when the gas light is on, the needle’s under the E and I pass the exit to see if I can make it to the next one.

    However, your comment about shutting off the car: Doesn’t the car use less fuel idling than in the start up process?

  • One other thing, I use my trip odometer to see how far I’ve gone on a tank, and I hate it when my wife fills the tank because she never remembers to reset the odometer.

  • Regarding shutting of your car, some studies show that if you’re going to wait for 30+ seconds at a light, that the gas savings on shutting off your car is more than the cost of starting the car.

    But, like I said, it’s a bit scary to turn off your car. You can only do it at lights you’re familiar with, and definitely not in the bad parts of town.

  • Yeah I just got a new car and I’m still on my first tank of gas and I’ve been watching my driving to see what kind of mileage I can eek out. It’s manual transmission which I love because then I have even more control over the gas mileage via shifting and coasting. I bet I coast a good 2 miles on my way to work coming down hills on the way to stop signs.

    If you haven’t already inflate your tires to the maximum recommended pressure – this makes coasting that much better. When I throw it in neutral my car takes a long time to decelerate.

  • I use my tip odometer to keep track of my fuel consumption as well, and am constantly trying to beat my record. Especially because I drive an incredibly fuel efficient vehicle (Toyota Yaris Hatchback), I’m always trying to beat the incredible consumption that my fellow Yaris drivers get!

  • I bought a little computer that plugs into the OBDII port (all modern cars have them) that can provide instantaneous and trip-mileage information (along with other useful information)

    I think that the fuel savings nationwide would be substantial if more cars had these installed. It’s one thing to be *told* that a lead foot wastes gas. It’s another thing entirely to see yourself get 320 miles on one tank of gas, and 250 miles on the next tank.

  • […] Just this morning (how very long ago), I wrote about the mental affects of a gas mileage computer in your car. […]

  • confused i am,

    if you don’t like the gas mileage your car/trucks/huge gas guzzling terrorist providing SUV, then get something more economical.

    a good tuneup, better tires, and just simple taking care of your car can solve a lot with mpg’s.

  • Weekly Roundup – 04/06/07…

    Here’s a quick look at some of the articles that caught my eye over the past week…

    First and foremost, Jim notes that the Chase Freedom $250 signup bonus is back.
    Flexo posted a nice increase in income this month.
    FMF talked about how to eliminat…

  • […] I analyzed the effects of a gas mileage computer in my car on my driving habits. I find I try to see how efficient I can be with my driving, which I don’t do in vehicles […]

  • […] a mental competition with myself when I drive my wife’s car. I can’t help but try to beat my best gas mileage when I’m in her car! Also, I’m the guy at work that shuts off the light in the […]

  • […] to track my mileage on one, and my fuel economy on another, I couldn’t. Also, even the base Chevy Malibu had a mileage computer, but the Jetta […]

  • Get a stick shift and drive open clutch when you can. That works best for me. I don’t have an onboard computer. (The car is too downmarket and old for one.)

    I used to have an automatic with a mileage computer on it. I didn’t find it very accurate for me. I was better off just looking at the tank and seeing how much gas I had left and then keeping track of mileage by filling up and calculating by hand, which is the way I still do it.

    Comment #9: Realist, know the facts before you spout and stop being so judgmental. He was comment about mileage on a long road trip. I know for a fact that CleverDude rides the Metro every day for work. Do you do the same?

  • I rode with a lead-foot guy once in a Honda Accord and was suprised when we filled it up and it only got about 28 MPG. Man what a gas hog. On the return trip, I took over with the driving and was especially careful to go easy on the gas peddle to see if it made any noticable difference. Holy cats! I got 42 per gallon on that return run and I didn’t really have any tail wind advantage or anything.

    A while back our brain-dead congress was trying to save the planet by mandating better mileage for cars, but far off in the future. I wrote my elected officials telling them if they had car makers put mileage computers in ALL cars they could save 20% overnight. I think the instant feedback would be really effective. Unfortunately our leaders are a bunch of pea-brains who can’t seem to listen.

    Don Kamp
    Flat Creek, NY

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