If you’ve ever doubted the fuel economy ratings listed for your car by the EPA, you’re not alone, says AAA.
According to its new survey, one in three Americans don’t believe that EPA ratings accurately reflect the actual fuel economy they achieve when driving. AAA also did some extra digging, analyzing self-reported fuel economy data submitted by drivers to the EPA. Per the 37,000 records studied, eight out of 10 drivers reported that the fuel economy on their vehicle was higher than the combined estimate from the EPA.
Owners of vehicles with manual transmissions reported 17 percent higher fuel economy ratings than those given by the EPA, the data concludes. Those with V-6-powered sedans saw a 9 percent boost, while owners of diesel vehicles reported 20 percent higher results. Owners of larger vehicles were also in for a surprise; trucks with V-8 engines saw 5 percent higher ratings, although minivans saw real-world fuel economy that was equal to or slightly lower than EPA ratings.
Of course, it’s important to emphasize that the data is self-reported, presenting a host of questions on how much stock we should really put into these results. To further analyze the disparity between EPA numbers and real-world fuel economy, AAA conducted independent tests on three different vehicles. These vehicles — including a 2014 full-size pickup truck, a 2014 large sedan, and a 2012 “medium” sedan — underwent hundreds of miles of testing in various simulated driving conditions on a certified dynamometer in Southern California, using EPA-specified methods. The results? AAA found that EPA ratings for these vehicles were accurate. Moreover, AAA went so far as to conclude that most deviations from EPA ratings occur from driving behaviors, the vehicle’s condition, driving environment, and terrain.
“If you drive aggressively, with heavy acceleration, hard braking and driving at higher speeds, your fuel economy is going to suffer,” advises John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director for Automotive Engineering and Repair. “Driving just 5 mph above 50 is like paying an additional 19 cents per gallon for gasoline.”
A new AAA study, which will be released later this year, may give us a better idea of the impact of an individual driver on a car’s fuel economy. Researchers will measure the impact of specific driving habits, such as acceleration rates and idle time, to study the matter further.